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Women Outpace Men in Ph.D.'s for First Time

Women have long earned the majority of master's degrees in the United States. Now, they also lead men in new doctoral degrees.

According to a report released today by the Council of Graduate Schools, women earned 50.4 percent of doctorates in the 2008-2009 academic year—a one-year increase of 6.3 percent for women compared to 1 percent for men. Women were more likely to receive a Ph.D. in health sciences (70 percent) and education (67 percent), while men dominated doctorates in engineering (78 percent) and math/computer science (73 percent.).

Women currently represent 60 percent of all Americans with master's degrees. The breakdown by field is similar to that for doctorates.

Today's report, Graduate Enrollment and Degrees, 1999-2009, shows that the number of new students at U.S. graduate schools grew 5.5 percent from 2008 to 2009, compared to 4.5 percent the previous year.

It also shows that men are catching up. Growth in both first-time and total graduate enrollment in 2009 was higher for men than for women, reversing a long-term trend. Enrollment among men increased 6.7 percent, compared to 4.7 percent for women. Over the past 10 years, first-time enrollment for women grew by an annual average of 5.2 percent, compared to 4.2 percent for men.

The growing number of students going to graduate school reflects the increasing necessity of a graduate degree to successfully compete in a 21st-century knowledge-based economy, according to the Council of Graduate Schools.

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