Tags: science | engineering | degrees | National Student Clearinghouse | report

Report: Little Growth in Science Degrees Since 2004

By    |   Tuesday, 27 January 2015 01:11 PM

Despite a nationwide focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, the number of students earning degrees in those fields has only increased slightly over the last decade, according to a new report.

Between 2004 and 2014, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found the percentage of all bachelor's degrees awarded in STEM fields rose a mere 2 percent for men, to 40 percent from 38 percent, and 1 percent for women, to 29 percent in 2014 from 28 percent in 2004.

Five years ago that the Obama administration announced the "Educate to Innovate" program, which included more than $260 million in public-private investments to boost science and math achievement over the next decade.

Since 2004, the share of master's degrees in science and engineering increased 1 percentage point for men, to 28 percent from 27 percent, and remained nearly flat for women, at 14 percent.

At the doctoral level, social sciences and psychology degrees awarded decreased, said the report.

Researchers also found that doctoral degrees in "hard sciences," including engineering, now account for 48 percent of those degrees earned by men, up from 45 percent in 2004. Women earning "hard science" doctoral degrees also increased slightly, to 21 percent from 20 percent.

"This data demonstrates the importance of tracking science and engineering degree attainment at different levels and within specific fields of study. Both men and women are increasingly choosing STEM degrees, particularly in the hard sciences.

"But in terms of the shares of degrees earned within individual disciplines, women are gaining ground in some STEM areas, while losing ground in others," said Doug Shapiro, executive research director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in a press release.

The need for more graduates with technical skills was underscored by a June 2014 Manpower Group report, which found that among the more than 1,000 employers surveyed, 48 percent said they were having difficulty filling open positions because candidates lack technical competencies.

"Talent shortages continue to persist and are impeding employers' ability to deliver value for their customers. Due to the lack of applicants with the right technical competencies, experience and soft skills, one out of three employers struggle to fill open roles.

"For nearly a decade skilled trades and STEM positions are among the top 10 hardest jobs to fill, both globally and in the U.S," said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup CEO in a press release.

While women have made gains in terms of overall attainment of STEM degrees, the report found the results are mixed when comparing bachelor's versus higher degrees.

In each of the last 10 years, women earned a smaller share of science and engineering (S&E) degrees at higher degree levels. In 2014, women earned 49 percent of all S&E bachelor’s degrees, 43 percent of S&E master’s degrees, and 40 percent of S&E doctoral degrees.

With more jobs requiring technical skills, the report found that a troubling trend.

While the biggest increase occurred in engineering, which saw a 3 percentage point increase in master's degrees earned, the biggest decreases were in the computer sciences and earth/atmospheric/ocean sciences. In both of these disciplines, the share of master’s degrees earned by women dropped 3 percentage points, according to the report.

Part of the divide between the genders may simply be a matter of time before the growth of women pursuing degrees in the hard sciences is realized.

"These things take a long time to shift. It’s a very lengthy pipeline for these degrees," Shapiro told The Wall Street Journal.

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Despite a nationwide focus on science, technology, engineering and math education, the number of students earning degrees in those fields has only increased slightly over the last decade, according to a new report.
science, engineering, degrees, National Student Clearinghouse, report
Tuesday, 27 January 2015 01:11 PM
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