Minority students earned greater number of academic degrees in fiscal year 2006

A new National Science Foundation report shows an increase in the number of academic degrees awarded to minority students since 2004, the last time such data were published.

The report, Science and Engineering Degrees by Race/Ethnicity: 1997-2006, developed by the Science Resources Statistics division of NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorate shows more degrees awarded to minorities in nearly all categories.

Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents who earned bachelor’s degrees from fiscal year 2004 to 2006, Asians showed the largest rate of increase–10.5 percent. American Indian/Alaska Natives showed the smallest at 1.3 percent.

Master’s degree recipients also included increased numbers of minority awardees.The number of Hispanics receiving master’s degrees grew by 13.1 percent, while the number of blacks grew by a similar amount–13 percent. White students showed the smallest growth rate at 5.9 percent.

Although American Indian/Native American and black students showed increases in terms of bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded, these groups showed sharp declines relative to doctoral degrees, falling off by 9.1 and 9.8 percent respectively. The number of Asian, Hispanic and white doctorate recipients increased by 15.8, 16.1 and 2.5 percent respectively.

Data from the report also show a 3.9 percent increase in awarded S&E bachelor’s degrees, a 1.6 percent increase in master’s degrees and a 13.6 percent increase in doctoral degrees. Results for degrees awarded in non-S&E fields were mixed. The number of bachelor’s degrees in these fields grew by 5.2 percent and master’s degree awards grew by 6.5 percent. But doctoral degrees in non-S&E fields declined by 0.7 percent during the same period.

Several fields of study saw growth from fiscal year 2004 to 2006 such as physical sciences and health fields, which were popular among bachelor’s degree students. For master’s degree students, mathematical sciences, biological sciences, and health fields showed the largest rates of increase. Mechanical engineering showed a 34.7 percent increase among doctoral students.

Overall, computer sciences made the largest gains among doctoral students at 53.2 percent, but the field also showed the steepest decline among bachelor’s and master’s degree students, falling 24.6 percent and 16.4 percent respectively. The steepest decline for doctoral students was in education doctorates, which fell by 7.7 percent.

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