How Large Is the U.S. S&E Workforce?
What Do People Do With an S&E Education?
Sector of Employment
Who Performs R&D?
Women and Minorities in S&E
Women Scientists and Engineers
Racial and Ethnic Minority Scientists and Engineers
Data in this section are from the National Science Foundations
(NSFs) Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT),
which is a unified database containing information on the employment,
education, and demographic characteristics of scientists and engineers
in the United States.
How Large Is the U.S. S&E Workforce?
Estimates of the size of the U.S. S&E workforce vary based
on the criteria used to define a scientist or engineer. See
sidebar, "Who Is a Scientist or Engineer?" Education,
occupation, field of degree, and field of employment are all factors
that may be considered.
For example, should any employee with an S&E education be considered
a member of the S&E workforce, or should only someone employed
in an S&E occupation be considered? In 1999, more than 13 million
people in the United States either had an S&E education or were
working as scientists or engineers. (See appendix table 3-2.) The
number of college-degreed individuals in S&E fields in 1999
exceeded the number of individuals working in S&E occupations
because many S&E degree-holders were not working in S&E
fields. Also, many individuals who held S&E occupations were
educated in fields not considered science or engineering.
Including those either trained or working as scientists or engineers, approximately 13 million scientists and
engineers were residing in the United States as of April 1999. However, only 84 percent (nearly 11
million) of these individuals were in the workforce. (See text table 3-1 .)
The remaining individuals were either unemployed but seeking work (193,200) or not in the workforce
Of the nearly 11 million individuals trained or working as scientists and engineers in the United States
in 1999, the vast majority (almost 10.5 million) had at least one college degree in an S&E field.
About 30 percent (3.3 million) of the almost 10.5 million S&E degree-holders in the workforce were
also employed in S&E occupations. The remaining one-half million individuals had college degrees
in non-S&E fields but were currently or had been previously employed in S&E occupations. See sidebar, "Growth of the S&E Workforce."
What Do People Do With an S&E Education?
Many U.S. scientists and engineers have multiple S&E degrees
or have degrees in both S&E and non-S&E fields. Many S&E-educated
workers also routinely find S&E-related employment in occupations
not included within traditional S&E classifications. In 1999,
of the 10.5 million S&E degree-holders in the workforce, about
three-fourths (almost 8 million) reported that their highest degrees
were in S&E fields. (See text table 3-1 .) However, many of these
individuals (approximately 5 million) were not employed principally
in a science or engineering occupation.
Although the majority of S&E degree-holders do not work in
S&E occupations, their S&E training does not necessarily
go to waste. Of the 5 million S&E degree-holders performing
non-S&E jobs in 1999, 67.3 percent indicated that they were
employed in a field at least somewhat related to the field of their
highest S&E degrees. (See text
table 3- 2 .) Almost 80 percent of those whose highest earned
degrees were in mathematics or computer sciences and who were employed
in non-S&E jobs were working in fields related to their degrees
compared with 63 percent of those whose highest earned degrees were
in social and physical sciences.
Of all employed individuals whose highest degrees were in S&E,
76.8 percent said their jobs were related to the fields of their
highest degrees, and 45.7 percent said their jobs were closely related
to their fields.
(See appendix tables 3-8 and 3-9.) The relatedness of a field of
study to an individuals job varies in ways that are mostly predictable
by level, years since earning, and field of degree.
In the one- to four-year period after receiving their degrees,
73 percent of S&E doctorate-holders say that they have jobs
closely related to the degrees they received compared with 67.4
percent of masters recipients and 42 percent of bachelors recipients.
(See figure 3-2 .) This relative
ordering of relatedness by level of degree holds across all periods
of years since the recipients received their degrees. However, at
every degree level, jobs held by degree recipients generally are
less closely related to the field of degree earned. There may be good reasons for this: individuals
may change their career interests over time, gain skills in different
areas while working, take on general management responsibilities,
and forget some of their original college trainingor some
of their original college training may become obsolete. Given these
possibilities, the career-cycle decline in the relevance of an S&E
degree is modest.
When comparing 1993 data with 1999 data (see figure 3-3 ), each year demonstrates the same general pattern.
However, given the better labor market conditions in 1999, a somewhat
higher proportion of midcareer (1024 years since receiving degree)
S&E bachelors degree-recipients and doctorate-holders said
in 1999 that their jobs were closely related to their degrees. At
the bachelors degree level, an additional 11.5 percent of those
who had received their degrees 1519 years prior were in jobs
closely related to their field of study. For Ph.D. recipients, the
improvement was much smaller (4.7 percent) for those 2024 years
after receiving their degrees.
Differences in the percentages of those who said their jobs were
closely related to their fields of degree are shown in figure
3-4 by level of degree and in figure 3-5 by major S&E disciplines for bachelors
recipients. Although mathematics and computer sciences are often
combined into a single group, they are shown separately here because
of their very different patterns. From one to four years after receiving
their degrees, the percentage of S&E bachelors degree-recipients
who said their jobs were closely related to fields of degree earned
ranged greatlyfrom 30.0 percent for those whose degree was in
social sciences to 74.3 percent for those whose degree was in computer
sciences. Between these extremes, most other S&E fields show
similar percentages for recent graduates: 54.1 percent for physical
sciences, 51.8 percent for mathematics, 54.9 percent for engineering,
and 44.2 percent for life sciences.
Employment in Non-S&E Occupations
Slightly more than one-half of the 5 million S&E degree-holders working
outside S&E in 1999 held management or administrative occupations
(28 percent), sales and marketing jobs (15 percent), or non-S&E-related
teaching positions (9 percent). (See text table 3- 3 .)
Almost 89 percent of non-S&E teachers said that their work
was at least somewhat related to their S&E degrees compared
with 73 percent of managers or administrators and almost 51 percent
of those employed in sales and marketing jobs.
Almost 82 percent of the 5 million S&E degree-holders not working in S&E occupations
in 1999 reported their highest degree to be a bachelors degree;
15 percent listed a masters degree, and 3 percent listed a doctorate.
Approximately two-thirds of those with a bachelors degree reported
their jobs to be closely related to their highest degree field compared
with four-fifths of doctoral and masters S&E degree recipients.
Employment in S&E Occupations
Of the 8 million scientists and engineers in the workforce in 1999 whose highest degree earned was in an S&E field, slightly more than one-third (3 million) were principally employed in S&E jobs.
Additionally, 256,000 people trained in S&E whose highest degree was in a non-S&E field
were employed in S&E occupations. Also, 282,000 college-educated individuals were employed in
S&E occupations yet held no degrees in an S&E field.
Altogether, approximately 3.5 million individuals held S&E occupations in 1999. (See appendix
table 3-10.) Engineers represented 39 percent (1.37 million) of the S&E positions, and computer
scientists and mathematicians represented 33 percent (1.17 million). Physical scientists accounted for less
than 9 percent of those working in S&E occupations in 1999.
By subfield, electrical engineers made up about one-fourth (362,000) of all those employed as
engineers, whereas biologists accounted for about three-fifths (206,000) of employment in life sciences. In
physical and social science occupations, chemists (122,000) and psychologists (197,000) were the largest
occupational subfields, respectively.
Almost 56 percent of those employed in S&E jobs reported their highest degree earned to be a
bachelors degree, whereas 29 percent listed a masters degree and 14 percent listed a doctorate. About 1
percent reported other professional degrees to be their highest degree earned. Almost one-half of bachelors
degree-recipients were engineers; slightly more than one-third were computer scientists and
mathematicians. (See text table 3-4 .) These occupations were also the
most popular among those with masters degrees (approximately 37 and 34 percent, respectively). Most
doctorate-holders were employed as social scientists (26 percent), life scientists (25 percent), and physical
scientists (18 percent).
Of the approximately 3.6 million individuals with S&E occupations
in the labor force in 1999, only 1.6 percent (56,000) were unemployed. (See text table 3-5 .) This compares with 4.4
percent for the 1999 U.S. labor force as a whole and 1.9 percent
for all professional specialty workers. Unemployment for those with
S&E occupations has dropped steadily since 1993, when it stood
at 2.6 percent. The highest unemployment rate in 1999 was for physical
scientists (1.9 percent), and the lowest rate was for computer scientists
and mathematicians (1.2 percent). By degree level, 1.6 percent of
the scientists and engineers whose highest degree earned was a bachelors
degree were unemployed compared with 1.6 percent of those with a
masters degree and 1.2 percent of those with a doctorate.
Unemployment rates during S&E degree-holders careers are shown in figure 3-6 and indicate 1993 and 1999 rates for bachelors and
doctorate degree-holders. The generally stronger 1999 labor market had its greatest effect on bachelors
degree-recipients: among them, unemployment dropped by about 2 percentage points between 1993 and
1999 for all career levels. Although labor market conditions affect Ph.D. unemployment rates much less,
significant reductions in unemployment rates between 1993 and 1999 occurred for Ph.D.-holders at both
the beginning and end of their careers.
Similarly, labor market conditions from 1993 to 1999 had a greater effect on the portion of bachelors
degree-recipients who said they were working involuntarily outside their field of highest degree
(involuntarily out of field, or IOF) than for Ph.D.-holders. (See figure 3-7 .) However, the greatest differences in IOF rates for bachelors degree-recipients occurs not
at the beginning and end of ones career, but in midcareer. For Ph.D.-holders, few differences in IOF rates
were noted between 1993 and 1999, and little change was noted during their careers.
Sector of Employment
The private, for-profit sector is by far the largest provider of S&E employment. In 1999,
approximately 74 percent of scientists and engineers with bachelors degrees and 62 percent of those with
masters degrees were employed in private, for-profit companies. (See appendix table 3-12.) The
academic sector was the largest sector of employment for those with doctorates (48 percent). Sectors
employing fewer S&E workers included educational institutions other than four-year colleges and
universities, nonprofit organizations, and state or local government agencies.
For S&E occupations, the percentages of scientists and engineers
employed in private, for-profit industry varied greatly. Although
slightly more than three-fourths of both computer scientists and
mathematicians and engineers (76 and 78 percent, respectively) were
employed in this sector, only about one-fourth (27 percent) of life
scientists and one-fifth (19 percent) of social scientists were
so employed in 1999. Educational institutions employed the largest
percentages of life scientists (48 percent) and social scientists
(45 percent). See sidebar, "Educational Distribution
of S&E Workers."
Who Performs R&D?
Although S&E-educated individuals use
their acquired knowledge in various ways (e.g., teaching, writing,
evaluating, and testing), they show a special interest in research
and development (R&D). Figure 3-9 shows the distribution
of individuals with S&E degrees by level of degree who report
R&D as a major work activity. Those with doctorates make up
only 5.6 percent of total S&E degrees achieved but represent
14.4 percent of those reporting R&D as a major work activity.
Despite this, the majority of S&E degree-holders who report
R&D as a major work activity have only bachelors degrees (55.4
percent). An additional 27.4 percent have masters degrees, and
2.8 percent have professional degrees (mostly in medicine). Figure 3-10 shows the distribution of individuals with S&E degrees by field of highest degree who reported R&D as a
major work activity. Those with engineering degrees constitute almost one-third (31.7 percent) of the
total. Notably, 17.9 percent did not earn their highest degrees in S&E fields. In most cases, a person
in this group has an S&E bachelors degree and a higher degree in a professional field, such as
business, medicine, or law.
The percentages of S&E Ph.D.-holders reporting R&D as a major work
activity are shown by field of degree and by years since receipt
of Ph.D. in figure 3-11 . The highest R&D rates
over the career cycle are found in physical sciences and engineering;
the lowest R&D rates are in social sciences. Although the percentage
of Ph.D.-holders engaged in R&D declines as years since receipt
of degree increase, it remains greater than 50 percent in all fields
except social sciences through 25 years since receipt of degree.
The decline may reflect a normal career process of movement into
management or other career interests.
In 1999, the median annual salary of employed bachelors degree-recipients was $59,000; for masters
recipients, it was $64,000; and for doctorate-holders, it was $68,000. (See figure 3-12 and
appendix table 3-22.) Engineers commanded the highest salaries at the masters and doctorate levels,
whereas computer scientists and mathematicians earned the highest salaries at the bachelors level. The
second highest salaries were earned by engineers at the bachelors level, by computer scientists and
mathematicians at the masters level, and by physical scientists at the doctorate level. The lowest median
salaries reported were for social scientists at each degree level.
From 1993 to 1999, median salaries for those employed in S&E occupations rose about 25
percent. (See text table 3-6 .) Computer scientists and mathematicians experienced the largest
salary growth (37 percent), followed by engineers (30 percent). By degree level, median salaries for
bachelors degree-recipients rose by 31 percent, followed by masters degree-recipients (28 percent).
Median salaries for S&E job-holders also rise steadily as years pass from completion of the
degree. For example, individuals who earned their bachelors or doctoral degrees 59 years ago earned
about $14,000 less in 1999 than those who received their degrees 1519 years ago. For masters
degree-recipients, the difference is $9,000. (See appendix table 3-26.)
Women and Minorities in S&E
Demographic factors for women and minorities, such as age, time spent in the workforce, field of
S&E employment, and highest degree level achieved, influence employment patterns. To the extent that men
differ from women and minorities differ from nonminorities on these factors, their employment patterns
are also likely to differ. For example, the age distributions of women compared with men and of
minorities compared with the majority are quite different. Because many women and minorities have
entered S&E fields only recently, women and minority men generally are younger and have fewer
years of experience. (See appendix table
3-34.) In turn, age and stage in career influence such employment-related factors as salary, rank, tenure,
and work activity. In addition, employment patterns vary by field, and these field differences influence
S&E employment, unemployment, salaries, and work activities. Highest degree earned, yet another
important influence, particularly affects primary work activity and salary. This section examines the
employment characteristics of representation in S&E, work experience, field of S&E,
educational background, workforce participation, sectors of employment, and salaries for women and
minorities in 1999.
Women Scientists and Engineers
Representation in S&E
Women made up almost one-fourth (24 percent) of the S&E workforce but close to one-half (46
percent) of the U.S. workforce in 1999. Although changes in NSF surveys do not permit analysis of long-
term trends in employment, short-term trends reflect an increase in female doctorate-holders employed in
S&E. In 1993, women made up 20 percent of the doctoral scientists and engineers in the United
States; in 1995, they made up 22 percent; in 1997, they made up 23 percent; and in 1999, they made up
24 percent. See sidebar, "Growth of Representation of Women, Minorities, and the Foreign Born in the
Many differences in employment characteristics between men and
women are due in part to differences in time spent in the workforce.
Women in the S&E workforce are younger on average than men;
50 percent of women and 36 percent of men employed as scientists
and engineers in 1999 received their degrees within the past 10
Field of S&E Occupation
As is the case in degree fields,
representation of men and women differ in field of occupation. Women
are more represented in some S&E fields than in others. For
example, in 1999, women made up more than one-half of social scientists
but only 23 percent of physical scientists and 10 percent of engineers.
(See figure 3-14 .) Within engineering, women are
represented more in some fields than in others. For example, women
constituted 15 percent of chemical and industrial engineers but
only 6 percent of aerospace, electrical, and mechanical engineers.
Since 1993, the percentages of women in most S&E occupations
have gradually increased; the exception is mathematics and computer
sciences, in which the percentage of women declined about 4 percent
between 1993 and 1999.
In many occupational
fields, women scientists have a lower level of education than men.
In the science workforce as a whole, 16 percent of women and 20
percent of men hold doctoral degrees. In biology, 26 percent of
women and 40 percent of men hold doctoral degrees; in chemistry,
14 percent of women and 27 percent of men hold doctoral degrees;
and in psychology, 22 percent of women and 42 percent of men hold
doctoral degrees. Differences in highest degree achieved influence
differences in type of work performed, employment in S&E jobs,
and salaries. In engineering, the difference is much less: about
5 percent of women and 6 percent of men have doctoral degrees. (See
Labor Force Participation, Employment,
Scientists and engineers who are men are more likely than women to be in the labor force, employed
full time, and employed in fields of highest degree achieved. Women are more likely than men to be out
of the labor force, employed part time, and employed outside their fields. Some of these differences are
due to differences in age distributions of men and women, and some are due to family-related reasons,
such as the demands of a spouses job or the presence of children.
The labor force participation rates for men and women with current or former S&E occupations
are similar: 88 percent of men and 86 percent of women are in the labor force; the remaining percentages
are those not in the labor force (i.e., not working and not seeking employment). (See appendix table 3-
38.) Among those in the labor force, unemployment rates for men and women scientists and engineers are
similar: 1.5 percent of men and 1.8 percent of women were unemployed in 1999. By comparison, the
unemployment rate in 1993 was 2.7 percent for men and 2.1 percent for women. (See text table 3-7 .)
Sector of Employment
Within fields, women are about as likely as men to choose industrial employment. For example,
among physical scientists, 55 percent of women and 54 percent of men are employed in business or
industry. (See appendix table 3-40.) Among employed scientists and engineers as a whole, women are
less likely than men to be employed in business or industry but are more likely to be employed in
educational institutions: 51 percent of women and 68 percent of men are employed in for-profit business
or industry, but 27 percent of women and 14 percent of men are employed in educational institutions.
These differences in sector of employment, however, are due to differences in field of degree. Women are
less likely than men to be engineers or physical scientists, who tend to be employed in business or
In 1999, the median annual salary for women scientists and engineers was $50,000, about 22 percent
less than the median salary for men ($64,000). (See figure 3-15 .) Between 1993 and 1999,
salaries for women scientists and engineers increased by 25 percent compared with an increase of 28
percent for men. (See text table 3-8 .) These salary differentials could be due in part to several
factors. Women were more likely than men to be working in educational institutions and social science
occupations, to be working in nonmanagerial positions, and to have less experience, all factors that
contribute to salary differences. Among scientists and engineers in the workforce who have held their
degrees for five years or less, the median annual salary for women was 83 percent of that for men in
Salary differentials varied by broad field. In computer science and mathematics occupations in 1999,
womens salaries were approximately 12 percent less than mens salaries, whereas there was a 23 percent
salary difference in life science occupations. In these respective occupations, women also reported the
highest and lowest median salaries; their highest median salary was in computer science and
mathematics occupations ($58,000), and their lowest was in life science occupations ($39,000).
Racial and Ethnic Minority Scientists
Representation in S&E
With the exception of Asians, minorities make up a small portion of scientists and engineers in the
Eleven percent of scientists and engineers in 1999 were Asian, although they constituted 4 percent of the
U.S. population. Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians as a group constituted 24 percent of the U.S.
population but only 7 percent of the total S&E workforce in 1999. Blacks and Hispanics each represented
about 3 percent of scientists and engineers, and American Indians represented less than 0.5 percent. (See
appendix tables 3-41 and 3-44.) Between 1993 and 1999, the portion of Asians in the S&E
workforce increased by about 2 percent, whereas the portion of blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians
remained virtually unchanged.
The work experience of minorities, including Asians, differs from that of white scientists and
engineers. As noted earlier, such differences influence employment characteristics. About 33 percent of
white scientists and engineers employed in 1999 had received their degrees within the previous 10 years
compared with 4652 percent of Asian, black, and Hispanic scientists and engineers.
Field of S&E Occupation
Asian, black, and American Indian scientists and engineers are concentrated in fields different from
those for white and Hispanic scientists and engineers. Asians are less represented in social sciences than
in other fields. In 1999, they were 4 percent of social scientists but more than 11 percent of engineers and
computer scientists. Black scientists and engineers have higher representation rates in social sciences and
in computer sciences and mathematics than in other fields. In 1999, they were 5 percent of social
scientists, 4 percent of computer scientists and mathematicians, and approximately 3 percent of physical
scientists, life scientists, and engineers. Although their representation is small, American Indians are
concentrated in social sciences, making up 0.4 percent of social and life scientists and 0.3 percent or less
of scientists in other fields in 1999. Hispanics are more proportionally represented among fields; they
were approximately 2.5 to 4.5 percent of scientists and engineers in each field.
The educational achievement of scientists and engineers differs among racial and ethnic groups. On
average, black and Hispanic scientists and engineers have a lower level of educational achievement than
scientists and engineers of other racial and ethnic groups. A bachelor's degree is more likely to be the
highest degree achieved for black and Hispanic scientists and engineers than for white or Asian scientists
and engineersin 1999, a bachelor's degree was the highest degree achieved for 61 percent of black
scientists and engineers in the U.S. workforce compared with 56 percent of all scientists and engineers.
Labor Force Participation, Employment, and Unemployment
Labor force participation rates vary by race and ethnicity. Minority scientists and engineers are more
likely than whites to be in the labor force (that is, employed or seeking employment). Between 89 and 93
percent of black, Asian, Hispanic, and American Indian scientists and engineers were in the labor force in
1999 compared with 86 percent of white scientists and engineers. (See appendix table 3-38.) Age
somewhat explains these differences. On average, white scientists and engineers are older than scientists
and engineers of other racial and ethnic groups: 28 percent of white scientists and engineers were age 50
or older in 1999 compared with 1520 percent of Asians, blacks, and Hispanics. For those in similar
age groups, the labor force participation rates of white and minority scientists and engineers are similar.
Although minorities are for the most part less likely than nonminorities to be out of the labor force,
minorities in the labor force are more likely to be unemployed. In 1999, the unemployment rate of white
scientists and engineers was somewhat lower than that of other racial and ethnic groups. (See text table
3-7 .) The unemployment rate for whites was 1.5 percent compared with 1.8 percent for Hispanics, 2.6
percent for blacks, and 1.5 percent for Asians. In 1993, the unemployment rate for whites was 2.4 percent
compared with 3.5 percent for Hispanics, 2.8 percent for blacks, and 4.0 percent for Asians.
The differences in 1999 unemployment rates are evident within fields of S&E as well as for
S&E as a whole. For example, the unemployment rate for white engineers was 1.8 percent; for black
and Asian engineers, it was 2.3 and 1.8 percent, respectively.
Sector of Employment
Racial and ethnic groups differ within employment sector due in part to differences in field of
employment. Among employed scientists and engineers in 1999, 58 percent of blacks, 60 percent of
Hispanics, and 56 percent of American Indians were employed in for-profit business or industry compared
with 64 percent of white and 70 percent of Asians. (See appendix table 3-40.) Blacks and American
Indians are concentrated in social sciences (a field that provides less opportunity for employment in
business or industry) and are underrepresented in engineering (a field that provides greater opportunity for
employment in business or industry). On the other hand, Asians are overrepresented in engineering; thus,
they are more likely to be employed by private, for-profit employers.
Black, Hispanic, and American Indian S&E job-holders are also more likely than other groups to
be employed in government (Federal, state, or local): 20 percent of black, 15 percent of Hispanic, and 18
percent of American Indian scientists and engineers were employed in government in 1999 compared with
12 percent of white and Asian scientists and engineers.
Salaries for S&E job-holders vary among racial and ethnic groups.
In 1999, for all scientists and engineers, the median salaries by
racial and ethnic group were $61,000 for whites, $62,000 for Asians,
$53,000 for blacks, $55,000 for Hispanics, and $50,000 for American
Indians. (See figure 3-16 and text table
3-8 .) These salary patterns are about the same as they were in 1993.
Within occupational fields and age categories, median salaries
of scientists and engineers by race and ethnicity are not dramatically
different and do not follow a consistent pattern. For example, in
1999, the median salary of 20- to 29-year-old engineers with bachelor's
degrees ranged from $35,000 for American Indians to $46,000 for
Hispanics. Among those between the ages of 40 and 49, the median
salary ranged from $60,000 for Asians and Native Americans to $70,000
for whites. The median salary of engineers with bachelor's degrees
in 1999 who had received their degrees within the past five years
was $45,000 for all ethnicities. (See appendix table 3-26.) Among
those who had received their degrees 2024 years ago,
the median salary was approximately $70,000 for all ethnicities.
See sidebar, "Salary Differentials."