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U.S. Graduate Schools See Growth in Applications and Certificates

October 16, 2017

Applications for admission to graduate school programs rose by 1.2 percent from fall 2015 to fall 2016, according to the recently released Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2006 to 2016.

Institutions represented in the study, co-sponsored by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Graduate Record Examinations Board, received about 2.2 million graduate program applications for fall 2016. Public institutions received more than 1.3 million admissions applications, and private nonprofit institutions received more than 817,000. About 30 percent of applications were to doctoral degree programs, while 70 percent were to master's and other programs.

The number of first-time graduate students also increased, rising 1.9 percent between fall 2015 and fall 2016. More than 83 percent of first-time graduate students in fall 2016 were enrolled in master’s degree or graduate certificate programs. 

Meanwhile, the number of post-baccalaureate certificates awarded by American graduate schools jumped 11.8 percent between academic year 2014-15 and 2015-16. There were noteworthy increases in numbers of certificates conferred in engineering (38.6 percent), public administration and sciences (38 percent), and business (35.2 percent). Over the past five years, the largest increases in certificates awarded were in the following fields: physical and earth sciences awards (22.6 percent), engineering (22.5 percent), and mathematics and computer sciences (21.4 percent).

Overall, master's degrees accounted for 82.5 percent of all awards conferred by graduate schools in 2015-16, doctorates represented 11.3 percent, and graduate certificates made up 6.2 percent.

The report is available online.


Lesley McBain
Assistant Director, Research and Policy Analysis