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sions, such as physical therapy, speech and language pathology, and public health—drawing 88% more top scorers in 2000 than in 1992.

Where are top students going if not into S&E? The top US students do not appear to be headed in large numbers into law school or medical school, where enrollments have been flat or declining. But more do seem to be attracted to graduate business schools, where the number of MBAs awarded annually grew by nearly one-third during the 1990s. During this period, many S&E undergraduate students also may have entered directly into the workforce after graduating, attracted in part by the booming economy. As the economy slowed in the early part of this decade, some of these students may have returned to graduate school, and more undergraduates may have opted to continue their studies.22

Indeed, 1999 appears to have been the nadir for student interest in S&E graduate study. The economy’s recent slump has prompted growing numbers of top US college graduates to attend graduate school, new data show, sharply reversing course from the late 1990s, when more of the brightest young Americans headed for quicker-payoff careers in business and health. By 2001, with fewer high-technology jobs beckoning, the share of top US citizen scorers (above 750) on the GRE quantitative scale heading to graduate school in the natural sciences and engineering increased by about 31% compared with 1998, after having declined by 21% in the previous 6 years.23 This recent increase is comparable with the 29% gain in the number of all score levels of examinees who intended to enroll in graduate school in S&E. And the total number of GRE examinees increased by 9% between 1998 and 2001, suggesting that more students in a variety of fields were preparing for graduate school.

Enrollments of International Students24

As the number of US students studying S&E in graduate schools has dropped, these schools and employers of scientists and engineers have compensated by enrolling and employing more students and trained personnel from other countries. In 2003, foreign students earned 38% of doctorates


W. Zumeta and J. S. Raveling. The Best and the Brightest for Science: Is There a Problem Here? In M. P. Feldman and A. N. Link, eds. Innovation Policy in the Knowledge-Based Economy. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001. Pp. 121-161.


W. Zumeta and J. S. Raveling. “The Market for Ph.D. Scientists: Discouraging the Best and Brightest? Discouraging All?” AAAS Symposium, February 16, 2004. Press release available at:


See also the International Students Issue Brief elsewhere in this report.

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