Executive Summary

Employment of Federal scientists and engineers rose from 185,623 in 1989 to 196,908 in 1993, 6.1 percent growth. U.S. scientists and engineers employed in science and engineering (S&E) jobs increased an estimated 10.6 percent. Overall U.S. civilian employment during 1989-93 increased by 1.7 percent. In 1989, the Federal S&E workforce consisted of 89,530 scientists and 96,093 engineers. By 1993, scientists (101,348) surpassed engineers (95,560).

During 1989-93, among Federal scientists, social scientists had the largest increase (17.8 percent), followed by life scientists (16.6 percent), computer and mathematical scientists (15.4 percent), and physical scientists (3.9 percent). Overall employment of engineers decreased by 0.6 percent during this period. Among the major engineering occupational groups, the employment change ranged from a decrease of 21.3 percent for industrial engineers to an increase of 4.0 percent for electrical, electronics, and computer engineers.

Over the 1989-93 period, the change in Federal S&E employment varied by agency. The largest decrease during the period occurred within the Department of Defense (DOD), where S&E employment decreased by 2.2 percent. In 1993, 46.8 percent of all Federal scientists and engineers were employed by DOD, down from 50.7 percent in 1989. Declining defense spending during 1989-93 paralleled a decrease of S&E employment at DOD. The 4-year employment growth for all other agencies (excluding DOD) was 14.6 percent.

The distribution of work activities of Federal scientists and engineers changed during 1989-93. Scientists and engineers employed in primary work activities associated with defense functions decreased during the period. Scientists and engineers decreased their activities involving design; installation, operations, and maintenance; planning; production; construction; and standards and specifications. Primary work activities showing increasing importance in Federal scientific and engineering employment during 1989-93 included clinical practice, counseling, and ancillary medical practice; teaching and training; scientific and technical information; regulatory enforcement or licensing; natural resource operations; and technical assistance and consulting. Employment of scientists and engineers engaged in research and development showed slow growth throughout the period, but R&D continued to be the largest work activities for the Federal S&E workforce.

The average age of Federal scientists and engineers increased slightly during 1989-93. In 1989, 25.1 percent of the scientists employed by the Federal Government were under the age of 35 and 10.6 percent were 55 or older. By 1993, 22.6 percent of the scientists were under the age of 35 and 11.5 percent were 55 or older. Further, in 1989, 42.1 percent of the engineers were under the age of 35 and 11.5 percent were 55 or older. In 1993, however, only 38.3 percent of the engineers were under the age of 35 and 12.9 percent were 55 or older. Federal scientists and engineers employed in development or design work were likely to be younger than those employed in research.

The number of female scientists and engineers employed in the Federal Government increased by 27.3 percent between 1989 and 1993, from 29,328 to 37,341. By contrast, the number of male scientists and engineers grew by only 2 percent over the same period. Despite higher growth for women, in 1993 women accounted for only 27.3 percent of all scientists and 10.1 percent of all engineers (up from 23.6 percent and 8.6 percent in 1989, respectively).

The number of Federal scientists and engineers who are members of ethnic/racial minority groups rose 18.3 percent between 1989 and 1993, from 26,052 to 30,810. Most of this increase represents growth in the numbers of Asians, which rose from 9,866 to 11,930, or 20.9 percent, during the period. Black scientists and engineers increased by 15.1 percent and Native Americans grew 34.4 percent. Hispanics showed a 19.9-percent increase, rising from 5,331 in 1989 to 6,394 in 1993.

The median annual base salaries of Federal scientists and engineers increased 21.9 percent, from $41,100 to $50,100, during 1989-93. By contrast, the average annual weekly earnings in private nonagricultural establishments rose only 12 percent during the same period.[1] The median salaries for engineers were higher than those for scientists, and the rise in salaries for engineers (24.5%) outpaced that for scientists (19.1%).

The South Atlantic Region[2]led the country in the number of Federal scientists and engineers: 36 percent of the Nation's federally employed scientists and engineers worked in this region (mostly in Maryland and the District of Columbia, which accounted for 31.5 percent and 24.6 percent of the region's total, respectively). The Pacific Region was the second-largest region, with 16 percent of the total number of Federal scientists and engineers (almost 62.7 percent of the region's Federal scientists and engineers work in California). By contrast, New England was the smallest region, with 3.8 percent of the Federal S&E total. Massachusetts accounted for 44.2 percent of all Federal scientists and engineers in New England.


1. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1994 (114th edition), Washington, DC 1994, p.420.
2. See table 12 for listing of States within the regions identified in this section.

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