U.S. Geoscience Enrollments Grow, Degrees Slide in 2015

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Enrollments in U.S. geoscience programs remained robust during the 2014-2015 academic year. Undergraduate enrollments continued its long-term growth trend with a 7% increase, while graduate enrollments remained at. The continued growth in undergraduate majors appears to be driven by recent increases in the number of wholly online geoscience degree programs. Those programs reported nearly 5000 majors in the 2014-2015 academic year. Graduate enrollments were flat for the year. The continued tough job market for academic positions continues to impeded expansion of doctoral enrollments. Additionally, the contraction of employment in the resource industries have softened demand for advanced degrees as well.

Total enrollments in 2015 were 31,219 undergraduates and 10,199 graduate students.

Degree production at U.S. geoscience programs showed no growth or slight declines in degrees conferred in 2015, even relative to the revised 2014 numbers. The 2014 dip in Bachelor’s degrees did not end up being a timing issue, but reflective of a fundamental decrease in degrees awarded. A further slight decrease in Bachelor’s degrees was seen in 2015. Such a decrease may represent increased attrition of majors, or potentially a lengthening of the time to degree needed for recent graduates. The cause of the decrease is, at this point, uncertain. Graduate degrees showed modest decreases in number awarded. This is likely echoing some of the pull back in enrollments over the last couple years, though Master’s degrees are still being awarded well above their 2010 levels. Energy-focused schools were still reporting steady hiring of their graduates, but we expect any decrease in hiring to be reflected with a slight delay in the graduate degrees awarded.

The total degrees awarded in 2015: 3,629 Bachelor’s, 1,478 Master’s, and 597 Doctorates.

Degrees Awarded in the Geosciences