National Estimates of R&D Scientists and Engineers
NSF 95-304

National Estimates of R&D Scientists and Engineers

An estimated 960,500 scientists and engineers were employed in 1991 on R&D activities in the United States. This figure represented an increase of about 4 percent from the 1989 estimated level of 924,200. It was a 20 percent increase over the 1985 figure of 801,900, the first year for which revised national tabulations are derived (table B-16).[17] In 1991, industry employed 81 percent of these R&D personnel. Companies classified in the transportation industry accounted for the single largest industry share (19 percent of the industry 776,400 total), although the combined share of all nonmanufacturing industries (24 percent of industry's 1991 total) has been rising steadily. The Federal Government employed 6 percent (58,300) of the Nation's R&D S&Es in 1991, and the academic and nonprofit sectors accounted for the rest. Although the sector specific survey methodologies differ considerably, the data indicate that a larger share of Federal R&D S&Es were employed in development activities (57 percent) than the share of academic R&D S&Es who were primarily engaged in research (93 percent of these doctoral R&D personnel).

Throughout the mid 1970s, there were approximately 55 R&D scientists/engineers for every 10,000 people in the labor force (table B-19). Continued increases in national R&D funding caused this ratio to climb annually through the 1980s, before settling to the current proportion of about 76 per 10,000.

These personnel estimates make it possible to gain a rough perspective on the changing cost of doing research. In 1991 the Nation spent an average of about $167,000 on R&D per R&D scientist and engineer. R&D expenditures include salaries, fringe benefits, materials, supplies, and overhead. The comparable 1985 R&D expenditure/R&D personnel ratio was about $142,000 per person. In constant 1987 dollars the 1985 and 1991 ratios were about $150,000 and $142,000, respectively. (See table B-33 for industry specific ratios.)

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17. Reported in the previous National Patterns were an estimated 841,600 FTE R&D S&Es in 1985 and 949,300 in 1989. The primary reason for differences in the national totals between the past and current reports is that previous series incorporated estimated FTE figures for the academic and nonprofit sectors; the revised current series reports for those sectors the number of doctoral S&Es engaged primarily in R&D. See appendix A for details on the FTE R&D scientists and engineers series.
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