Graduate student enrollment and post-docs reach new peaks in science and engineering


Arlington, VA--The National Science Foundation (NSF) reports that more students than ever were enrolled in science and engineering (S&E) graduate programs in fall 2002. The 455,400 S&E graduate students enrolled that year surpassed by 6 percent the previous peak in 1993.

The number of post-doctoral appointments (post-docs) in academic institutions also reached a new peak at 32,100 in 2002, up 6 percent from 2001.

The numbers represent the first national data on graduate S&E enrollment since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and shed light on the fate of students on temporary visas (foreign students) in the wake of those events. While graduate enrollment of foreign students in S&E fields increased by 8 percent to an all-time high in 2002, full-time, first-time graduate enrollment of foreign students in these fields declined by about 2,100 (7.9 percent) in 2002. Full-time, first time enrollment of foreign students fell in most S&E fields with the largest decreases in computer sciences (almost 15 percent) and earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences (about 8 percent).

In contrast, full-time, first-time S&E graduate enrollment increased almost 14 percent for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Overall, the declines in total graduate S&E enrollment from 1994 through 1998 have reversed with gains in enrollment every year since 1999. The proportion of women among S&E graduate students grew from 35 percent in 1992 to more than 41 percent in 2001 and 2002, as female enrollment increased each year. Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the proportion of white, non-Hispanic S&E graduate students declined from 79 to 69 percent between 1992 and 2002. This shift reflected both declines in enrollment among white students (1992-2000) and increases in enrollment of Asians/Pacific Islanders and underrepresented minorities (blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives).

All categories of race or ethnicity showed gains in the number of S&E graduate students in 2002. Asian/Pacific Islanders accounted for almost 10 percent of S&E graduate students among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, blacks for 7 percent, Hispanics for 6 percent, and American Indians/Alaska Natives for less than 1 percent.

Other topics covered in the report, "Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Fields Reaches a New Peak; First-Time Enrollment of Foreign Students Declines," include trend data since 1992 for graduate enrollment by citizenship, enrollment status, sex, race/ethnicity, and S&E field, and for post-docs by citizenship.

The data for this report come from the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS). The report is available on the webpage of the Division of Science Resources Statistics at and the data from the Fall 2002 GSS survey will be available on the same website in the near future.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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