APS News

APS Creates Degree Demographics Site

new physics degree chart


Average Number of Physics Bachelors, 2008-2010

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It didn’t used to be easy for a physics department to gauge how well it compared to others in the number or diversity of its graduates. Now, with the new degree demographics site from APS, one can search every physics program in the US and see how many degrees each has produced and how it compares nationally to other physics degree-granting institutions.

This new website, at go.aps.org/degreecompare, is an outcome of the Doubling Initiative–a joint effort by APS, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the Society of Physics Students to advocate doubling the number of bachelor degrees in physics to address critical national needs including K-12 education, economic competitiveness, energy, security, and an informed electorate.

In 2007, the APS Executive Board endorsed a statement calling for doubling the number of physics bachelors in the US. This action pre-dated calls by other organizations to increase the number of STEM (Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Technology) majors in the US, such as the 2012 report “Engage to Excel” from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Recognizing the need to make full use of the talents of women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) to meet the demands of the growing US science and technology sector, the statement specifically noted that it was essential to increase the number of both women and URMs who major in physics. Without these individuals, the US will lack the diverse scientific workforce necessary to drive innovation and solve complex problems.

The new degree demographics website is designed to allow US institutions to see how they stack up nationally in terms of producing physics degrees and encouraging diversity among these degrees. The site features every institution that has granted a physics bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree during the three most recent years for which data are available from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (2011 data will be available on the site this summer).

The degree data used in the institutional comparison graphs are presented as 3-year averages and can be sorted by the type of degree. The raw data for each institution are also provided.  

In addition to information on how one’s institution compares in awarding physics degree to women and URMs, data are available on the percentage of physics degrees granted based on all degrees granted at the institution and all STEM degrees granted at the institution.
 
“We hope this site will allow universities to better understand where they stand, and how improvement can be made,” said Theodore Hodapp, Director of Education and Diversity at the APS, “by observing their own department, and by looking at comparable institutions.”

The APS Education & Diversity Department created the site, and will be improving its functionality going forward. Input from the physics community is welcome; feedback and suggestions should be sent to education@aps.org.



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Editor: Alan Chodos
Staff Science Writer: Michael Lucibella