To a greater degree: Students seek bigger prize

November 17, 2008
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Well over twice as many master’s degrees will be awarded this school year than the total number of master’s, first-professional and doctorate degrees handed out in the 1970-71 school year.

According to the National Center for Education Research, the nation’s colleges and universities will award 647,000 master’s degrees this year. Thirty-seven years ago, 273,562 advanced degrees were earned.

The data suggests that the market leap in advanced degrees really got underway in the mid-1990s when the total number issued topped a half-million. Just 10 years later, that total grew by more than 200,000 to 737,787. The number of advanced degrees that will be awarded nationwide at the conclusion of this school year will be just shy of 800,000.

More than three times the number of master’s degrees, almost two-and-a-half times the number of first-professional degrees, and just under twice the number of doctorate degrees will be awarded in 2008-09 than were earned in 1970-71.

And the climb is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

The National Center for Education Research projects that 920,400 advanced degrees will be awarded in school year 2015-16. That number includes 753,000 master’s degrees, 102,500 first-professional degrees and 64,900 doctorate degrees.

Here is a historical snapshot of the advanced degrees awarded across the nation since 1970.

School
Year

    

Master’s
Degrees

     

First-
Professional
Degrees

  

Doctorate
Degrees

  

Total
Degrees

1970-71

  

203,509

 

37,946

32,107

273,562

1975-76

311,771

62,649

34,064

408,484

1980-81

295,739

71,956

32,958

400,653

1985-86

288,567

73,910

33,653

396,130

1990-91

337,168

71,948

32,294

441,410

1995-96

406,301

76,734

44,652

527,687

2000-01

468,476

79,707

44,904

593,087

2005-06

594,065

87,655

56,067

737,787

2006-07

614,000

87,800

54,600

756,400

2007-08

631,000

89,300

55,300

775,600

2008-09

647,000

91,000

55,800

793,800

2015-16

753,000

102,500

64,900

920,400


Note: Medical and law degrees make up First Professional Degrees, while Doctorate Degrees include Ph.D, Ed.D and comparable degrees. The number of advanced degrees from 2006-07 through 2008-09 and for 2015-16 are projections.

Source: NationalCenter for Education Research, October 2008

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