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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
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Science and Engineering Labor Force

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U.S. S&E Labor Force Profile

Section Overview
How Large Is the U.S. S&E Workforce?
S&E Workforce Growth
How Are People With an S&E Education Employed?
Employment Sectors
Women and Minorities in S&E

This section profiles the U.S. S&E labor force, providing specific information about its size, recent growth patterns, projected labor demand, and trends in sector of employment. It also looks at workers' use of their S&E training, educational background, and salaries.[2]

Section Overview top of page

The S&E labor force includes both individuals in S&E occupations and many others with S&E training who may use their knowledge in a variety of different jobs. Employment in S&E occupations has grown rapidly over the past 2 decades and is currently projected to continue to grow faster than general employment through the next decade. Although most individuals with S&E degrees do not work in occupations with formal S&E titles, most of them, even at the bachelor's degree level, report doing work related to their degree even in mid- and late-career. Compared with the general labor force, S&E occupations generally have lower unemployment rates. However, the economic downturn that began in 2001 has caused S&E unemployment rates to rise faster than the national average, narrowing that gap. The proportion of women and ethnic minorities in the S&E labor force continues to grow but, with the exception of Asian/Pacific Islanders, remains smaller than their proportion of the overall population.

How Large Is the U.S. S&E Workforce? top of page

Estimates of the size of the U.S. S&E workforce vary based on the criteria used to define scientist or engineer. Education, occupation, field of degree, and field of employment are all factors that may be considered.[3] (See sidebar, "Who Is a Scientist or an Engineer?" and appendix table 3-1 Microsoft Excel icon.)

The size of the S&E workforce in 1999 (the most recent year for which both occupational and education information are available) varies between approximately 3 million and 10 million individuals, depending on the definition and perspective used. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Current Population Survey (CPS) counted 5.3 million individuals in S&E occupations, a separate NSF survey found 3.3 million holders of S&E degrees in S&E occupations (table 3-1 text table and BLS 2001). This difference may reflect the inclusion of both individuals employed in S&E occupations who did not earn at least a bachelor's degree and individuals with non-S&E degrees; it may also partially stem from other technical differences between the surveys.

In 1999, 10.5 million employed individuals had at least one degree in an S&E field. This broader definition of the S&E workforce relates to many of the ways science and technical knowledge is used in the United States.

S&E Workforce Growth top of page

Despite some limitations in measuring the S&E labor force, occupation classifications allow examination of growth in at least one measure of scientists and engineers over extended periods. Using data from the decennial census, the number of college graduates working in narrowly defined S&E occupations (excluding technicians and computer programmers) and employed outside academia increased by 159 percent between 1980 and 2000, to a total of 3.6 million jobs in 2000 (figure 3-1 figure).[4] This represents a 4.9 percent average annual growth rate, much more than the 1.1 percent average annual growth rate of the entire labor force.

Although every broad S&E occupational group grew between 1980 and 2000 (the lowest growth, 81 percent, occurred in physical sciences), the most explosive growth was in mathematics and computer sciences, which experienced a 623 percent increase (177,000 jobs in 1980 compared with 1.28 million jobs in 2000).

Using data from the monthly CPS from 1993 to 2002 to look at employment in S&E occupations across all sectors and education levels creates a very similar view, albeit with some significant differences. The 3.1 average annual growth rate in all S&E employment is almost triple the rate for the general workforce. This is reflected in the growing proportion of total jobs in S&E occupations, which increased from 2.6 percent in 1983 to 3.8 percent in 2002. Also noteworthy are the decreases in employment in S&E occupations between 1991 and 1992 and between 2001 and 2002—evidence that S&E employment is not exempt from economic downturns (figure 3-2 figure).

Projected Demand for S&E Workers

The most recent occupational projections from the BLS, for the period from 2000–10, predict that employment in S&E occupations will increase about three times faster than the overall growth rate for all occupations (table 3-2 text table). (Although BLS made these projections before the most recent economic downturn, they may still be indicative of long-term trends.) The economy as a whole is expected to provide approximately 15 percent more jobs over this decade, with employment opportunities for S&E jobs expected to increase by 2.2 million jobs, or about 47 percent (BLS 2001).

Approximately 86 percent of the projected increase in S&E jobs is in computer-related occupations. Indeed, without computer and mathematical occupations, the projected growth in S&E occupational employment would be just slightly more than overall employment growth (figure 3-3 figure). The number of jobs for computer software engineers is expected to increase from 697,000 to 1.4 million and employment for computer systems analysts is expected to grow from 431,000 to 689,000 jobs.

Within engineering occupations, environmental engineering is projected to have the biggest relative employment gains, increasing by 14,000 jobs or about 27 percent. Computer hardware engineering is also expected to experience above-average employment gains, growing by 25 percent. Employment for all engineering occupations is expected to increase by less than 10 percent.

Projected job opportunities in life science occupations will grow by almost 18 percent (33,000 new jobs) from 2000 to 2010. At 27 percent (10,000 new jobs), medical science occupations will experience the largest predicted growth. BLS expects employment in physical science occupations to increase by about 18 percent (from 239,000 to 283,000 jobs), with slightly less than half of these projected job gains for environmental scientists (21,000 new jobs).

Finally, predictions indicate that social science occupations will experience above-average growth of 20 percent, largely due to the employment increases anticipated for market and survey researchers (27 percent or 30,000 new jobs).

How Are People With an S&E Education Employed? top of page

Although the majority of S&E degree holders do not work in S&E occupations, this does not mean they do not use their S&E training. In 1999, of the 5 million individuals whose highest degree was in a S&E field and who did not work in S&E occupations, 67 percent indicated that they worked in a job at least somewhat related to the field of their highest S&E degree (table 3-3 text table).[5] According to 1999 SESTAT data, almost 80 percent of individuals whose highest degree earned was in mathematics or computer sciences and who worked in non-S&E jobs reported working in fields related to their degree, compared with 63 percent of individuals whose highest degree earned was in social or physical sciences.

Of all employed individuals whose highest degree was in S&E, 77 percent reported their jobs as at least somewhat related to the fields of their highest degree and 46 percent reported their jobs as closely related to their field (appendix tables 3-5 Microsoft Excel icon and 3-6 Microsoft Excel icon).[6] In the 1–4-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 68 percent of master's degree recipients and 42 percent of bachelor's degree recipients (figure 3-4 figure). This relative ordering of relatedness by level of degree holds across all periods of years since recipients received their degrees. However, at every degree level, the relatedness of job to degrees falls with time since degree.[7] There are many good reasons for this trend: 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 training (or 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 only modest. When a somewhat weaker criterion is used—are jobs "closely" or "somewhat" related to an individual's field of highest degree—even higher proportions of S&E graduates report their jobs being related to their degrees. Over 70 percent of S&E bachelor's degree holders report their jobs at least somewhat related to their field of degree until 25-29 years after their degrees. Among S&E doctorate holders at any point in their careers, less than 10 percent report their jobs as not related to their field of degree (figure 3-5 figure).

Figure 3-6 figure shows differences in the percentages of individuals who reported their job as closely related to their field of degree, by major S&E disciplines for bachelor's degree holders. Although mathematics and computer sciences often are combined into a single group, figure 3-6 figure shows them separately because of their differing patterns. From 1–4 years after receiving their degrees, the percentage of S&E bachelor's degree holders who reported their jobs as closely related to their field of degree ranged from 30 percent for individuals with degrees in social sciences to 74 percent for individuals with degrees in computer sciences. Between these extremes, most other S&E fields show similar percentages for recent graduates: 55 percent for engineering, 54 percent for physical sciences, 52 percent for mathematics, and 44 percent for life sciences.

Employment in Non-S&E Occupations

About 5 million S&E degree holders worked in non-S&E occupations in 1999. Slightly more than half held management or administrative positions (28 percent), sales and marketing jobs (15 percent), or K–12 teaching posts (9 percent). About 89 percent of non-S&E K–12 teachers reported their work as at least somewhat related to their S&E degree compared with approximately 73 percent of managers and administrators and 51 percent of individuals holding sales and marketing jobs table 3-4 text table).

About 83 percent of the 5 million S&E degree holders not working in S&E occupations in 1999 reported their highest degree as a bachelor's degree; 15 percent listed a master's degree; and 3 percent, a doctorate. Among individuals with a bachelor's degree, approximately two-thirds reported their jobs as closely or somewhat related to their field of highest degree compared with four-fifths of S&E doctoral degree recipients and master's degree recipients (table 3-3 text table).

Employment in S&E Occupations

Because S&E knowledge is used so widely across so many different jobs, a count of individuals in S&E occupations is one of the narrowest definitions of the S&E labor force. Of the nearly 8 million individuals in the labor force in 1999 whose highest degree earned was in an S&E field, slightly more than one-third (3 million) worked in S&E occupations. In addition, 2.5 million people who had received training in S&E disciplines, but whose highest degree was in a non-S&E field, were employed in S&E occupations. Another 282,000 college-educated individuals were employed in S&E occupations but did not hold a degree in an S&E field (table 3-5 text table).

Altogether, approximately 3.5 million individuals with S&E degrees worked in S&E occupations in 1999 (appendix table 3-7 Microsoft Excel icon). Engineers represented 39 percent (1.37 million), and computer scientists and mathematicians, 33 percent (1.17 million). Physical scientists accounted for less than 9 percent.

By subfield, electrical engineers made up about one-fourth (362,300) of all individuals employed as engineers, whereas biologists accounted for about three-fifths (206,500) of employment in life sciences. In physical and social science occupations, chemistry (121,700) and psychology (197,000), respectively, were the largest occupational subfields.

Approximately 56 percent of individuals employed in S&E occupations reported a bachelor's degree as their highest degree earned, whereas about 29 percent listed a master's degree and 14 percent, a doctorate. Almost half of bachelor's degree recipients were engineers; slightly more than one-third were computer scientists and mathematicians. These occupations were also the most prominent among individuals with master's degrees, at approximately 37 and 34 percent, respectively (table 3-6 text table).


A two-decades long view of unemployment trends in S&E occupations, regardless of education level, comes from the CPS data for 1983-2002.[8] During this 20-year period, the unemployment rate for all individuals in S&E occupations ranged from a low of 1.4 percent in 1999 to a high of 3.9 percent in 2002. Overall, the S&E occupational unemployment rate was both lower and less volatile than either the rate for all U.S. workers (ranging from 3.9 to 9.9 percent) or for S&E technicians (ranging from 2.0 to 6.1 percent). During the period, computer programmers had a similar unemployment rate compared with the rate for all S&E occupations, but greater volatility (ranging from 1.2 to 6.5 percent). The most recent recession in 2002 appears to have had a strong impact on S&E employment, with the differential between S&E and general unemployment falling to only 1.9 percentage points, compared with 6.9 percentage points in 1983 (figure 3-7 figure)[9] This may be due to the unusually strong reductions in research and development in the information and related technology sectors (see chapter 4).

The 1999 unemployment rate among the approximately 3.5 million college-educated individuals with S&E occupations in the labor force reached only 1.6 percent, or 56,000 individuals, compared with 4.4 percent for the U.S. labor force as a whole and 1.9 percent for all professional specialty workers (table 3-7 text table).[10] Unemployment for college graduates working in S&E occupations dropped steadily from 1993, when it stood at 2.6 percent, to 1999. In the latter year, physical scientists had the highest unemployment rate (1.9 percent), and computer scientists and mathematicians, the lowest (1.2 percent). By degree level, 1.6 percent of S&E bachelor's degree recipients and master's degree recipients were unemployed, compared with 1.2 percent of doctorate holders.

Figure 3-8 figure compares unemployment rates over career cycles for bachelor's degree holders and doctorate holders in 1993 and in 1999. Looking at field of degree rather than occupation includes both individuals who might have left an S&E occupation for negative economic reasons and individuals who moved into other careers due to more positive factors. The generally stronger 1999 labor market had its greatest effect on bachelor's degree holders: for individuals at every point in their careers, the unemployment rate dropped by about 2 percentage points between 1993 and 1999. Although labor market conditions had a lesser effect on doctorate holders' unemployment rates, significant reductions in unemployment rates between 1993 and 1999 did occur for those individuals at both the beginning and the end of their careers.

Similarly, labor market conditions from 1993 to 1999 had a greater effect on the portion of bachelor's degree holders who said they were working involuntarily out of the field (IOF) of their highest degree than on doctorate holders (Figure 3-9 figure). However, the greatest differences in IOF rates for bachelor's degree holders occurred not at the beginning and end of their careers, but in midcareer. For doctorate holders, IOF rates changed little either between 1993 and 1999 or throughout most of their careers. The decline in IOF rates for the oldest doctorate holders may partially reflect lower retirement rates for individuals working in their fields. Taken together with the unemployment patterns shown in figure 3-8 figure, this finding implies that more highly educated S&E workers are less vulnerable to changes in economic conditions than individuals who hold only bachelor's degrees.

Employment Sectors top of page

The private, for-profit sector is by far the largest provider of S&E employment. In 1999, approximately 73 percent of individuals working as scientists and engineers who had bachelor's degrees and 62 percent of persons who had master's degrees worked for private, for-profit companies. However, the majority of individuals with doctorates (51 percent) worked in the academic sector. Sectors that employ fewer S&E workers include educational institutions other than 4-year colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and state or local government agencies (appendix table 3-9 Microsoft Excel icon).

The percentage of scientists and engineers employed in private, for-profit industry varies greatly for different S&E occupations. Although slightly more than three-fourths of both mathematical/computer scientists and engineers (76 and 78 percent, respectively) worked in this sector in 1999, only about one-fourth (27 percent) of life scientists and one-fifth (19 percent) of social scientists did so. Educational institutions employed the largest percentages of life scientists (48 percent) and social scientists (45 percent) (appendix table 3-9 Microsoft Excel icon). (See sidebar, "Educational Distribution of S&E Workers.")

A similar pattern appears when looking at S&E degree holders, regardless of whether they work in S&E occupations (figures 3-10 figure and 3-11 figure). For-profit business employs 58 percent of all individuals whose highest degree is in S&E, including 34 percent of S&E doctorate holders. Four-year colleges and universities are a more important employer for S&E doctorate holders (42 percent). However, it should be noted that this figure includes a variety of employment types other than tenure track; only 27.6 percent of S&E doctorate holders in the labor force are employed in tenured or tenure-track positions (See sidebar, "Who Performs Research and Development?")

Salaries top of page

In 1999, bachelor's degree holders employed in S&E occupations had a median annual salary of $59,000; master's degree holders, $64,000; and doctorate holders, $68,000 (table 3-8 text table and appendix table 3-12 Microsoft Excel icon).

From 1993 to 1999, median salaries for individuals employed in S&E occupations rose about 25 percent in current dollars. Computer scientists and mathematicians experienced the largest salary growth (37 percent), followed by engineers (30 percent). By degree level, median salaries for bachelor's degree recipients rose by 31 percent, followed by master's degree recipients at 28 percent.

Education produces far more dramatic effects on the "tails" of the distribution (the proportion with either very high or very low earnings) than on median earnings. In 1999, 5 percent of S&E bachelor's degree holders had salaries greater than $100,000, compared with 16 percent of doctorate holders. Similarly, 21 percent of bachelor's degree holders earned less than $30,000, compared with 5 percent of doctorate holders. The latter figure is inflated due to the inclusion of postdocs. (The Survey of Doctorate Recipients defines postdoc as a temporary position awarded in academia, industry, or government for the primary purpose of receiving additional research training.) Figure 3-17 figure illustrates the distribution of salaries earned by individuals with S&E degrees.

Women and Minorities in S&E top of page

Demographic factors for women and minorities (such as age and years in the workforce, field of S&E employment, and highest degree level achieved) influence employment patterns. Demographically, men differ from women, and minorities differ from nonminorities; thus, their employment patterns also are likely to differ. For example, because larger numbers of women and minorities entered S&E fields only recently, women and minority men generally are younger than non-Hispanic white males and have fewer years of experience (appendix table 3-13 Microsoft Excel icon). Age and stage in career in turn influence such employment-related factors as salary, position, tenure, and work activity. In addition, employment patterns vary by field (see sidebar, "Growth of Representation of Women, Minorities, and the Foreign Born in S&E Occupations") and these differences influence S&E employment, unemployment, salaries, and work activities. Highest degree earned, yet another important influence, particularly affects primary work activity and salary.

Representation of Women in S&E

Women constituted almost one-fourth (24.7 percent) of the college-educated workforce in S&E occupations but close to half (46 percent) of the total U.S. workforce in 1999. Although changes in the NSF/SRS surveys do not permit analysis of long-term trends in employment, short-term trends indicate an increase in female doctorate holders employed in S&E. In 1993, women constituted 20 percent of doctorate holders in S&E occupations in the United States; in 1995, 22 percent; in 1997, 23 percent; and in 1999, 24 percent.

Age Distribution and Experience. Differences in age and related time spent in the workforce account for many of the differences in employment characteristics between men and women. On average, women in the S&E workforce are younger than men (figure 3-18 figure): 50 percent of women and 36 percent of men employed as scientists and engineers in 1999 received their degrees within the past 10 years. The difference is even more profound at the doctorate level, where there is a much greater concentration of female doctorate holders in their late thirties. One clear consequence of this age distribution is that a much larger proportion of male scientists and engineers at all degree levels, but particularly at the doctorate level, will reach traditional retirement age during the next decade. This alone will have a significant effect upon gender ratios, and also perhaps on the numbers of female scientists in positions of authority as the large proportion of female doctorate holders in their late thirties moves into their forties.

S&E Occupation. Representation of men and women also differs according to field of occupation. For example, in 1999, women constituted 54 percent of social scientists, compared with 23 percent of physical scientists and 10 percent of engineers (figure 3-20 figure). Within engineering, female representation is greater 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 percentage of women in most S&E occupations has gradually increased. However, in mathematics and computer sciences, the percentage of women declined about 4 percentage points between 1993 and 1999 (figure 3-20 figure and appendix table 3-13 Microsoft Excel icon).

Educational Background. In many occupational fields, male scientists generally have higher education levels than female scientists. In the science workforce as a whole, 16 percent of women and 20 percent of men have achieved doctorate degrees. In biology, those figures stand at 26 percent of women and 40 percent of men; in chemistry, 14 percent of women and 27 percent of men; and in psychology, 22 percent of women and 42 percent of men. Engineering figures, however, differ much less, as about 5 percent of women and 6 percent of men have doctorates (NSF/SRS 1999c). Differences in highest degree achieved influence differences in type of work performed, employment in S&E jobs, and salaries.

Labor Force Participation, Employment, and Unemployment. Male scientists and engineers are more likely to be in the labor force, employed full time, and/or employed in their field of highest degree. Women are more likely to be out of the labor force, employed part time, and/or employed involuntarily outside their fields (IOF). Many of these differences are due to differences in age distributions of men and women.

Unemployment rates for men and women in S&E occupations were similar in 1999: 1.5 percent of men and 1.8 percent of women were unemployed. By comparison, the unemployment rate in 1993 was 2.8 percent for men and 2.2 percent for women (table 3-9 text table and appendix table 3-14 Microsoft Excel icon)

Salaries. In 1999, female scientists and engineers earned a median annual salary of $50,000, about 22 percent less than the median annual salary earned by male scientists and engineers ($64,000). Between 1993 and 1999, median annual salaries for female scientists and engineers increased by 25 percent, compared with an increase of 28 percent for their male counterparts (table 3-10 text table). Several factors may contribute to these salary differentials. Women more often work in educational institutions, in social science occupations, and in nonmanagerial positions; they also tend to have less experience. In 1999, among scientists and engineers in the workforce who have held their degrees for 5 years or less, women earned an average median annual salary that was 83 percent of that earned by men.

Salary differentials varied by broad field. In computer sciences and mathematics occupations in 1999, women earned approximately 12 percent less than men; in life science occupations, the difference stood at 23 percent. Women also earned their highest and lowest median salaries in those two occupation groups, $58,000 in computer sciences and mathematics and $39,000 in life sciences (figure 3-21 figure and appendix table 3-15 Microsoft Excel icon).

Representation of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in S&E

With the exception of Asian/Pacific Islanders, minorities represent only a small proportion of scientists and engineers in the United States.[11] (Although Asian/Pacific Islanders constitute only 4 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 11 percent of scientists and engineers in 1999.) Collectively, blacks, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups (the latter includes American Indian/Alaskan Natives) constituted 24 percent of the total U.S. population and 7 percent of the total S&E workforce in 1999.[12] Blacks and Hispanics each accounted for about 3 percent of scientists and engineers, and other ethnic groups represented less than 0.5 percent (appendix table 3-16 Microsoft Excel icon). Between 1993 and 1999, the portion of Asian/Pacific Islanders in the S&E workforce increased by about 2 percentage points, whereas the portion of blacks, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups did not change significantly.

Age Distribution. As in the case of women, underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities are much younger than non-Hispanic whites in the same S&E occupations (figure 3-22 figure), and this is even truer for doctorate holders in S&E occupations. In the near future, a much greater proportion of non-Hispanic white doctorate holders in S&E occupations will be reaching traditional retirement ages compared with underrepresented racial and ethnic doctorate holders. Indeed, unlike the distribution of ages of male and female doctorate holders shown in figure 3-18 figure, figure 3-22 figure shows that the slope of the right-hand side of the age distribution is far steeper for non-Hispanic whites. This implies a more rapid increase in the numbers retiring or otherwise leaving S&E employment. It should also be noted that Asian/Pacific Islander doctorate holders in S&E occupations (measured by race and not by place of birth) are on average the youngest racial/ethnic group.

S&E Occupation. Asian/Pacific Islander, black, and American Indian/Alaskan Native scientists and engineers tend to work in different fields than their white and Hispanic counterparts. Fewer Asian/Pacific Islanders work in social sciences than in other fields. In 1999, they constituted 4 percent of social scientists, but more than 11 percent of engineers and more than 13 percent of individuals working in mathematics and computer sciences. More black scientists and engineers work in social sciences and in computer sciences and mathematics than in other fields. In 1999, blacks constituted approximately 5 percent of social scientists, 4 percent of computer scientists and mathematicians, 3 percent of physical scientists and engineers, and 2 percent of life scientists. Other ethnic groups (which includes American Indian/Alaskan Natives) work predominantly in social and life sciences, accounting for 0.4 percent of social and life scientists and 0.3 percent or less of scientists in other fields in 1999. Hispanics appear to have a more even representation across all fields, constituting approximately 2.5 to 4.5 percent of scientists and engineers in each field (appendix table 3-13 Microsoft Excel icon).

Educational Background. The educational achievement of scientists and engineers also differs among 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/Pacific Islander scientists and engineers—in 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 (appendix table 3-13 Microsoft Excel icon).

Labor Force Participation, Employment, and Unemployment. Labor force participation rates vary by race and ethnicity. Minority scientists and engineers are more likely than others to be in the labor force (either employed or seeking employment). In 1999, participation rates in the labor force ranged between 87 and 93 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander, black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native scientists and engineers, compared with 86 percent for white scientists and engineers (appendix table 3-14 Microsoft Excel icon). Age and related retirement rates may contribute to these differences. On average, white scientists and engineers are older than scientists and engineers in other racial and ethnic groups: 28 percent of white scientists and engineers were age 50 or older in 1999, compared with 15-20 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, blacks, and Hispanics (appendix table 3-13 Microsoft Excel icon). For individuals in similar age groups, the labor force participation rates of white and minority scientists and engineers are similar.

Although more minority individuals remain in the labor force, they also are more likely to be unemployed. In 1999, the unemployment rate of white scientists and engineers was somewhat lower than the rate for other racial and ethnic groups. The unemployment rate for both whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders stood at 1.5 percent, compared with 1.8 percent for Hispanics and 2.6 percent for blacks. In 1993, the unemployment rate for whites reached 2.4 percent, compared with 4.0 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, 3.5 percent for Hispanics, and 2.7 percent for blacks (table 3-9 text table).

The differences in 1999 unemployment rates are evident within S&E fields 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/Pacific Islander engineers, it was 2.3 and 1.8 percent, respectively (appendix table 3-14 Microsoft Excel icon).

Salaries. Salaries for individuals in S&E occupations vary among the different racial and ethnic groups. In 1999, white and Asian/Pacific Islanders in S&E occupations earned similar median annual salaries of $61,000 and $62,000, respectively, compared with $55,000 for Hispanics, $53,000 for blacks, and $50,000 for other ethnic groups, including American Indian/Alaskan Natives (figure 3-23 figure and table 3-10 text table). These salary patterns are similar to rates recorded in 1993. However, age, field of degree, and sector of employment all influence differences.

Across occupational fields and age categories, the median annual salaries of individuals in S&E occupations by race and ethnicity do not follow a consistent pattern. For example, in 1999, the median annual salary of 20–29-year-old engineers with bachelor's degrees ranged from $35,000 for American Indian/Alaskan Natives to $46,000 for Hispanics. Among individuals between the ages of 40 and 49, the median salary ranged from $60,000 for Asian/Pacific Islanders and American Indian/Alaskan Natives to $70,000 for whites.

In 1999, the median annual salary of engineers with bachelor's degrees who had received their degrees within the past 5 years reached $45,000 for all ethnicities except individuals in the "other" category (including American Indian/Alaskan Natives) (appendix table 3-15 Microsoft Excel icon). Among engineers who had received their degrees 20–24 years previously, the median annual salary reached approximately $70,000 for all ethnicities. (See sidebar, "Salary Differentials")


[2]  Much of the data in this section comes from SESTAT, a unified database that contains information on the employment, education, and demographic characteristics of scientists and engineers in the United States. The National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics (NSF/SRS) derives SESTAT data from three of its surveys: the National Survey of College Graduates, the NSCG, and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. Because the NSCG did not take place in 2001, SESTAT data is current only through 1999. (These surveys generally take place every 2 years.) NSF/SRS surveys U.S. residents who hold at least a bachelor's degree (in either an S&E or non-S&E field) and who, during the survey's reference period, were not institutionalized, were age 75 or younger, and either had trained or were working as a scientist or engineer. (That is, participants either had at least one bachelor's degree or higher in an S&E field, or had a bachelor's degree or higher in a non-S&E field and worked in an S&E occupation.) The 1999 SESTAT surveys used the week beginning April 15, 1999, as their reference period.

[3]  For a detailed discussion of the S&E degree fields and occupations in SESTAT, see NSF/SRS 1999a. A list of S&E occupations and fields is contained in appendix table 3-1 Microsoft Excel icon. In general, S&E occupations and fields in this report include individuals working in social sciences and exclude medical practitioners and technicians (including computer programmers). Thus, a physician with an M.D. will not be considered to be a scientist or engineer either by occupation or by highest degree, but is likely (but not certain) to be included in statistics that incorporate individuals with S&E degrees based on their field of bachelor's degree.

[4]  Another difficulty when using occupation to identify scientists and engineers in many data sources other than SESTAT is that many workers in academia are identified by occupational titles that do not indicate academic specialty. For that reason, the time trend examined here is only for individuals outside academic employment.

[5]  Because this question asked only about the field of an individual's highest degree, it is not possible to evaluate the science and engineering content of jobs held by S&E degree holders with non-S&E advanced degrees, such as MBAs and M.D.s.

[6]  Although self-assessments by survey respondents are highly subjective, they may capture associations between training and scientific expertise not evident through occupational classifications. For example, an individual with an engineering degree, but with an occupational title of salesman, may still use or develop technology.

[7]  The only exception is for doctorate holders who earned their degrees more than 25 years ago, where the percentage of individuals holding jobs closely related to their degrees actually increased. This may reflect differences in retirement rates.

[8]  To maximize annual sample size from the Current Population Survey (CPS) without using multiple records for the same individuals (due to CPS' longitudinal sample design), only records from merged outgoing rotation groups were used. This may result in slightly different unemployment estimates than would be derived from an average of monthly unemployment.

[9]  A large part of the narrowing of this difference is due to the general decline in unemployment over this period.

[10]  The unemployment rate is the ratio of individuals who are unemployed and seeking employment to the total labor force (i.e., those who are employed plus those who are unemployed and seeking employment). Individuals not in the labor force (i.e., individuals who are unemployed and not seeking employment) are excluded from the denominator.

[11]  The term underrepresented minorities includes three groups that have a smaller representation in science and engineering than in the overall population: blacks, Hispanics, and American Indian/Alaskan Natives. (In accordance with Office of Management and Budget guidelines, the racial and ethnic groups described in this section are identified as white and non-Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, black and non-Hispanic, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native.)

[12]  The S&E fields in which blacks, Hispanics, and American Indian/Alaskan Natives earn their degrees influence their participation in the S&E labor force. Disproportionately more blacks, Hispanics, and American Indian/Alaskan Natives earn degrees in social sciences and work in social service positions (such as social worker and clinical psychologist), which the NSF/SRS defines as non-S&E occupations. See NSF/SRS 1999a and appendix table 3-1 Microsoft Excel icon for the NSF/SRS classification of S&E fields.

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