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Engineering Top Choice, Math and Computers Growing Fast: CGS

The Council of Graduate Schools releases latest trends in graduate enrollments in the USA.
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   17-12-2015

77% of First-Time Graduate Students are Enrolled in Master’s or Certificate Programs

New data from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) provide an unprecedented picture of the degree objectives of international graduate students studying in the United States.

Based on an annual survey of graduate institutions, the data show that the degree objectives of international applicants and enrollees vary widely by country of origin and field of study. Overall, however, nearly four out of five first-time enrollees are pursuing master’s or certificate programs. This finding contradicts a common assumption—that many if not most international graduate students come to the U.S. to pursue doctoral degrees.

Chinese and Indian students represented the largest share of first-time master’s and certificate enrollment for Fall 2015, together representing more than 7 out of 10 first-time enrollees in these programs. Indian students, demonstrated the strongest interest, with nine out of every ten first-time graduate students enrolling in master’s degrees and certificates this fall semester.

By contrast, certain countries and regions demonstrated particularly strong first-time enrollment in doctoral programs: 47% of South Korean students, and 44% of students from the Middle East and North Africa enrolled in doctoral programs in Fall 2015.

CGS President Suzanne T. Ortega observed that the report’s findings demonstrate the strong reputation of U.S. master’s degrees outside the United States, “Master’s degrees are critical entry points for a wide variety of professions. International students are taking advantage of the skills and knowledge these programs offer in addition to the stellar doctoral training provided by U.S. institutions.”

Below are highlights from the report.

  • Over three-fourths (77%) of first-time international graduate students in Fall 2015 were enrolled in master’s and certificate programs; however, shares vary by country/region of origin and field of study.
  • First-time Indian (91%) and Saudi Arabian (80%) graduate students were most likely to pursue master’s and certificate programs, while South Korean (47%) graduate students were most likely to pursue doctoral programs.
  • Chinese and Indian nationals sent nearly eight out of ten (79%) international graduate applications in the Fall 2015 admission cycle.
  • Chinese and Indian graduate students tied for first-time master’s and certificate enrollment in Fall 2015, each accounting for 36% of total international first-time graduate enrollment in master’s and certificate programs.
  • Over one-third of international doctoral students enrolled for the first time in Fall 2015 were Chinese students, leading the next largest country of origin, India, by more than twenty percentage points.

Engineering remains the most popular broad field of study for international graduate students, but mathematics & computer sciences fields are growing fast.

  • Engineering represented nearly one-third (32%) of final applications and over one-quarter (29%) of first-time international graduate enrollment in Fall 2015.
  • Engineering fields accounted for the largest shares in both master’s and certificate level applications and enrollments.
  • However, engineering fields reported only a small increase this year for both final applications (2%) and first-time enrollment (1%), while mathematics & computer sciences fields—the second largest field for international graduate students— showed robust growth in both areas (9% and 11%, respectively).

The rate of growth for international graduate admissions has slowed.

  • Final applications and first-time enrollment of international graduate students in the U.S. increased by 3% and 5% respectively between the Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 admission cycles, while in the priorcycle they rose by 10% and 8%.
  • The rates of growth for international graduate students were greater than for domestic students.


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