TCPD Columns

Exploring education in the Indian Administrative Service


Indian bureaucracy is considered one of the most aspired government jobs by Indian youth with a success rate of just 0.1%. The journey of becoming a bureaucrat tests the prospective candidates at different stages, the entire process almost taking a year. It is pretty interesting to study whether officers from certain types of educational backgrounds are designated to the same position, in terms of hierarchical structure in the government. There also has been increasing speculation of students with a technical background, like the IITians, doing very well in the exams. So, this study would also try to answer how many successful candidates are from STEM or non-STEM fields. I will explore the representation of STEM and non-STEM officers in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) from 1951 – 2020. Furthermore, using the designation field from the experiences dataset, I would explore for correlation between the designation type and education. The dataset would also explore the proportions of STEM or non-STEM fields discussed earlier.

The term STEM refers to a broad group of disciplines from the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics which includes subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Botany, Biology, Zoology, Statistics, Petrology, Orthology, Computer Science etc. Subjects that do not fall under STEM  are referred to as non-STEM. Non-STEM includes courses such as History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, etc. 

The remaining part of this column is organised as follows. I begin with the introduction to the dataset in the section following this. Next two sections discuss the Representation of IAS officers from 1951-2020 and STEM & non-STEM representation across various levels in the government respectively. Then, I conclude with the key takeaways and scope for further research.

About the Dataset

The dataset consists of various subjects that the officers had completed which were then annotated as STEM or non-STEM. Among the 12676 IAS officers who served the nation from 1951 – 2020, 3265 graduated with a STEM-related degree while 5783 officers graduated with a non-STEM degree. The dataset had 4522 officers whose educational background was unknown. For further analysis, those officers were dropped from the dataset. 

Representation of IAS officers from 1951 – 2020

There could exist variations in the proportion of IAS officers from STEM or non-STEM fields over these years. Using the dataset, I prepare two trend lines tracking the proportion of the officers from both fields with time. Having both lines in the same graph gives us a source to compare representation between the fields with each passing year. 

Figure 1: STEM and Non-STEM representation of IAS officers from 1951-2019

In figure I, we can see that there has been a lot of fluctuations in the proportion of officers from both the fields over the time span. But, we see that the level at which both start in the year 1951 is 0.50. For next couple of years, there is a sharp acceleration in proportion of officers from STEM-field. The opposite trend exists for the officers from non-STEM field. Up until the year 1982-83, data seems to very noisy and does not show a clear trend. Following this, there is a significant decline in the proportion of officers with STEM background and the same is being compensated by a reversal in trend for non-STEM field. This particular nature of data post 1982-83 almost follows till 2020 and has only few data points with massive fluctuations. Although, I do not offer any explanation for these fluctuations but would be a good research question to focus on in the future. 


The dataset on IAS officers has a rich repository of their associated ranks. It is an interesting question to explore whether there exists some relation between the rank in Government and educational background. For that purpose, I dive deeper into the existing data and plot a comparison between the two-fields with each position in the Indian bureaucratic ladder. 

Figure 2:  STEM and Non-STEM representation across various positions

Few interesting insights emerge out of the data visualized in Figure II. There seems to be a dominance of officers from non-STEM fields with the associated levels. Only for the post of Under Secretary, the gap between the two fields is not very significant but it does exist. The data for the officers from STEM field for the post of Above Secretary Level does not exist. This is because of dropping of certain data points, as mentioned earlier, with missing information and not a lot of IAS officers attain this post. 


Investigation into the IAS dataset over the long-term makes it clear of a declining trend in the proportion of officers from non-STEM field especially over the last two-three decades. There has been an upward trend in the number of officers from STEM field during the same time period consistent with the remark made in the introduction. But, analysis into the data of various positions held by the officers in Government brings out the insight that it has been officers from non-STEM background who dominate the highly decorated top bureaucratic positions. As it takes closer to 25 years for an IAS office to become the Cabinet Secertary for a ministry, we might see more STEM representation in the coming future as STEM representation has been increasing in the past years. 

About the Author

Jenish Raj Bajracharya is an ASP student at Ashoka University, pursuing an advanced major in Computer Science.


I would like to thank Ananay Agarwal, Maleeha Fatimah and the entire TCPD team for their constant guidance and support. 


[1] “TCPD Indian Administrative Service Officers Dataset (TCPD-IAS), 1951-2020 Codebook 1.2”, Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University Neelesh Agrawal, Srishti Gupta, Vedant Jumle, Mohit Kumar, SV Sai Vikas. 2022.


This article belongs to the author and is independent of the views of the Centre.