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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Postsecondary Education

Graduate Degree Fields

(Last Updated: May 2021)

In 2018–19, over half of the 833,700 master’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions within the United States were concentrated in three fields of study: business (197,100 degrees), education (146,400 degrees), and health professions and related programs (131,600 degrees). Of the 187,600 doctor’s degrees conferred, 63 percent were concentrated in two fields: health professions and related programs (82,900 degrees) and legal professions and studies (34,400 degrees).

In 2018–19, postsecondary institutions within the United States1 conferred about 1.0 million graduate degrees, an increase of 20 percent since 2009–10. These included 833,700 master’s degrees and 187,600 doctor’s degrees. For the purposes of this analysis, doctor’s degrees include Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level, as well as such degrees as M.D., D.D.S., and J.D. that were previously classified as first-professional degrees.2 Health professions and related programs were among the most popular fields of study at both award levels.

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Figure 1. Number of master’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: 2009–10 through 2018–19
Figure 1. Number of master’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: 2009–10 through 2018–19

1 In order to be consistent with the definition of “business” for bachelor’s degree data, “business” is defined as business, management, marketing, and related support services, as well as personal and culinary services.

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The fields shown are the five programs in which the largest numbers of master’s degrees were conferred in 2018–19. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Data have been adjusted where necessary to conform to the 2009–10 Classification of Instructional Programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2010 through Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 323.10.

Figure 2. Percentage of master’s degrees conferred in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, by race/ethnicity and nonresident status: 2018–19
Figure 2. Percentage of master’s degrees conferred in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, by race/ethnicity and nonresident status: 2018–19

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. STEM fields include biological and biomedical sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering, engineering technologies, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences and science technologies. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Race/ethnicity categories exclude nonresident alien students. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, tables 318.45 and 323.30.

Figure 3. Percentage distribution of master’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by sex: 2018–19
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of master’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by sex: 2018–19

1 In order to be consistent with the definition of “business” for bachelor’s degree data, “business” is defined as business, management, marketing, and related support services, as well as personal and culinary services.

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The fields shown are the five programs in which the largest numbers of master’s degrees were conferred in 2018–19. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, tables, 323.40 and 323.50.

Figure 4. Number of doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: 2009–10 through 2018–19
Figure 4. Number of doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: 2009–10 through 2018–19

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Doctor’s degrees include Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level, as well as such degrees as M.D., D.D.S., and J.D. that were formerly classified as first-professional degrees. The year 2010–11 was the last year the classification of first-professional degrees was used. The fields shown are the five programs in which the largest numbers of doctor's degrees were conferred in 2018–19. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Data have been adjusted where necessary to conform to the 2009–10 Classification of Instructional Programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2010 through Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 324.10.

Figure 5. Percentage of doctor’s degrees conferred in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, by race/ethnicity and nonresident status: 2018–19
Figure 5. Percentage of doctor’s degrees conferred in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, by race/ethnicity and nonresident status: 2018–19

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. STEM fields include biological and biomedical sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering, engineering technologies, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences and science technologies. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Race/ethnicity categories exclude nonresident alien students. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, tables 318.45 and 324.25.

Figure 6. Percentage distribution of doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by sex: 2018–19
Figure 6. Percentage distribution of doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by sex: 2018–19

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The fields shown are the five programs in which the largest numbers of doctor’s degrees were conferred in 2018–19. Doctor’s degrees include Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level, as well as such degrees as M.D., D.D.S., and J.D. that were formerly classified as first-professional degrees. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, tables 324.30 and 324.35.


1 Data in this indicator represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

2 2010–11 was the last year the classification of first-professional degrees was used.

3 In the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), racial/ethnic data were not collected for nonresident alien students, and their data were compiled as a separate group.

4 STEM fields include biological and biomedical sciences; computer and information sciences; engineering and engineering technologies; mathematics and statistics; and physical sciences and science technologies. Construction trades and mechanic and repair technologies/technicians are categorized as engineering technologies in some tables to facilitate trend comparisons but are not included as STEM fields in this indicator.

Supplemental Information

Table 318.45 (Digest 2020): Number and percentage distribution of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees/certificates conferred by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity, level of degree/certificate, and sex of student: 2009-10 through 2018-19;
Table 323.10 (Digest 2020): Master’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study: Selected years, 1970-71 through 2018-19;
Table 323.30 (Digest 2020): Master’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and field of study: 2017-18 and 2018-19;
Table 323.40 (Digest 2020): Master’s degrees conferred to males by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and field of study: 2017-18 and 2018-19;
Table 323.50 (Digest 2020): Master’s degrees conferred to females by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and field of study: 2017-18 and 2018-19;
Table 324.10 (Digest 2020): Doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study: Selected years, 1970-71 through 2018-19;
Table 324.25 (Digest 2020): Doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and field of study: 2017-18 and 2018-19;
Table 324.30 (Digest 2020): Doctor’s degrees conferred to males by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and field of study: 2017-18 and 2018-19;
Table 324.35 (Digest 2020): Doctor’s degrees conferred to females by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and field of study: 2017-18 and 2018-19
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