Fewer U.S. college graduates earn education degrees

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a host of challenges for K-12 schools nationwide, including widespread reports of teacher shortages at the start of the new school year. But the problem of attracting people to the profession is not necessarily new. Even before the pandemic, there were signs of a “pipeline problem” among educators nationwide.

The number and share of new college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in education has declined over the past few decades, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This has happened even as the total number and share of Americans with college degrees have increase.

To assess the decline in bachelor’s degrees in education conferred over time and differences in the experiences of young teachers, this analysis from the Pew Research Center uses federal data to analyze changes in these groups.

The analysis draws on more than three decades of data from the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Survey National Survey of Teachers and Principals (NTPS), formerly Schools and Principal Survey (NTPS). Staff survey. The analysis of education credentials granted over time draws on five decades of IPEDS data on degree awards from all post-secondary institutions, which includes colleges, universities, and vocational and vocational schools.

The analysis of the age distribution of US teachers uses the most recent NTPS data available (school year 2017-2018). Data was not available for Maryland and the District of Columbia due to low response rates or data collection standards not being met. NTPS data includes full-time and part-time public school teachers.

In 2019-20, the most recent year for which data is available, colleges and universities awarded 85,057 Bachelor of Education degrees, or about 4% of the more than 2 million total degrees awarded that year. This is a 19% drop from 2000-2001, when colleges and universities awarded more than 105,000 Bachelor of Education degrees, or about 8% of all undergraduate degrees.

The decline is even more pronounced in the longer term. During the 1970-71 academic year, education was the most popular field for American undergraduate students. Colleges and universities awarded 176,307 bachelor’s degrees in education that year, or 21% of all degrees awarded.

Women, in particular, have become much less likely to choose education as a field of study. More than a third (36%) of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to women were in education in 1970-71. In 2019-20, only 6% of undergraduate degrees awarded to women were in education.

For both men and women, colleges and universities now award far more degrees in business and health professions (and related programs) than in education. Business and health degrees accounted for the two largest shares of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2019-20, at 19% and 13% of the total, respectively.

Although a considerable proportion of K-12 teachers have a bachelor’s degree in education, it is not always a requirement for the position as long as prospective teachers complete the necessary training and certifications. In addition to the decline in the number of college graduates receiving degrees in education, teacher education programs have seen a steep drop in enrollment in recent years. And 44% of American adults say they are not at all likely to encourage a young person to become a K-12 teacher, according to NORC at the University of Chicago.

Experts have raised several possibilities as to why fewer people are expressing interest in the profession, including high levels of stress and burnout, low salaries that have remained stagnant, and concerns about political and ideological arguments surrounding school curricula. .

With fewer college graduates earning degrees in education, young teachers have shrunk as a proportion of the nation’s entire elementary and secondary school teaching workforce. In 2017-18, the most recent school year for which NCES published data on this topic, 15% of all public and private K-12 teachers were under the age of 30, a slight down from 17% in the 1999-2000 school year.

During the same period, the share of older educators in the teaching profession has increased. Teachers aged 60 and older made up about 7% of K-12 instructors in 2017-18, more than double their share in 1999-2000, when they made up 3% of all teachers.

A graph showing that South Carolina and Kentucky have the highest proportions of teachers under 30

There are state-level differences in the age distribution of teachers — at least among public school educators. In the 2017-18 school year, 15% of all US public school teachers were under 30. In 28 states, they made up a share of teachers above the national average. The states with the highest proportion of teachers in their twenties were South Carolina (23%), Kentucky (21%), Louisiana, Arizona and North Carolina (all around 20%). Teachers under 30 made up the smallest share of the workforce in New Mexico (7%), Rhode Island (9%), Maine (9%), Nevada and California (about 10% each) . Maine, New Mexico and Alaska, by contrast, are the states with the oldest public school teachers — teachers 55 and older make up about a quarter of educators in each state.

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