Graduate enrollments in science and engineering (S&E) fields reached
a record high in the fall of 2002, according to data collected by NSF
through 2002. After a downward trend beginning in 1994 and reaching
a low of 404,856 in 1998, graduate S&E enrollments began rising
again. They reached a peak of 455,355 in 2002, an increase of 6 percent
over previous-year enrollments.
According to an NSF InfoBrief, "Graduate enrollment in 2002 grew
in all major S&E fields and in nearly all subfields." Enrollment
in engineering and mathematical sciences grew the fastest, with gains
of more than 9 percent over 2001. Computer sciences and biological sciences
experienced 6 percent gains in enrollments between 2001 and 2002, while
graduate enrollment in physics increased by 4 percent over the same
The number of women among S&E graduate students increased more
than 6 percent between 2001 and 2002, and as a fraction of S&E graduate
students, women increased from 35 percent in 1992 to over 41 percent
by 2001 and 2002. "The number of female students has increased
every year for the last 20 years," the InfoBrief states, while
the "enrollment of men declined every year from 1993 to 1998"
before beginning to increase again. Underrepresented minority graduate
student enrollment in these fields has increased every year in the past
decade, while white, non-Hispanic student enrollment declined from 1994
The InfoBrief also looked at first-time S&E graduate enrollment
among foreign-born, temporary visa holders, and found that between 2001
and 2002, "full-time, first-time enrollment of temporary visa holders
was down about 8 percent for men and 1 percent for women. In contrast,
full-time, first-time enrollment increased by almost 14 percent for
U.S. citizens and permanent residents, with increases of 15 percent
for men and more than 12 percent for women." The data seem to support
indications that policies implemented after the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks may have "adversely affected" first-time enrollments
for certain foreign-born students. The InfoBrief found that, in 2002,
"first-time graduate enrollment of students with temporary visas
declined in all S&E major fields except biological and social sciences....
The greatest loss was in computer sciences."
This NSF InfoBrief (NSF 04-326, June 2004), entitled "Graduate
Enrollment in Science and Engineering Fields Reaches a New Peak; First-Time
Enrollment of Foreign Students Declines," can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/infbrief/ib.htm.
Another NSF InfoBrief, on the movement overseas of U.S.-born S&E
doctorate recipients, finds that "relatively few U.S.-born S&E
doctorate recipients from U.S. universities plan to work or study abroad
at the time of receiving their doctorates." The number planning
to study or work outside of the U.S. in 2002 was 289, or 3 percent of
U.S. native-born S&E PhDs, and the InfoBrief reports that except
for two brief upturns, this number has remained around 300-400 for "each
year since the mid-1960's."
In 2002, of all students with PhDs from U.S. institutions, "more
non-U.S. citizens than U.S.-born citizens plan to go abroad after graduation."
Among non-citizens who had future plans when they were surveyed, "5
percent of S&E doctorate recipients with permanent residency visas
and 25 percent of S&E doctorate recipients on temporary visas had
definite plans for work or study abroad."
For U.S.-born S&E PhDs, the top destinations for postdoctoral study
or employment since 1982 have remained Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany,
France, Japan, Switzerland, and Australia. "The majority (71 percent)
of U.S.-born S&E doctorates in 2002 who had definite plans for work
or study abroad were planning postdoctoral fellowships, research associateships,
traineeships, or other study," the InfoBrief states. "Another
26 percent had definite plans for employment abroad.... The remaining
3 percent had definite plans for military service or other plans."
This InfoBrief (NSF04-327, June 2004), entitled "Emigration of
U.S.-Born S&E Doctorate Recipients," can also be found at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/infbrief/ib.htm.