A new Pew Research Center analysis of degrees granted by American colleges and universities shows that international students earn more than half of the advanced degrees in many science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
At the baccalaureate level, international students still are overrepresented in STEM degrees, though the numbers are smaller. In 2012-2013, international students received just 3.5% of bachelor’s degrees from U.S. colleges and universities, but they earned 10.2% of all degrees in mathematics and statistics, 7.9% of all engineering degrees, and 6.7% of all bachelor’s degrees in architecture and related services.
International students at U.S. colleges are more concentrated in STEM fields than U.S. college students as a whole. Among international students at all academic levels, business was the most popular field of study in 2013-2014 (188,179). The next-most-popular fields were engineering (160,128) and computer and information sciences (65,291).
By contrast, the most popular fields of study for U.S. students at all levels were health professions, business, liberal arts/humanities and education; computer sciences and engineering ranked seventh and 10th, respectively.
About three-fourths of Indian students (74%) were studying some form of science, math or engineering in 2013-2014, a share exceeded only by Iranians (77.4%). Business was the single most popular area of study for Vietnamese (37.5%) and Chinese (28%) students, while the countries with the highest share of students studying intensive English (not typically a degree program on its own) were Kuwait (28.2%) and Saudi Arabia (24%).
During the 2013-2014 year, more than 886,000 students from other countries were also enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities or doing “optional practical training” – work related to their field of study.