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Indicator 23: Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Fields
(Last Updated: July 2017)

In 2013–14, a higher percentage of bachelor's degrees were awarded in business than in any other field across all racial/ethnic groups, with the percentages ranging from 15 percent for students of Two or more races to 22 percent for Pacific Islander students.

There are varying outcomes for postsecondary degree recipients—in terms of educational attainment, labor force participation, and earnings—depending on their field of study. For example, certain degree fields are associated with higher median annual salaries.1 This indicator examines the five fields in which the greatest number of associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degrees were awarded to U.S. citizens2 in academic year 2013–14, both overall and by racial/ethnic group. Note that the five largest fields differ by degree type.


Figure 23.1. Percentage of associate's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by race/ethnicity: Academic year 2013–14

Figure 23.1. Percentage of associate's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by race/ethnicity: Academic year 2013–14


1 Nonresident alien students are not included in the total.
NOTE: These five fields were selected because they were the fields in which the largest percentages of associate's degrees were awarded in 2013–14. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Reported racial/ethnic distributions of students by level of degree, field of degree, and sex were used to estimate race/ethnicity for students whose race/ethnicity was not reported. To facilitate trend comparisons, certain aggregations have been made of the degree fields as reported in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): "Business" includes business management, marketing, and related support services and personal and culinary services. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2014, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 321.30.


In 2013–14, over three-quarters of the associate's degrees awarded were in the five largest fields: liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities (35 percent); health professions and related programs (21 percent); business (13 percent); homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting (5 percent); and computer and information sciences (4 percent). Across racial/ethnic groups, the percentage of degrees awarded in liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities ranged from 30 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native students to 40 percent for students of Two or more races. The percentage of degrees awarded in health professions and related programs ranged from 15 percent for Hispanic students to 23 percent for White students. For business degrees, the percentage awarded ranged from 12 percent for Hispanic students and students of Two or more races to 16 percent for Black students and Asian students. In homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting (the fourth largest field), the percentage of degrees awarded ranged from 2 percent for Asian students to 6 percent for Black students and Hispanic students. Between 3 and 5 percent of students in each racial/ethnic group were awarded an associate's degree in computer and information science.


Figure 23.2. Percentage of bachelor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by race/ethnicity: Academic year 2013–14

Figure 23.2. Percentage of bachelor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by race/ethnicity: Academic year 2013–14


1 Nonresident alien students are not included in the total.
NOTE: These five fields were selected because they were the fields in which the largest percentages of bachelor's degrees were awarded in 2013–14. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Reported racial/ethnic distributions of students by level of degree, field of degree, and sex were used to estimate race/ethnicity for students whose race/ethnicity was not reported. To facilitate trend comparisons, certain aggregations have been made of the degree fields as reported in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): "Business" includes business management, marketing, and related support services and personal and culinary services. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2014, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 322.30.


Over half of the bachelor's degrees awarded in 2013–14 were in the five largest fields: business (19 percent); health professions and related programs (11 percent); social sciences and history (9 percent); psychology (6 percent); and biological and biomedical sciences (6 percent). A higher percentage of bachelor's degrees were awarded in business than in any other field across all racial/ethnic groups, with the percentages ranging from 15 percent for students of Two or more races to 22 percent for Pacific Islander students. Health professions and related programs was the second most popular field for White (11 percent), Black (12 percent), Pacific Islander (15 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native students (10 percent), whereas social sciences and history was the second largest field for Hispanic students (11 percent) and students of Two or more races (12 percent). Biological and biomedical sciences was the second largest field for Asian students (13 percent). The percentage of degrees awarded in the fourth largest field, psychology, ranged from 5 percent for Pacific Islander students to 8 percent for Hispanic students and students of Two or more races. With the exception of Asian students, the percentage of degrees awarded in the field of biological and biomedical sciences ranged from 4 percent for Black students to 7 percent for students of Two or more races.


Figure 23.3. Percentage of master's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by race/ethnicity: Academic year 2013–14

Figure 23.3. Percentage of master's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by race/ethnicity: Academic year 2013–14


1 Nonresident alien students are not included in the total.
NOTE: These five fields were selected because they were the fields in which the largest percentages of master's degrees were awarded in 2013–14. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Reported racial/ethnic distributions of students by level of degree, field of degree, and sex were used to estimate race/ethnicity for students whose race/ethnicity was not reported. To facilitate trend comparisons, certain aggregations have been made of the degree fields as reported in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): "Business" includes business management, marketing, and related support services and personal and culinary services. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2014, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 323.30.


In 2013–14, about 72 percent of the master's degrees awarded were in the five largest fields: business (24 percent); education (23 percent); health professions and related programs (14 percent); public administration and social services (6 percent); and psychology (4 percent). The percentage of master's degrees awarded in business ranged from 21 percent for students of Two or more races to 32 percent for Asian students. The percentage of degrees awarded in education ranged from 10 percent for Asian students to 25 percent for White students. The percentage of degrees awarded in health professions and related programs ranged from 12 percent for Hispanic students to 17 percent for Asian students and Pacific Islander students. The percentage of degrees awarded in the fourth largest field, public administration and social services, ranged from 4 percent for Asian students to 10 percent for Black students. The percentage of degrees awarded in psychology ranged from 3 to 5 percent across all racial/ethnic groups.


Figure 23.4. Percentage of doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by race/ethnicity: Academic year 2013–14

Figure 23.4. Percentage of doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study, by race/ethnicity: Academic year 2013–14


1 Nonresident alien students are not included in the total.
NOTE: These five fields were selected because they were the fields in which the largest percentages of doctor's degrees were awarded in 2013–14. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Reported racial/ethnic distributions of students by level of degree, field of degree, and sex were used to estimate race/ethnicity for students whose race/ethnicity was not reported. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2014, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 324.25.


In 2013–14, over 80 percent of the doctor's degrees awarded were in the five largest fields: health professions and related programs (42 percent); legal professions and studies (27 percent); education (7 percent); psychology (4 percent); and biological and biomedical sciences (4 percent). Across racial/ethnic groups, there was wide variability in the percentage of degrees awarded in these fields. The percentage of doctor's degrees awarded in health professions and related programs ranged from 32 percent for Black students to 63 percent for Asian students. Similarly, the percentage of degrees awarded in legal professions and studies ranged from 17 percent for Asian students to 37 percent for Hispanic students and students of Two or more races. In the field of education, the percentage of degrees awarded ranged from 2 percent for Asian students to 17 percent for Black students. (Education was the third largest field for all groups except Asian students and students of Two or more races, for whom the third largest field was biological and biomedical sciences.) Psychology was the fourth largest field, and the percentage of doctor's degrees awarded ranged from 2 percent for Asian students to 5 percent for Hispanic students. In biological and biomedical sciences, the percentage of degrees awarded ranged from 2 to 4 percent across all racial/ethnic groups, including Asian students.

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1 Ross, T., Kena, G., Rathbun, A., KewalRamani, A., Zhang, J., Kristapovich, P., and Manning, E. (2012). Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study (NCES 2012- 046). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved August 2015 from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012046.pdf.
2 Nonresident alien graduates are not included in the totals presented here because data for these students are not reported by race/ethnicity.