Despite number of bachelor's degrees decreasing, number of master's and doctorate degrees increased*

Aug. 3, 2016

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—The number of undergraduate students who graduated in 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in health physics dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade, while the number of master’s and doctorate degrees increased. This is according to the latest annual study conducted by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, which surveyed 22 health physics programs, representing nearly all such programs at the nation’s universities. The report, titled Health Physics Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2015 Data, showed that a total of 151 bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees were granted between Sept. 1, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015.

Table 1. Health Physics Degrees, 2006-2015

Year B.S. M.S. Ph.D.
2015 49 84 18
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

Source: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

Number of bachelor’s decline, while master’s and doctorate degrees increase

According to the report, 49 students received bachelor’s degrees with majors in health physics in 2015—the lowest number of bachelor’s degrees reported since 2002 and nearly two-thirds less than what was awarded during the peak years in the 1970s.

The number of health physics master’s degrees awarded in 2015 increased slightly, up 4 percent from the previous year, but 2 percent lower than 2013.

The survey data showed that the number of doctorate degrees granted in 2015 increased significantly to 18—an 80 percent increase over 2014.

Oregon State University had the largest number of health physics degrees awarded in 2015 with six bachelor’s degrees, sixteen master’s degrees and one doctorate degree, followed by the University of Tennessee and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Enrollment in health physics programs continue to fall

In 2015, the number of students enrolling in undergraduate and graduate health physics degree programs fell 20 percent and 7 percent, respectively, when compared to 2014. The undergraduate decrease is the lowest number reported since 2003 and indicates that the number of bachelor’s degrees in 2016 and 2017 are likely to remain closer to the number reported for 2015. For graduate programs, the number of students enrolling in advanced-degree programs is the lowest since the survey began. Based on this data, the number of master’s degrees awarded in 2016 and 2017 may drop to lower levels, while the number of doctorate degrees is expected to have plateaued and could fall back to the 5 to 10 range in the next couple years.

Employment opportunities

The ORISE report also looked at post-graduation plans reported for 2015 graduates. For bachelor’s degree graduates, nuclear utility employment, other nuclear-related employment and DOE contractor employment represent more than half of all reported employed graduates. For employed master’s graduates, federal government employment is the largest number reported. Medical facility employment, academic employment and federal government employment accounted for nearly 70 percent of the employed doctorate graduates.

ORISE has collected and/or monitored data on enrollments and degrees in science and energyrelated fields of study for DOE and other federal agencies since the mid-1970s. View the full report on 2015 data here: Health Physics Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2015 Data.

*NOTE TO EDITOR: A news release announcing this report was distributed on July 18, 2016. One academic program provided additional data after the original publication distribution, and those revisions are included in the updated report hyperlinked above as well as detailed in this revised release. In short, the revision updated the number of M.S. degrees in health physics granted in 2015 from 69 to 84. Please see report for full details.

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