Chemistry Grads On The Upswing | August 20, 2007 Issue - Vol. 85 Issue 34 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 34 | pp. 60-63
Issue Date: August 20, 2007

Chemistry Grads On The Upswing

Increasing graduate enrollments engender surge in 2005-06 graduates, with more growth to come
Department: ACS News, Education

The latest annual compilation of the number of graduates from academic departments with American Chemical Society-approved chemistry undergraduate programs brings a message of major year-to-year gains and a breakout that might well continue.

The total of 12,120 bachelor's graduates during the 2005–06 academic year is an all-time high and up 11% from a year earlier. The total of 2,321 Ph.D. graduates is also an all-time high and 12% higher than for 2004–05. The number of master's graduates is not at a new high, but at 1,989, it is up 14% from the year-earlier class.

Through 2004–05, bachelor's graduates had held in essentially the 10,000- to 11,000-per-year range since 1995. Ph.D. graduations had been on a 16-year plateau of between a little below 2,000 to a little above 2,200. The number of master's graduates each year has been more volatile. In 2005–06, it is still about 100 below a 1995–96 high.

More good news is that full-time chemistry graduate school enrollment continues to grow. It has risen steadily from 16,200 in 1999–2000 to 19,600 in 2005–06. This augurs well for more growth to come in chemistry graduations at the master's and Ph.D. levels. First-year enrollment has grown steadily from 4,000 to 4,400 over the same period.

The 17% gain in Ph.D. chemistry graduation between 1999–2000 and 2005–06 is not due to a baby-boom-like upsurge in 25- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. population. There has been no such surge. According to the Census Bureau, in 2000, 39.9 million were in this age category. By 2006, it was only about 1% higher at 40.4 million. However, a 10% increase in the population of 20- to 24-year-olds from 19.1 million to 21.1 million between 2000 and 2006 may have contributed to the 14% gain in bachelor's degree chemistry graduates over the period.

Over the past 15 years, the number of bachelor's chemistry graduates has increased by 54% from 7,872 in 1990–91 to the 12,120 in 2005–06. The gain for master's degrees was a modest 24%. For Ph.D. graduates, it was an even more modest 5%.

The new data on graduates also quantify the latest step in the vast and ongoing change over the past generation in the makeup of chemistry graduating classes by gender. The number of women bachelor's graduates has risen from 3,028, or 29% of the total, in 1980–81 to 6,291, or 52%, in 2005–06. The number of male graduates has fallen from 7,425 to 5,829 over the same period.

Over these same 25 years, the number of women master's graduates has more than doubled from 451, or 28%, to 964, or 49%, while male graduates have declined from 1,158 to 1,025. At the Ph.D. level, the parallel gain for women has been from 255, or 16% of the total, to 829, or 36%, while men have posted a much more modest absolute gain of from 1,358 to 1,492.

THE DATA. It is the ACS Committee on Professional Training (CPT) that formally reports the graduate statistics each year. The reports are produced by the society's Office of Professional Training, which has been directed by Cathy A. Nelson since 1992. In recent years, technology specialist Gary Woods has coordinated the data gathering.

CPT's primary function is to assess, approve, and monitor undergraduate chemistry programs. It has been doing so since 1941. ACS does not approve master's or doctoral programs. The more than 640 departments with approved bachelor's programs are required to report annually to CPT all the degrees they award at all three degree levels. These counts include some degrees in other than the traditional chemistry disciplines.

CPT also seeks data from chemical engineering departments that are accredited by ABET Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board of Engineering & Technology. These departments are not required to respond to CPT, but almost all are now doing so. In 2005–06, 150 of 154 departments responded.

School-by-school data on 2005–06 chemistry and chemical engineering graduates are tabulated at the end of this article. CPT makes this data available on the Web at

The bachelor's degrees reported by CPT are of two types—certified and noncertified. Graduates who are awarded certified degrees by their department heads are qualified for immediate and full membership in ACS. Those with noncertified degrees are eligible for society membership only after three years of professional experience or acquisition of a higher degree in a chemical science.

The percentage of degrees that are certified has been drifting down—from about 42% in the early '90s to 35% for 2005–06. Policies on certification vary by department. For instance, all 151 degrees earned from the University of Texas, Austin, in 2005–06 were certified. For the top producer, the University of California, Los Angeles, only 10 of the 228 bachelor's awarded were certified.

The National Science Foundation and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) also gather data on chemistry graduations. Their data agree closely, but their totals differ somewhat from CPT's. This is because of differences in the way the data are gathered.

The CPT reports cover only the graduates from departments with ACS-approved bachelor's chemistry programs. NSF and NCES graduate totals are boosted relative to CPT data by inclusion of graduates from another 300 or so chemistry programs that are mostly too small for ACS approval. On the other hand, NSF and NCES counts are depressed relative to CPT because they include only graduates in the traditional chemistry disciplines. For instance, NSF and NCES exclude graduates in biochemistry, which they classify as a biological, not chemical, science.

As a result of these differences, CPT's annual counts of bachelor's graduates tend to run between about 500 and 1,000 higher than the NSF and NCES totals. At the Ph.D. level, CPT, NSF, and NCES are all in quite close agreement. The CPT counts of master's graduates tend to run low by about 150 graduates each year.

The CPT data on chemical engineering indicate a 14% decline in bachelor's graduates from 2002–03 to 2005–06 with 4,418 graduates, the same number as the year before. The count of Ph.D. graduates is on the rise—from 562 in 2001–02 to 846 in 2005–06. The master's count has been vacillating. It was 1,122 in 2005–06, down from 1,242 a year earlier, but up from 900 in 2001–02. All of these CPT counts are somewhat below the NSF/NCES counts. But the gap is closing as the rate of response to CPT has grown.

THE PRODUCERS. In 2005–06, UCLA remained the largest producer of bachelor's chemistry graduates with 228, up from 202 a year earlier. The University of Washington; the University of Texas, Austin; and the University of California, San Diego, retained their number two, three, and four spots, respectively. UC Berkeley moved up from 10th in 2004–05 to take the number five spot, displacing the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which moved down to 10th.

The top 25 ranking of producers of bachelor's chemistry graduates changed little in 2005–06. Twenty-one of the schools on the list were also on the 2004–05 list. Among the four schools joining the 2005–06 ranking were two with very large year-to-year increases. Temple University went from 19 to 70 bachelor's graduates, and Arizona State University went from 28 to 74.

There was a little more jostling among the top 25 Ph.D. producers in 2005–06. UC Berkeley moved up to take the top spot with 61 Ph.D. graduates, up from 43 and second place a year earlier. The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, was second in 2005–06 with 55 graduates, up from 33—and 11th place—a year earlier.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, first in 2004–05 with 48 graduates, slipped to 13th place with 34 graduates in 2005–06. The University of Florida was third both years. And Stanford University, tied for third in 2004–05 with 42 graduates, fell to 25th on the 2005–06 list with 28 graduates.

The University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, was the largest producer of bachelor's degree chemical engineers in 2005–06 with 119. It had been ninth in 2004–05, with 80 graduates. Pennsylvania State University, second in 2005–06 with 104 graduates, had been first in 2004–05 with 111. The University of Texas, Austin, produced the most Ph.D. chemical engineering doctoral graduates in 2005–06 with 35, and Illinois Institute of Technology had the most master's graduates, 45.


More on this Topic

  • Chemistry Grads On The Upswing
  • Increasing graduate enrollments engender surge in 2005-06 graduates, with more growth to come
  • This document has been saved as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file to retain the original formatting of the hard copy version. To view the documents you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. Download a free copy now or obtain further information about Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • This file includes the following tables:
  • Only five schools made the top 25 list at all three degree levels in 2005–06
  • No upsurge apparent for B.S. and Ph.D. through 2004 class
  • Top 10 producers in 2005–06
  • Graduating classes surge in 2006 at all three degree levels
  • Big gains in number of graduate students suggest upsurge in graduates will continue
  • Number of Ph.D.s is on the rise, but number of bachelor's lags
  • Top 25 producers in 2005–06
  • Women's share of graduating classes has greatly increased over 25 years

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