Economy drives growth in master’s apps

Total applications to Yale’s master’s programs jumped 19 percent this year, with the largest increases in programs that professors say lead to promising job prospects during a time of economic uncertainty.

Master’s programs in computer science, engineering and applied science, and statistics have steadily attracted more applicants over the past five years, and continued to generate additional interest this admissions cycle. Those three programs received 45 percent, 41 percent and 28 percent more applications, respectively, this January than they did in 2011, according to data from Robert Colonna, director of admissions for the Graduate School. Professors interviewed said these programs are probably more attractive to students because they provide qualifications for the types of jobs that remain attainable in today’s economy.

“Many students applying to master’s programs have a specific employment goal in mind, so the demand for jobs in those areas must be good,” Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard said in a Friday email.

But directors of these master’s programs said they appeal to students for more than just the career possibilities they create.

Holly Rushmeier, chair of the Computer Science Department, said in a Friday email that she views the increased interest in her department’s master’s degree as part of a “worldwide increase in computer science.”

More students are enrolling in computer science courses at the undergraduate level at Yale and elsewhere, Rushmeier said, leading more students to continue studying the discipline at the graduate level. She said students often become interested in computer science because they experience the impact of technology companies such as Google and Facebook and of devices like smartphones in their daily lives, in addition to seeing “career potential” in the field.

Applications to the master’s program in computer science have steadily risen from 43 in 2008 to 94 in 2010 and 231 in 2012, according to data from the graduate admissions office.

In the statistics master’s program, applications have also “gone through the roof” in recent years, said David Pollard, director of graduate studies for statistics. The program received 276 applications this year, up from 56 applications in 2008.

David Pollard said the number of applicants from China in particular has “skyrocketed.” Many Chinese students enroll in one-year master’s programs to increase their exposure to American education, he said, and to improve their chances of admission to doctoral programs in the United States or Canada.

He added that the likelihood of getting “good jobs” with a master’s degree in statistics also draws students to the program.

Unlike this year’s fastest-growing master’s programs, the doctoral programs that witnessed the largest increases in applicants this year have not experienced consistent application growth.

Doctoral programs in American studies, geology and geophysics, and epidemiology and public health saw 13-percent, 43-percent and 28-percent rises in applications in 2012, respectively, which professors attributed to the programs gaining strength and national recognition. Total applications to the Graduate School’s doctoral programs rose 1.9 percent this year.

David Bercovici, chair of the Geology and Geophysics Department, attributed the increase in his department’s applications to the program’s improvements in recent years. Applications to the program had dropped by 14 percent in 2011.

The department has hired new faculty members over the past few years, Bercovici said, and has also produced “high-profile science” research, such as publishing a paper last week in the science journal Nature about a future supercontinent. He added that he has noticed an increase in the number of U.S. citizens applying to the geology and geophysics program, particularly from top institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke and Ivy League schools.

Referring to a 24 percent jump in the number of applications that were either to American Studies programs alone or to multiple programs with American Studies as the primary application, American Studies Director of Graduate Studies Kathryn Dudley said her department’s Ph.D. program has always been strong, but has likely attracted more applicants because of increased national visibility as well as the research interests of its faculty.

Yale’s Ph.D. program in American studies ranked best in the country in a 2010 National Research Council (NRC) survey, and the department’s chair is the president-elect of the American Studies Association — both of which give the program an “extremely high profile” nationally, Dudley said. Students also find faculty research topics such as economic inequality and social movements particularly relevant now, she said, adding that the program also offers a master’s certificate in public humanities that allows students to get jobs outside academia after graduation.

Despite this year’s significant increase, applications to the American studies Ph.D. program fell 15 percent in 2011.

The University’s doctoral program in epidemiology and public health also performed well in the 2010 NRC rankings, said Christian Tschudi, director of graduate studies for the program. He added that the magnitude of the increase in applications to the program — which has five distinct Ph.D.-granting divisions — was “unexpected,” but that he believes interest in public health may be growing nationally.

The Graduate School has 20 terminal master’s programs and 44 doctoral programs.

Clarification: Feb. 14 2012

An earlier version of this article quoted professor Kathryn Dudley discussing a 13 percent rise in applications to the Ph.D. program in American Studies. Dudley was in fact not referring to that statistic — which encompasses applications to American studies as part of combined Ph.D. programs — but to a 24 percent increase in the number of applications that were either to American Studies programs alone or to multiple programs with American Studies as the primary application.

Comments

  • panthera

    People need skillz. Critical thinking is just not cutting it.

  • River_Tam

    Wait, you mean that people need to learn to do more than just “learn to think” in college?