Placing “The Graduate” in Undergraduate: Number of Undergraduate Awards Conferred

It's May and that time of year when college commencement ceremonies are in full swing; a good time for Measure Up to provide some data about a recent graduating class of 2012 Minnesota undergraduates. Of the 98,885 academic awards conferred in 2012, 73 percent went to undergraduates; with bachelor's degrees more numerous than associate degrees or certificates. Each year the number of undergraduates graduating is increasing. Over the past 10 years the number of undergraduate awards conferred by Minnesota postsecondary institutions increased 37 percent from 52,216 to 71,388; at a greater pace than the 17 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment during the same time.

Majority of Undergraduate Awards Are in Four Career Clusters, 2012

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U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Completion Survey

The majority of students in undergraduate study are young. Over half of all undergraduates receiving an award in 2012 (57 percent) were 24 years old or younger; 31 percent were aged between 25 and 39; and 12 percent were 40 years and older. But higher percentages of undergraduates receiving bachelor's degrees were 24 years old or younger, 71 percent compared to 45 percent receiving an award lower than a bachelor's degree (certificate or associate degree).

In 2012, undergraduate awards were earned by students in 606 distinct programs of study. Luckily, college academic programs are identified through a numeric taxonomy which enables tracking such a vast array of programs into smaller units of analysis. One such analysis is the career clusters model which aligns terminology used in postsecondary programs with those used in analyzing careers and occupations. Grouping all the undergraduate programs with the awards conferred in 2012 indicated that the bulk of awards were in four major career clusters: health science, business, liberal arts, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

STEM and STEM-intensive programs accounted for close to half of all programs of study by undergraduates receiving awards in 2012. There is on-going interest in encouraging students to major in the various science areas not only during their K-12 years, but at the postsecondary level. Tracking STEM majors at the college-level; however, is problematic since there is no agreed upon data collection scheme identifying which higher education programs to include. The U.S. Department of Education among other organizations has coined the phrase "STEM-intensive" to identify academic programs that require a large body of scientific or mathematic knowledge and course-taking within the curriculum to complete the academic program even if the major falls outside a stricter STEM definition. In Minnesota, if the STEM awards (9 percent) are combined with the STEM-intensive fields of health science (24 percent) along with agriculture and natural resources (4 percent) and information technology (3 percent) programs; 40 percent of undergraduate awards were in STEM and STEM-intensive majors.

Regardless of what majors students choose the next step or question asked is what happens to graduates? Do they stay in Minnesota to work? And if so, what kind of wages can graduates expect based on their program of study and level of award? The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has developed a new data tool to address these questions. This will be the first time these questions can be answered for graduates from Minnesota postsecondary receiving both undergraduate and graduate awards.

Top 10 programs by various levels of undergraduate study—certificates, associate degrees and bachelor's degrees—are shown below.

Top 10 Certificates Awarded by Minnesota Institutions, 2012
Program Career Cluster Number of Graduates Percent
Nursing AssistantHealth Science2,56816%
CosmetologyHuman Services1,3248%
Licensed Practical Nurse TrainingHealth Science1,1047%
Medical/Clinical AssistantHealth Science6224%
Massage TherapyHealth Science4773%
Farm and Ranch ManagementAgriculture, Food and Natural Resources4383%
Medical Insurance Coding SpecialistHealth Science3882%
Welding TechnologyManufacturing and Transportation3242%
Esthetician and Skin Care SpecialistHuman Services3132%
CarpentryArchitecture and Construction3062%
All Other Programs8,04951%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Completion Survey

Top 10 Associate Degrees Awarded by Minnesota Institutions, 2012
Program Career Cluster Number of Graduates Percent
Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal StudiesLiberal Arts, Languages and History6,22730%
Registered Nurse TrainingHealth Science1,9309%
Business Administration and Management, GeneralBusiness Management, Marketing and Finance7654%
Licensed Practical Nurse TrainingHealth Science6023%
Criminal Justice/Police ScienceLaw and Corrections5042%
Computer Systems Networking and TelecommunicationsInformation Technology4632%
AccountingBusiness Management, Marketing and Finance4572%
Medical/Clinical AssistantHealth Science4152%
Veterinary Assistant/Animal Health TechnologyHealth Science3542%
Culinary Arts/Chef TrainingHuman Services3302%
All Other Programs8,68742%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Completion Survey

Top 10 Bachelor's Degrees Awarded by Minnesota Institutions, 2012
Program Career Cluster Number of Graduates Percent
Business Administration and ManagementBusiness Management, Marketing and Finance2,8738%
PsychologyHealth Science2,1286%
Registered NursingHealth Science1,9065%
Biology/Biological SciencesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics1,6814%
AccountingBusiness Management, Marketing and Finance1,2743%
Elementary Education and TeachingEducation1,1993%
Marketing/Marketing ManagementBusiness Management, Marketing and Finance1,0113%
FinanceBusiness Management, Marketing and Finance8602%
Political Science and GovernmentGovernment and Public Administration8182%
English Language and LiteratureLiberal Arts, Languages and History7702%
All Other Programs23,49262%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Completion Survey

Check out National Public Radio graph of bachelor's degree trends: What's Your Major? 4 Decades Of College Degrees, In 1 Graph

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