Enrollment data suggests slowly declining trends

June 25, 2015

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—The total number of degrees awarded to students graduating with majors in health physics has declined across undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs for the first time in four years.

The report conducted by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, titled Health Physics Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2014 Data, surveyed 22 academic programs with enrollment and degree data between Sept. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2014, including both students majoring in health physics or those enrolled in an option program equivalent to a major.

The decrease in undergraduate degrees for 2014 is a reversal of trends observed over the past four years. The number of degrees awarded in 2010 increased from 62 to 88 in 2013. This year’s decrease drops the number to slightly more than those awarded in 2011.

Decrease in degrees granted apparent in all levels of education

Year B.S. M.S. Ph.D.
2014 67 81 10
2013 88 86 14
2012 82 91 15
2011 64 85 5
2010 62 89 15
2009 77 83 9
2008 73 108 8
2007 79 91 28
2006 71 90 12
2005 78 77 14

Source: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

According to the survey, the number of students receiving bachelor’s degrees with majors in health physics in 2014 decreased to 67—a 24 percent decrease from the prior year. The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2014 was 54 percent lower than in the peak years of the late 1970s.

The number of master’s degrees awarded in 2014 declined 6 percent and remains relatively in line with the previous five years. Master’s degrees continued to outnumber bachelor’s degrees, resuming a long-running trend that has only been interrupted three times since the survey began—in 2013, 2005 and 1978. Doctorate degrees granted dropped to 10 (28.5 percent decrease) in 2014.

Additionally, the report lists each university’s program and the number of degrees awarded. Oregon State University granted 35 degrees; Thomas Edison State College of New Jersey graduated 18 and Texas A&M University awarded 14 degrees.

Enrollment in health physics programs also in decline

After a two-year increase in undergraduate enrollment, health physics programs observed a drop in attendance among juniors and seniors with numbers returning to early 2000s levels. The enrollment of junior and senior undergraduates was approximately 190, which is a 16 percent decrease from 2013 and 9 percent decrease from 2012 levels.

Graduate enrollment in 2014 was 270 students, nearly 12 percent lower than in 2013 and 24 percent lower than in 2012. The 2014 graduate enrollment is the lowest reported since the early 1970s. Graduate students in health physics maintain their long-standing trend of outnumbering undergraduate students.


ORISE gathered demographic data for programs willing to disclose such information. Foreign nationals account for 2 percent of health physics bachelor’s degree recipients, 8 percent of master’s degree recipients and 25 percent of doctorate recipients.

Women make up 30 percent of health physics bachelor’s degree recipients, 28 percent of master’s degree recipients and 25 percent of doctorate recipients.
ORISE has collected and monitored data on enrollments and degrees in science and energy-related fields of study for DOE and other federal agencies since the mid-1970s. View the full report on 2014 data here: Health Physics Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2014 Data.

Media Contacts

Pam Bonee
Director, Communications
Office: 865.576.3146
Phone: 865.603.5142

Wendy West
Manager, Communications
Office: 865.576.0028
Phone: 865.207.7953

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) asset that is dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research, and health initiatives of the department and its laboratory system by providing world class expertise in STEM workforce development, scientific and technical reviews, and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environmental contamination. 

ORISE is managed by ORAU, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, for DOE’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.osti.gov.