The participation rate of women in geoscience degree programs has continued its slow decline over the last decade. Undergraduate participation rates have leveled off around the 40% level, while graduate participation rates continue to drift down to about 42%. These are compared to historical highs of 49% for undergraduates in 2004 and 47% for graduate students in 2008. Though participation rates fell at the undergraduate level, because of continued enrollment growth, 1,200 more women were geoscience majors in 2015 than 2014.
The number of women enrolled as undergraduate geoscience majors has leveled off, at least temporarily, at both graduate and undergraduate levels. Increased enrollment continues to be driven by growth in the number of men enrolling at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The shift in these gender-related trends is believed to be related to the rapid growth in the oil and gas industry with individuals seeking career opportunities to work in the field.
The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) and the Association of American Geographers (AAG) received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate non-doctoral preparatory Master’s programs in Geology and physical Geography. The graph below depicts eight commonly identified reasons why students decide to enroll in a Master’s program.
Enrollments in U.S. geoscience programs remained robust during the 2012-2013 academic year. Though total enrollments retreated from their 2011-2012 highs, the drop in enrollments was less than 3%. The current enrollment trend likely reflects the strong employment outlook for geosciences relative to the continued weak U.S. job market.
From the 1970's until around 2010, women have been an increasingly large part of the geoscience student and graduate population. The participation rates have levelled off in recent years, largely believed related to the energy-driven increase in overall geoscience enrollments.
US college and university geoscience program enrollments have been consistently tracked since 1955. Over this time, the number of programs has expanded substantially and enrollments have varied widely. The overall driver of enrollments through the history has been the price of petroleum, though the dependency on that factor is not as strong as it was in the 1980's and earlier.
The number of students enrolled in the geosciences in US colleges and universities remained relatively steady in 2007 based on preliminary numbers, with 19,216 undergraduates and 7,944 graduate students enrolled.
Degrees granted in 2007 remained steady, except for new doctorates, which increased sharply by over 30%. This sharp increase mirrors the influx of entering graduate students in 2003 and 2004 following the collapse of the dot-com boom. However, given the graduate enrollment profile since 2003, this increase in doctorate production will be short-lived.
The 2008-2009 academic year saw a sharp 8% increase in the number of geosciences undergraduates enrolled in U.S. institutions, to a total population of 22,191. This trend was not evident in graduate enrollments, which remained basically flat at 7,846 students. These trends reflect statements from departments about sudden increases in undergraduates because of the increased interest in energy and environmental issues. As constrained budgets have limited the number of funded graduate positions, enrollment remains steady but admission has become more competitive.
During the 2009-2010 academic year, the number of geoscience undergraduates enrolled in U.S. institutions has continued to increase sharply, hitting its highest levels in a decade at 23,983 majors. This is a 7% increase over 2008-2009 enrollments, and a 24.8% increase since the 2006-2007 academic year. For the rst time in 5 years, graduate geoscience enrollments increased, jumping 15.7% from the prior academic year.