Social and behavioral science (SBS) doctoral programs enrolled 1.1 percent more graduate students in 2010 than in 2009, while SBS master's program enrollment declined 0.9 percent, according to a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools. The overall decline of SBS students, 0.4 percent, is modest compared with the decrease found in many other fields (see graph below), but it's significant given SBS's 4 percent average growth rate over the past decade and the 8.4 percent increase in grad school applications in 2010, says Nathan Bell, PhD, CGS's director of research and policy analysis.
If more students are applying, why are fewer students enrolling in psychology graduate school?
The economy may be causing graduate programs to shrink their incoming classes, plus some successful applicants may be turning down their spots and getting jobs instead, says Bell. The fields that suffered the steepest declines in enrollment included education and business — areas in which students usually pay their own way or take out loans.
"It is possible that this is also affecting psychology since many students in psychology graduate programs are also primarily self-supported and loan-supported," Bell says.
The study also found that, across all fields, women's enrollment suffered slightly more than men's, but women continued to make up 58 percent of first-time graduate students.
The overall drop in grad school enrollments could be worrisome if the trend continues, says Bell, since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that in the future more jobs will require a master's degree or a doctorate.