Scientists and engineers play vital roles in the technological performance of U.S. industry in such areas as product or process innovation, quality control, and productivity enhancement. In addition, they conduct basic research to advance the understanding of nature, perform research and development (R&D) in a variety of areas such as health and national defense, train the nation's future scientists and engineers, and improve the scientific and technological literacy of the nation.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) workforce faced new and different challenges from those it experienced in the 1980s. A sluggish recession recovery, cutbacks in defense-related spending, reduced R&D budgets, and industry downsizing slowed the growth of S&E employment. Manufacturing S&E employment declined for the first time in more than a decade, while unemployment rates rose. Despite these trends, scientists and engineers have fared better than almost any other kind of worker. Moreover, the tight labor market has not precluded some S&E-trained individuals from finding meaningful, challenging work opportunities outside traditional S&E occupations.
This chapter first examines labor market conditions for recent bachelor's, master's, and doctoral S&E degree recipients. Information on the sex and racial/ethnic composition of the S&E workforce is next presented, followed by a description of S&E job trends in the service sector. The chapter provides data on foreign-born scientists and engineers, and presents comparisons regarding international R&D employment. It concludes with a brief section on the projected demand for S&E workers over the 1996-2006 decade.