US-Indian Students Switch from Engineering to Physical Sciences

Statistics show that students from India studying for advanced degrees in the United States are increasingly drawn to the physical sciences


Surat : According to a new report from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Indian students planning to study in the United States are more interested in majoring in physical sciences rather than engineering for their master’s and doctoral degrees.

Statistics show that students from India studying for advanced degrees in the United States are increasingly drawn to the physical sciences. This includes disciplines like physics, chemistry, and earth science.

The survey found that in the 2020-2021 school year, Indian students accounted for 54% of all test takers in the Physical Sciences section of the GRE, but just 41% in the Engineering section. Only test takers who selected a graduate major on their registration form are included in these statistics.

The Decline of Engineering and the Ascendance of the Physical Sciences

The proportion of Indian students interested in pursuing an engineering degree in the United States has dropped considerably over the last decade, from 34% in the testing year 2021-22 to just 17% in the following year. However, over this same time span, there was a 7% rise in the number of GRE takers who were interested in the physical sciences.

This pattern is supported by the Open Doors Report, which was put together by the United States Department of State and the non-profit Institute of International Education (IIE). The analysis found that between 2009-10 and 2021-22, the percentage of Indian students majoring in engineering in the United States dropped from 38.8 percent to 29.5 percent. The percentage of Indian students majoring in biological sciences has dropped from 10% in 2013-14 to 6.5% in 2021-22, indicating a decline in interest in the field.

Causes of the Surging Demand for Online Courses

Many causes, according to experts, have contributed to the change in educational fads. One explanation is that students are more interested in safety and permanence in their careers, in contrast to the ever-changing nature of the IT and engineering fields.

M Square Media (MSM) Founder and Advisor Sanjay Laul said, “This shift in preferences reflects the evolving priorities of Indian students who are seeking a more stable future and a higher level of job security in their chosen fields.”

Overstaffing at the height of the COVID-19 epidemic has been blamed by some analysts for the rise in layoffs in the fast-paced engineering profession. Consequently, in the post-pandemic age, it has become imperative to take cost-cutting measures, leading to widespread layoffs and likely deterring students from choosing engineering as a career.

“The changing landscape of the job market, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic,” concluded Laul, “has influenced students’ decisions, pushing them to explore fields with more long-term prospects and stability.”

There has been a dramatic change in the proportion of Indian students selecting the United States as their study abroad destination, and one major factor is the increasing popularity of multidisciplinary research, study, and innovation.

Higher Education in India

When it comes to overseas students studying in the United States, those from India make up the second biggest group. During the 2021–22 school year, India sent 199,182 students to the United States, a rise of 18.9% from the previous year. The number of graduate students is on the rise, having climbed by 48 percent to 1,02,024 in the next academic year (2021–2022).

The GRE is becoming more popular in India, and its rise mirrors that trend. A record 1,11,476 students from India took the test last year, more than tripling the number of Chinese test takers.

Changing employment markets and the pursuit of multidisciplinary studies are becoming more obvious as driving factors in Indian students’ decision to pursue higher education in the United States.

Meeting the Changing Needs of the Student Body

U.S. higher education institutions are always making changes to better serve foreign students from India and other countries. This change in emphasis from engineering to the physical sciences creates new opportunities for study, innovation, and cross-disciplinary work.

Laul argued that schools needed to modify their curriculum to accommodate pupils from a wider range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds as they adjusted to the shifting demands of a global labour market. Institutions now have a great chance to put money into groundbreaking research and new ideas in the physical sciences because to rising public interest.