Graduate Student Survey – Demographics and Fields of Study

demographicsContinuing the discussion of our recent Graduate Student Survey (for an overview see our introduction here) we have explored the demographics of our sample.

Predictably, our respondents are predominantly in their 20’s with an average age 27.5 years. However, both younger and more mature respondents are well represented, with nearly 10% of respondents aged 22 years or younger and 3.5% over the age of 40.

Female students make up 65% of our sample. This value is slightly above the national average where women make up almost 60% of students in any type of graduate program.

Sixty-five percent of our survey respondents are currently in doctoral degree programs. The other represented degree levels and the fraction of students from each level type are shown in the first figure. Annual surveys of current graduate students (e.g. by the CGS) consistently report doctoral students as making up only 25% of students in any type of graduate program, with the remaining 75% of students in master’s programs. The disparity between our results and the CGS data results from our sample being skewed towards universities with very high levels of research activity.

The survey respondents represent a variety of different academic fields as shown in the second figure. The “Other” category is comprised of the following academic fields: Architecture and Related Services, Communications, Legal Professions and Studies, Library Science, Military Technologies and Protective Services, Parks, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies, and Theology and Religious Vocations. Each of these disciplines were represented by 50 or fewer respondents.

Respondents to our survey represent students in all stages of the degree process, from those just beginning their program to advanced students in their 10th year. The fraction of respondents from each year are shown in the third figure.

Although limited in the number of universities represented, the survey sample may be generalized to represent the average graduate student, particularly those classified as very high and high research universities. With that established, we can now delve into more interesting and revealing data, stay tuned!



Check out the other articles on our current graduate student survey:

Survey of Current Graduate Students

Students Don’t Apply to Many Graduate Programs

Getting Into Grad School – How to Improve Your Chances

Are Grad Students Happy?

How to Choose the RIGHT Graduate School


What Are The Top Prospective Graduate Students Really Looking For?

Whether they are millennials, or adults returning back to school after years in industry, there are hundreds of thousands of people around the world seeking higher degrees for a variety of reasons.

It can be difficult to capture your audience; as more and more people are going back to school, factors such as age, experience level, and an increased desire for flexibility emerge that make it harder to understand and cater to high-quality students.

Regardless of these socioeconomic factors, many prospective graduate students are looking for the same set of criteria when choosing a program. By better understanding trends amongst the graduate student population, you will be able to more effectively target your offerings.

So, what are some of the questions that top prospective graduate students are asking of potential programs?


Will this additional degree help me get a better, higher paying job after I graduate?

In some fields, an advanced degree is required for success and career advancement. However, with many newer fields such as web development requiring less time in school and more time gaining practical experience, many millennials question whether additional degrees will provide them with a competitive advantage.

Despite some shifting views, 90% of U.S. adults believe that going back to school for a higher degree can increase their earning potential and opportunities for future career advancement; a survey conducted by Georgetown University found that career and financial advancement opportunities rose by 57% for those holding a Master’s degree.

With millennials accounting for around 40% of the current unemployment rate, it’s crucial to communicate job placement rates, tangible skills that your program can provide to make students more attractive to employers, and resources your program offers to connect students with career opportunities.


Will I be able to afford this degree?

With average undergraduate student loan debt hovering around $35,000, recent graduates and seasoned workers alike are concerned about racking up more and more money in loans.

Prospective students are looking for a serious pay-off from a graduate degree, especially when it comes to increased earning potential. For example, software engineers with a master’s degree can earn an average of 17.5% more in their lifetime than those with just a bachelor’s- definitely worth the extra spend on tuition and time in school.

Communicating the value-add that your program offers is a key component of attracting and recruiting the right students. By quantifying the benefits that your program provides relative to the cost, you can show prospective students that an initial investment can yield lifelong financial gains.


What will this program invest in me as an individual?

Millennials are consistently demanding more individual, tailored experiences in their work, personal lives, and educational endeavors.

Not only do millennials seek more flexibility (37% would take a pay cut if it meant more job flexibility), they also look for nurturing and support in big life decisions and career or education shifts.

Provide resources to cater to the needs of prospective graduate students, such as the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a graduate admissions officer, or a forum to connect with other students at your college or university to talk about housing options or things to do in your city. The top prospects want a steady flow of information and communication to make the best choice for their graduate education.

While it might take some extra work, giving prospective students resources and tools for success up front will empower them to make smart, informed decisions for their future, as well as the future of your program.

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