U.S. Geoscience Enrollments Sag, Bachelor and Doctoral Degrees Rise in 2016

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Enrollments in U.S. geoscience programs remained robust during the 2015-2016 academic year.  Undergraduate enrollments slipped about 5% but remains near record levels, while graduate enrollments dipped slightly.  The slip in undergraduate enrollments may reflect a perceived softness in geoscience employment. Graduate enrollments also dropped a little, mostly at the master’s-intended level, which is also most likely linked to job market concerns. In general, geoscience programs around the U.S. continue to report that they are at or near full capacity for students, especially at the graduate level. In 2016, 29,471 undergraduates and 10,054 graduate students were enrolled in U.S. geoscience programs.

Degree production at U.S. geoscience programs also remained strong.  Bachelor degrees have rebounded after dipping in 2014, which was driven by decreased hiring in the oil and gas sector.   The sudden increase in master’s degrees awarded in 2012 has become structural.  2016 saw a slight decrease in master’s degrees, but also an increase in new doctoral degrees. Similar to our interpretation regarding enrollments, we estimate that the slight decrease in master's degrees is likely in response to perceived slowness in the job market. However, an increased number of students are continuing their studies to improve their employability. The total degrees awarded in 2016: 3827 bachelor’s, 1270 master’s, and 690 doctorates.