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Science and Engineering Indicators 2004
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Chapter 3:
U.S. S&E Labor Force Profile

Labor Market Conditions
for Recent S&E Graduates

Age and Retirement
Global S&E Labor Force
and the United States

Science and Engineering Labor Force

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Chapter Overview
Chapter Organization

Chapter Overview  top of page

Although workers with science and engineering skills make up only a small fraction of the total U.S. civilian labor force, their impact on society belies their numbers. These workers contribute enormously to technological innovation and economic growth, research, and increased knowledge. Workers with S&E skills include technicians and technologists, researchers, educators, and managers. In addition, there are many others with S&E training who use their skills in a variety of nominally non-S&E occupations (such as writers, financial managers, paralegals) and many niches in the labor market where the need to interpret and use S&E knowledge is key.

Chapter Organization  top of page

This chapter has four major sections. First is a general profile of the S&E labor force. This includes the demographic characteristics (population size, gender, and race/ethnicity) of the S&E labor force. It also covers educational backgrounds, earnings, places of employment, occupations, and whether the S&E labor force makes use of S&E training. Much of the data in this section in available only through 1999 due to the temporary discontinuation of the National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is the central part of NSF's Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT) data system on scientists and engineers.[1]

Second is a look at the labor market conditions for recent S&E graduates—graduates whose labor market outcomes are most sensitive to labor market conditions. For recent S&E doctoral degree recipients, the special topics of academic employment and postdoctoral appointments (hereafter referred to by the colloquial term postdocs) are also examined.

Third is the age and retirement profile of the S&E labor force. This is key to gaining insights into the possible future structure and size of the S&E educated population.

The last section focuses on the global S&E labor force—both its growth abroad and the importance of the international migration of scientists and engineers to the United States and the world.


[1]  Budgetary considerations precluded conducting the 2001 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG), which provides population estimates for approximately 85 percent of the science and engineering labor force within the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT). The NSCG is being restarted with a new sample in 2003.

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