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Employment Outcomes of Recent Science and Engineering Graduates Vary by Field of Degree and Sector of Employment
Data from the National Science Foundation’s 2001 National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG) reveal patterns and trends in the employment of graduates who received bachelor’s or master’s degrees in science and engineering (S&E) in 1999 and 2000. Survey results on salaries, full-time employment status, employment in S&E occupations, employment sector, and postgraduation enrollment status of these graduates (hereafter, recent graduates) are highlighted here. These data predate the economic downturn that began in 2001 and may not reflect the status of graduates who received their degrees in the 2001, 2002, or 2003 academic years.
The NSRCG is a biennial survey. The 2001 survey covered persons who received a bachelor’s and/or a master’s degree between July 1998 and June 2000. The number of S&E bachelor’s graduates increased 5 percent between the 1997 and 1999 surveys and increased 2 percent between the 1999 and 2001 surveys. Similar increases occurred for master’s S&E graduates during the same periods. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyrecentgrads/ for more information on the NSRCG.
Among those employed full time, median annual salaries for computer sciences graduates and engineering graduates at the both the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels are higher than median annual salaries for other S&E graduates. Among recent bachelor’s degree recipients, median annual salaries in April, 2001, were $51,000 for graduates with a degree in computer sciences and $49,000 for graduates with a degree in engineering, compared with $34,000 for all S&E graduates (table 1). Among recent master’s degree recipients, median annual salaries in April, 2001, were $65,000 for graduates with a degree in computer sciences and $60,000 for graduates with a degree in engineering, compared with $51,000 for all S&E master’s graduates (table 2).Table 1 Source Data: Excel file
Table 2 Source Data: Excel file
Full-Time Employment Status
The likelihood of holding a full-time job one to two years after graduation varies substantially by level and field of degree (tables 1, 2). In 2001, about three-quarters of all recent S&E bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients were employed full time. At both degree levels, engineering graduates were more likely than science graduates to have gained full-time employment: 87 percent of engineering bachelor's and master's graduates were employed full time, compared with 70 percent of science graduates with bachelor’s degrees and 75 percent of those with master’s degrees.
Among science graduates at both degree levels, graduates in computer sciences were more likely than other science graduates to be employed full time. At the master’s level, more than 90 percent of recent graduates in the field of computer sciences had gained full-time employment.
Employment in S&E Occupations
Recent S&E graduates with a bachelor’s degree who were employed as of April, 2001, were only about half as likely as those with a master’s degree to have gained their employment in an S&E occupation (table 3). At both degree levels, recent graduates in engineering fields were much more likely to be employed in an S&E occupation than were recipients of degrees in other S&E fields. Recent graduates with degrees in the social sciences or in psychology were less likely than other S&E degree recipients to be employed in an S&E occupation. Among graduates who majored in the social sciences, economics majors were more likely to have S&E employment than were other social science majors.Table 3 Source Data: Excel file
The private, for-profit sector is by far the largest employer of recent bachelor’s
and master’s S&E degree recipients. Private, for-profit companies
in 2001 employed 62 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients and 58 percent
of master’s degree recipients and employed a larger proportion of engineering
than science graduates (table 4). The academic sector was the second largest
employer of recent S&E graduates at both degree levels.
Postgraduation Enrollment Status
Among recent S&E graduates, about 22 percent and 18 percent, respectively, of those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees were enrolled in school on a full-time basis in 2001. Master’s degree recipients who had majored in the physical and related sciences were more likely to be enrolled as full-time students than were S&E master’s graduates who had majored in other fields. Likewise, recipients of a bachelor’s degree in this field, as well as those who had majored in the life and related sciences, were more likely than other S&E bachelor’s graduates to be enrolled full time (figure 1).Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file
Continuing a pattern that has been evident for decades, recent computer sciences and engineering graduates not only are more likely than graduates in other fields to find full-time employment, but upon entering the workforce, they are rewarded with higher salaries. The private, for-profit sector continues to be the largest employer of recent bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients.
About 20 percent of individuals who received their degrees in 1999 or 2000 reported that they were continuing their education full time in 2001. Most of these students were pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree, with the remainder working toward a second bachelor’s degree.
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 In this analysis, persons who were in school on a full-time basis were excluded. Also excluded were persons who were unemployed or not in the workforce.