Graduate education is the fastest-growing segment of postsecondary enrollment, with enrollment growth of 44.9 percent over fall 1995 to fall 2015 (NCES 2017)—little wonder, perhaps, given the large earnings advantages and rapid real-wage gains advanced-degree holders have enjoyed over recent decades[1][2]. Postbaccalaureate credentials are required for a growing number of careers in teaching, research, and legal and health professions, and graduate enrollment growth is expected to proceed apace as employer demand for master’s-credentialed labor continues to expand[3].

Although people of color remain underrepresented at the graduate level, bachelor recipients of color enroll in graduate education at higher-than-average rates, and students of color comprised a larger share of graduate enrollments in 2016 than in 1996. More concerning are stark racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in graduate students’ sectors of enrollment and fields of study: women and students of color remain firmly underrepresented in graduate programs associated with the largest employment and earnings benefits.

[1] Autor, D. (2014). Skills, education, and the rise of earnings inequality among the “other 99 percent”. Science (New York, N.Y.), 344(6186), 843-51.

[2] Ma, Jennifer, Matea Pender, and Meredith Welch. 2016. Education Pays 2016: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society. The College Board.

[3] Council of Graduate Schools. 2017. Master’s Degree Requirements and the U.S. Workforce. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools.