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For Iranian Students in the U.S., It’s STEM or Bust

Wednesday July 15, 2015 | by WES Advisor

Types of degrees pursued by Iranian students in the U.S.

International students in the U.S. have long leaned heavily toward the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, but Iranians are taking that trend to a whole new level.

A whopping 79.6 percent of them studied STEM in 2013-2014; that’s more than any other country, including India, which comes close. And more specifically, 56 percent of the Iranian students in the U.S. studied engineering, which is a staggering number: No other international student group sends such a large proportion of its students into any field. The next highest is Kuwait; 39.4 percent of their international students in the U.S. also choose engineering.

With an absolute majority of these students pursuing engineering degrees, there’s not room for much else. Physical/life sciences and math/computer science each make up a little more than 10 percent. Even business/management degrees—which occupy the No. 1 or 2 spot for most international student populations—aren’t much of a consideration, accounting for only 4.6 percent of Iranian studies in the U.S. That’s behind even fine/applied arts degrees, which have never been a major driver of foreign studies.

So is Iran’s penchant (to put it mildly) for engineering a positive thing? Well, that’s subjective, of course. Some would probably argue that greater educational diversity would ultimately benefit Iran, economically and otherwise. But if you’re an Iranian who hopes to study engineering in the U.S., the important thing to understand is that you’ll be competing for admission with 8,000 of your countrymen. So you’d better step up your game! If you want to come here and study business, or social science—anything else, really—that competition won’t be as stiff.

Note: “Other” on this chart includes health professions, education, the humanities, intensive English, social science, undeclared, and more.

WES Advisor is an initiative of World Education Services, a non-profit organization with over 40 years of experience in international education. We provide tips and advice for international students and skilled immigrants to help them make informed decisions about education, employment, and immigration opportunities in the U.S. and Canada.