Source: ORISE | Release | July 18, 2016

Despite number of bachelor’s and master’s degrees decreasing, number of doctorate degrees increased significantly.

The overall number of students who graduated in 2015 with health physics degrees dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade. 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 136 bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees were granted between Sept. 1, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015.

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 also fell, dropping approximately 15 percent from the previous year, and is the lowest reported since 2004.

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

The University of Tennessee had the largest number of health physics degrees awarded in 2015 with six bachelor’s degrees, four master’s degrees and six doctorate degrees, followed by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Illinois Institute of Technology.

Enrollment in health physics programs continue to fall
In 2015, the number of students enrolling in undergraduate and graduate health physics degree programs fell 24 percent and 19 percent, respectively, when compared to 2014. The undergraduate decrease is the lowest number reported since 2002 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, it is likely the number of master’s degrees awarded in 2016 and 2017 will remain at 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 coming 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. And 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 energy-related 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.