The Graduate Education Market: Trends and Insights in Key Disciplines

Last updated on: August 4, 2021

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On the upswing: The master’s degree market has risen a healthy 20% since 2010. But which verticals have momentum, and which are stalling? 

Based on the latest data from the 2018/2019 academic year, here’s a snapshot of the five largest master’s-level verticals and programs to watch.

Click the image below to view the full infographic.

Business: 24% of all master’s grads
No small feat. Business has led the master’s-level education market since 2011. In 2019, it accounted for nearly one-quarter of the market.

Largest Program: Business Administration
MBA is king; no other master’s-level program even comes close. It consistently graduates 100,000+ students every year.  Much of this discipline’s growth is a result of more MBA programs being offered online.

Percent of Vertical: 55%
Percentage of Programs Online: 56%

Fastest Growing & Shrinking Business Programs
Organizational leadership is seeing a rapid rise at the expense of organizational behavior studies. The overall decline in organizational behavior studies is due to universities switching to organizational leadership, a program more aligned with current demand.

Business Statistics
Graduate Growth: +79%
Percentage of Programs Online: 27%

Management Science
Graduate Growth: +40%
Percentage of Programs Online: 28%

Organizational Leadership
Graduate Growth: +17%
Percentage of Programs Online: 66%

Management Information Systems
Graduate Growth: -10%
Percentage of Programs Online: 32%

Organizational Behavior Studies
Graduate Growth: -11%
Percentage of Programs Online: 41%

Education: 18% of all masters’ grads
Once the largest master’s-level vertical, education declined sharply after 2010 and has remained flat since 2015. In 2019, the entire discipline only graduated about 40,000 more students than MBA programs alone.

Fastest Growing & Shrinking Education Programs

The general master’s in education was the leading education discipline in 2019, but expect the master’s in educational leadership and administration to take the top spot next year. Most students in this vertical are educators in the workforce, so online options are desirable to them. 

Education Technology
Graduate Growth: +5%
Percentage of Programs Online: 66%

Teacher Education, Multiple Levels
Graduate Growth: +4%
Percentage of Programs Online: 27%

Educational, Instructional, and Curriculum Supervision
Graduate Growth: +3%
Percentage of Programs Online: 44%

Elementary Education and Teaching
Graduate Growth: -5%
Percentage of Programs Online: 20%

Secondary Education and Teaching
Graduate Growth: -5%
Percentage of Programs Online: 22%

Health: 16% of all master’s grads
Interest in healthcare is on the rise. It has seen 6% yearly growth and thrives on specializations such as family nurse practitioner (MSN-FNP) and nursing administration.

Fastest Growing & Shrinking Health Programs
The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) continues to be the largest of all health degrees, growing steadily at 4% year-over-year since 2015. Online is a big factor in this vertical: Only five out of the 25 largest programs were ground-only.

Medical Informatics
Graduate Growth: +21%
Percentage of Programs Online: 53%

Family Nurse Practitioner
Graduate Growth: +20%
Percentage of Programs Online: 31%

Clinical/Medical Social Work
Graduate Growth: +16%
Percentage of Programs Online: 14%

Nursing Education
Graduate Growth: -3%
Percentage of Programs Online: 46%

Nurse Anesthetist
Graduate Growth: -4%
Percentage of Programs Online: 1%

Nursing Science
Graduate Growth: -5%
Percentage of Programs Online: 36%

Engineering: 7% of all master’s grads
International fallout: This vertical saw its peak in 2017 and has since taken a downturn due to fewer enrollments from abroad. Note that engineering management is folded into engineering for this infographic.

Fastest Growing & Shrinking Engineering Programs
Electrical engineering takes the top spot for size, but this program has declined recently due to reduced international enrollments. Domestic graduates have remained steady. Compared to other verticals, master’s-level engineering still has a relatively low online presence.

Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering
Graduate Growth: +9%
Percentage of Programs Online: 4%

Operations Research
Graduate Growth: +7%
Percentage of Programs Online: 26%

Engineering, General
Graduate Growth: +7%
Percentage of Programs Online: 25%

Systems Engineering
Graduate Growth: -2%
Percentage of Programs Online: 40%

Computer Science: 5% of all master’s grads
This vertical has weathered the storm. While international enrollments have decreased, domestic grads have been rising steadily. No computer science program with more than 1,000 grads in 2019 has declined year-over-year on average since 2014. 

Fastest Growing Computer Science Programs
Unlike other verticals, there are no shrinking computer science programs to report. This vertical’s relatively high virtual presence (36% of programs online) is likely one reason why programs are only growing quickly.

Data Modeling/Warehousing and Database Administration

Fastest Growing Computer Science Programs
Unlike other verticals, there are no shrinking computer science programs to report. This vertical’s relatively high virtual presence (36% of programs online) is likely one reason why programs are only growing quickly.

Data Modeling/Warehousing and Database Administration
Graduate Growth: +64%
Percentage of Programs Online: 45%

Computer Security/Information Assurance
Graduate Growth: +25%
Percentage of Programs Online: 54%

Computer and Information Sciences, General
Graduate Growth: +15%
Percentage of Programs Online: 21%

Wiley Education Services can equip your university with powerful, in-depth analytics to optimize your program portfolio and successfully support learners throughout their educational journeys.

For more insights, download the full report: State of the Education Market: Trends and Insights in Key Master’s Disciplines.

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