NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Directorate for Social, Behavioral
and Economic Sciences
NSF 99-318 December 31, 1998
by Lawrence Burton and Linda Parker
Degrees and Occupations in Engineering: How Much Do They Diverge?
Of the 2.2 million employed people with an engineering degree, about 1 million reported an occupation other than engineering.
People with a master's degree who have degrees in both engineering and business were twice as likely to be in senior management as people with a master's who have only engineering degrees.
A common interest uniting educators, employers, and analysts of the U.S. labor force is the relationship between education and occupation. Recent data from the National Science Foundation illustrate some of the relationships between completion of a degree in science and engineering (S&E) at the baccalaureate or above and occupations at different points in careers. This issue brief focuses on individuals with engineering degrees or in engineering occupations..
Degrees and Employment in Engineering
Figure 2 shows the percentage, by age, of the 2.2 million employed people with an engineering degree who also reported their principal occupation as engineer. The proportions of those with engineering educational credentials who also were practicing engineers declined steadily with age, from about 70 percent among the youngest to under 50 percent among those middle-aged or older.
The table shows that most engineering graduates have only engineering bachelor's degrees and no other degrees. It also shows that degrees held in addition to the engineering baccalaureate-regardless of the order in which they were obtained or the educational level they represent-have more often been in a nonengineering field than in engineering (502,000 versus 476,000).
Many combinations of degree level and field have been identified for the 2.2 million employed people with an engineering degree, and their relationships to occupation are analyzed in more detail in an upcoming NSF report. One example will suffice to show that particular levels and mixes of degrees are associated with particular occupational outcomes during the course of careers. Figure 3 shows that among master's-level engineering graduates in the private for-profit sector (where most engineering graduates work), those who have combined their engineering degree(s) with a degree outside of S&E (footnote 4) are more likely to become senior managers at some point in their career. (Although not shown here, in the case of the engineering-business combination, virtually all business degrees were at the master's level and were the highest degree earned.) People with a master's degree who have degrees in both engineering and business were twice as likely to be in senior management as people with a master's who have only engineering degrees.
Engineers Without Degrees in Engineering
Copies of reports related to the topic of this Issue Brief can be obtained from:
SRS data are available through the World Wide Web (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/). For more information about obtaining reports, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. or call (301) 947-2722. For NSF's Telephonic Device for the Deaf, dial (703) 306-0090. In your request, include the NSF publication number and title, your name, and a complete mailing address.
 Lawrence Burton is in the Division of Science Resources Studies, Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences; Linda Parker is in the Division of Engineering Education and Centers, Directorate for Engineering.
 Details of the SESTAT data system and survey components on which this Issue Brief is based are available at (http://sestat.nsf.gov).
 Space limitations prohibit a full discussion of the occupations of these people. In decreasing order of magnitude, they include senior managers, sales-related occupations, computer-related occupations, technicians, and so on. More detail is provided later in this Issue Brief on senior managers.
 These groups, which are used only for this analysis, do not follow general NSF categorizations. For example, the social sciences are included in "other," not in science.
 Lawrence Burton and Linda Parker, The Education and Employment of Engineering Graduates. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 1999, forthcoming.