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ACS News

September 26, 2005
Volume 83, Number 39
pp. 52-60, 69

New Chemistry Grads In 2004

No big surprises in the 2003-04 class; the number of degrees was close to long-term levels

Michael Heylin

Chemistry departments with bachelor's degree programs approved by the American Chemical Society granted 10,155 bachelor's, 1,840 master's, and 1,963 doctoral degrees in the 2003-04 academic year.

These totals were shy of the all-time highs set in the 1990s. But they were all reasonably close to the long-term averages over the past 30 years of 9,740 bachelor's degrees per year, 1,736 master's, and 1,917 Ph.D.s.

On a shorter term basis, the 2003-04 bachelor's total was up slightly from 10,068 in 2002-03, but it was 1,064 below the 11,219 all-time high set in 1997-98. The master's total of 1,840 was up from an unusually low 1,614 in 2002-03, but it was shy of the high of 2,098 in 1995-96. And the Ph.D. total of 1,963 was slightly lower than the 2,007 in 2002-03 and so continued a downward drift since the recent high of 2,208 in 1997-98 and the all-time high of 2,213 in 1990-91.

In 2003-04, 631 departments had ACS-approved bachelor's programs, and all but four of them produced at least one bachelor's graduate. Of these 631 departments, 309 also had master's programs, and all but 22 of these had at least one graduate. In all, 196 departments had Ph.D. programs; all but 14 of these had at least one 2003-04 graduate.

These are the key findings from the 2004 report of the American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training (CPT). The report was produced by ACS's Office of Professional Training, which has been directed by Cathy A. Nelson since 1992.

The 2003-04 academic year also brought new all-time highs, at all degree levels, in the percentage of chemistry degrees earned by women: 50.9% of the bachelor's degrees, 47.0% of the master's, and 33.1% of the Ph.D.s. Twenty years ago, in 1983-84, women earned 34.3% of bachelor's degrees, 33.2% of master's, and 18.6% of Ph.D.s. In the early 1970s, they earned only about 17%, 23%, and 8%, respectively.

In the late 1990s, the CPT annual report was delayed because of a transition by CPT to electronic data handling. Five years' worth of data, from 1996-97 to 2000-01, were released in 2003 (C&EN, Aug. 25, 2003, page 46). The data for 2001-02 followed in 2004 (C&EN, March 29, 2004, page 48), and the 2002-03 data came earlier this year (C&EN, Feb. 7, page 38). With the availability of 2004-05 data by April of next year, the process will be back on its traditional schedule of publishing data about 10 months after the close of the academic year.

CPT has been assessing, approving, and monitoring undergraduate chemistry programs for the society since 1941. Departments with approved programs are required to report annually to the committee the number of degrees they award at the bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. levels.

ACS does not approve master's and Ph.D. programs. But CPT does survey such programs occasionally, most recently in the late '90s.

The committee also gathers data annually on chemical engineering degrees at all three levels from departments accredited by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET). These data are not as exhaustive as the data on chemists because the chemical engineering departments are not required to respond to CPT.

School-by-school data on 2003-04 chemistry and chemical engineering graduates are presented in a table at the end of this article and on the Web at

CPT's data differ in two respects from parallel data available from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on bachelor's and master's graduates and from the National Science Foundation on Ph.D. graduates (C&EN, Feb. 7, page 46).

First, CPT reports all graduates from the departments with undergraduate programs approved by ACS, regardless of the discipline or subdiscipline of their degree. The NCES and NSF counts of chemistry graduates include only those with degrees in the classic chemistry subdisciplines: analytical, organic, inorganic, physical, theoretical, and general chemistry. They do not include, for instance, graduates in biochemistry and materials science, even if those grads received their degrees from chemistry departments.

Second, CPT's data do not include bachelor's graduates from about 400, mostly small, chemistry programs that are counted by NCES. These departments either do not meet ACS's criteria for approval--such as a minimum chemistry faculty of four--or have not applied for approval.

These differences in counting rules can make a major difference for individual schools. But for the bachelor's graduate total, they more or less cancel one another out. CPT's total of 10,068 bachelor's graduates for 2002-03 is within 2% of the 9,894 NCES count.

Bachelor's degrees, as reported by CPT, come in two types, certified and noncertified. 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 noncertified degrees are eligible for 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 declining for many years. In 2003-04, it slipped to 35.7% from 37.1% a year earlier, and from 41.4% 10 years earlier.

In recent years, according to CPT, the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Washington, Seattle; and the University of Texas, Austin, have been the big three producers of chemistry bachelor's graduates. Over the 2000-01 through 2003-04 academic years, they produced four-year totals of 788, 664, and 484 graduates, respectively. Because year-to-year data can be erratic, using data for the past few years combined gives a more firm indication of the relative size of schools.

Rounding out the top five producers are the University of California, San Diego, with 432 graduates in that four-year period and North Carolina State University, with 426.

The dominant producer of doctoral chemists over these same four years has been the University of California, Berkeley, with between 59 and 62 graduates each year and a four-year total of 242. The next four departments are Purdue University, with 179 graduates; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with 171; the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with 151; and the University of California, Los Angeles, with 129.

The University of California, San Diego, has been the biggest producer of master's chemistry graduates for three of the past four years and a has a four-year total of 153. Columbia University was the biggest producer in 2001-02, with 37 graduates.

On the four-year basis, Cornell University was the second largest producer, with 126 graduates, followed by the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, each with 109, and Harvard University, with 103.

The 4,764 tally of bachelor's chemical engineering graduates reported to CPT for 2003-04 was down by 200 from the previous year. The decline would have been larger but for the inclusion of 91 graduates from Western Michigan University in 2003-04. This program was recently accredited by AIChE/ABET and had not been included in the CPT count previously.

The largest producer of 2003-04 chemical engineering bachelor's graduates was the University of Texas, Austin, with 118, followed by Pennsylvania State University, with 114, and Purdue University, with 105.

Illinois Institute of Technology was the largest producer of master's chemical engineering graduates in 2003-04, with 38, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology topped the Ph.D. ranking, with 28.

New Chemistry Grads In 2004

No big surprises in the 2003-04 class; the number of degrees was close to long-term levels

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