It’s a big deal for a college undergraduate to choose a major. But if they’re thinking about science and engineering—two areas that are deemed increasingly important to future innovation in the U.S.—then they may want to look at schools on the coasts.
According to recent figures and analysis from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 18 million students were enrolled in undergraduate education in 2009. Choice of a major tends to be based on a number of factors, but ultimately guides future decisions related to the person’s life course, such as the probability of entering graduate or professional school, future occupation, and possibly even where the student eventually chooses to live, since local employment opportunities are influential.
Although all fields have some geographic variation regarding where their degree holders live, science and engineering degrees were particularly concentrated in a handful of states. The Atlantic coastal areas of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia were home to 28 percent of the nation’s science and engineering degree holders. Separately, 19 percent of all science and engineering degree holders lived in the Pacific coast states of California, Oregon and Washington.
While many Midwestern and Southern states had lower proportions of science and engineering degrees among their college-educated populations, they did have higher-than-average concentrations of people with education degrees. Approximately one fifth of the bachelor’s degrees in North Dakota and South Dakota were in education, compared to just 8 percent in California.
Examining science and engineering degrees by gender, distribution of degree holders is significantly age-dependent. For example, in the engineering field, the percentage of females in the youngest group (25 to 39) accounted for 20 percent of degrees. But this is six times larger than the percentage in the oldest group (65 plus), where females accounted for just 3 percent of degrees. For those 40 to 64 years old, women were 11 percent of engineering degrees.
Similar gender shifts occur in the area of physical and related sciences, where among 25- to 39-year-olds, women account for 39 percent of degrees. Among older groups, women 40 to 64 have 25 percent of degrees and women 65-plus have 16 percent of degrees.