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Chemistry Grads Post Gains In 2005

New bachelor's and Ph.D. degrees increase, while growth in women's share continues

by Michael Heylin
July 24, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 30

During the 2004-05 academic year, college and university departments with chemistry undergraduate programs approved by the American Chemical Society produced 10,947 chemistry graduates, up substantially from the 10,155 produced one year earlier. The departments with master's programs produced 1,745 master's graduates, down from 1,840 a year earlier. Those offering the Ph.D. had 2,051 Ph.D. graduates, up from 1,963 in 2003-04.

The bachelor's total was up by just over 1,000 from the 9,923 graduates three years earlier in 2001-02, and it approached the all-time high of 11,219 set in 1997-98. The 1,745 master's graduates in 2004-05 represented continuation of a decline from the all-time high of 2,098 graduates in 1995-96. The 2,051 Ph.D. graduates in 2004-05 were an extension to a 16-year plateau, holding at between just below 2,000 to just over 2,200 graduates per year.

The role of women in chemistry is continuing to grow. They earned 51.9% of the 2004-05 chemistry bachelor's degrees, 48.6% of the master's, and 34.4% of the Ph.D.s. These shares are up from 42.3%, 42.2%, and 31.4%, respectively, 10 years earlier in 1994-95. In the early 1970s, women earned about 17% of the bachelor's degrees from ACS-approved departments, 23% of the master's, and 8% of the Ph.D.s. Women first earned 50% or more of the bachelor's degrees in 2001-02.

All of these data are from the 2005 and earlier annual reports of the ACS Committee on Professional Training (CPT). These reports are produced by the society's Office of Professional Training, which has been directed by Cathy A. Nelson since 1992.

Additional data from these reports indicate recent growth in the number of full-time Ph.D. graduate chemistry students. The number was up to 17,543 in the fall of 2004 from 15,132 in the fall of 2000. For full-time master's students at schools offering a master's as the highest degree, the parallel gain was from 1,082 to 1,351.

CPT's function is to assess, approve, and monitor undergraduate chemistry programs. It has been doing so since 1941. ACS does not approve either master's or Ph.D. chemistry programs, although it surveys them periodically, most recently in the 1990s. CPT will complete a new survey of Ph.D. programs this fall.

Departments with approved bachelor's programs are required to report annually to CPT the total number of degrees they award at all three levels, including those in other than the traditional chemistry disciplines.

The statistics gathered each year on chemistry graduates by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Science Foundation include only degrees in the traditional classic subdisciplines: analytical, applied, general, inorganic and nuclear, organic, physical, and polymer chemistry. They do not include degrees in chemistry-related disciplines such as biochemistry and materials science that may be awarded by chemistry departments.

CPT and NCES/NSF counts of chemistry master's and Ph.D. graduates are in reasonably close agreement. For bachelor's, there are wider differences because of the different definitions used for chemistry and the inclusion by NCES of graduates from about 400 mostly small programs that are not ACS approved.

The bachelor's degrees reported by CPT are of two types: certified and not certified. Graduates who are awarded certified degrees by their department heads have completed a curriculum that satisfies ACS requirements. They are qualified for immediate and full ACS membership. Those with degrees that are not certified are eligible for society membership only after three years of professional experience or the acquisition of a higher degree in a chemical science.

The percentage of degrees that are certified has been on a long, if irregular, decline. In 2004-05, it went up marginally to 35.9% from 35.7% one year earlier, but it was down from 40.1% in 1998-99 and 39.9% in 1994-95.

Certification is to an extent an option for the departments. Many graduates with noncertified degrees have in fact met ACS's certification requirements. Policies vary by department. For example, in 2004-05, all 142 chemistry bachelor's degrees from the University of Texas, Austin, were certified, whereas at the University of California, Los Angeles, only eight of 202 were.

CPT also gathers annual data on chemical engineering degrees from departments accredited by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET). However, these departments are not required to respond to CPT, hence the data are not complete.

Of the 634 departments with ACS-approved chemistry programs, all but five produced at least one bachelor's graduate in 2004-05. Of the 305 departments with master's programs, all but 22 had at least one graduate. At the doctoral level, 187 of 195 schools with programs awarded at least one degree.

CPT's annual reports were delayed in the late 1990s by a switch to electronic data handling. Five years of data, from 1996-97 to 2000-01, became available in 2003 (C&EN, Aug. 25, page 46, 2003). Data for 2001-02 followed in 2004 (C&EN, March 29, 2004, page 48). Data for 2002-03 and 2003-04 came last year (C&EN, Feb. 7, 2005, page 38, and Sept. 26, 2005, page 52). This report brings CPT back to its traditional schedule for reporting its data.

School-by-school data on 2004-05 chemistry and chemical engineering graduates are presented in a table at the end of this article and on the Web at

In 2004-05, the top three producers of chemistry bachelor's graduates were the University of California, Los Angeles, with 202; the University of Washington, with 188; and the University of Texas, Austin, with 142. These three schools also led for the combined five years from 2000-01 to 2004-05 with totals of 990, 852, and 626, respectively.

Other big producers were the University of California, San Diego, and North Carolina State University with five-year totals of 571 and 527, respectively.

The biggest producers of Ph.D. chemists in 2004-05 were Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with 48 graduates; the University of California, Berkeley, with 43; and the University of Florida and Stanford University, both with 42. Over the five years from 2000-01 to 2004-05, the University of California, Berkeley, leads with a total of 285. Second is Purdue University with 215, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is third with 204.

The data on master's chemistry graduates tend to be somewhat volatile. For instance, Yale University reported nine such graduates in 2003-04. For 2004-05, it reported 39. This was high enough to put the school in second place behind the University of California, San Diego, with 42. Third was Cornell University with 33.

The number of bachelor's chemical engineering graduates reported to CPT is on the decline. The tally of 4,418 for 2004-05 was down by 341 from 4,759 a year earlier. This total, in turn, had been down by 205 from 2002-03. And it would have been down further but for the inclusion in 2003-04 of 91 graduates from the then newly AIChE/ABET-accredited program at Western Michigan University. This school reported only 12 such graduates in 2004-05.

The largest producers of chemical engineering graduates in 2004-05 were Pennsylvania State University with 111 bachelor's, Lamar University with 55 master's, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with 41 Ph.D.s.


Chemistry Grads Post Gains In 2005

New bachelor's and Ph.D. degrees increase, while growth in women's share continues

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