How Many People Earn College Degrees?

NCES Associate's Degrees.Degrees, by Level of Degree and Sex of Recipient

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has gathered research on the number of degrees conferred by degree level and age, across three time periods: 1993–94, 2006–07, and the projection dates of 2018–19.

Continuing growth in enrollment in degree-granting institutions over the years has been reflected by an increase in the number of degrees conferred. While the number of degrees conferred increase during each period for both sexes, it appears that women are dominating, more so than men, when it comes to pursing higher education.

Between 1993–94 and 2006–07, the number and proportion of degrees awarded to women rose at all levels. In 2006–07, women earned the majority of associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, and 50 percent of doctoral and first-professional degrees.

NCES Bachelors Degrees

Three Alternative Sets of Projections

Between 2006–07 and 2018–19, continued increases are expected in the number of degrees awarded to women, as well as men, at all levels. Middle, low, and high sets of projections were developed for the total number of degrees conferred at each level—associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and first-professional—as well as for the number conferred at each level, by sex of recipient. However, in our charts we have used only middle alternative projections.

Associate’s Degrees

Generally, a two-year undergraduate degree, in the middle alternative projections between 2006–07 and 2018–19, the number of associate’s degrees is expected to:

  • increase 25 percent overall,
  • increase 16 percent for men, and
  • increase 31 percent for women.

Bachelor’s Degrees

In the middle alternative projections between 2006–07 and 2018–19, the number of four- year bachelor’s degrees is expected to:

  • increase 19 percent overall,
  • increase 14 percent for men, and
  • increase 23 percent for women.

NCES Degree By Level and Sex

Master’s Degrees

Typically, a one to two year graduate degree, the number of master’s degrees is expected to:

  • increase 28 percent overall,
  • increase 23 percent for men, and
  • increase 31 percent for women between 2006–07 and 2018–19.

Doctoral Degrees

Between 2006–07 and 2018–19, doctoral degrees, the highest and most prestigious academic degree available, are expected to:

  • increase 49 percent overall,
  • increase 35 percent for men, and
  • increase 63 percent for women.

First-Professional Degrees

First professional degrees are earned after the bachelor’s degree and are required to begin practice in fields, such as dentistry, medicine, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatric medicine, veterinary medicine, chiropractic, law, and theological professions. Between 2006–07 and 2018–19 in the middle alternative projections, the number of first professional degrees is expected to:

  • increase 24 percent overall,
  • increase 22 percent for men, and
  • increase 27 percent for women.

If you would like to stay competitive in the job market among the growing population earning post-secondary degrees, get started on your path to higher education today.