Science Resources Studies Division
DATA BRIEF Directorate for
Social, Behavioral
and Economic

National Science Foundation
Vol. 1997 No.3, March 13, 1997

    Number of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers Grows by 6 percent between 1993 and 1995

By Keith

At 1.5% in 1995, the unemployment rate for doctoral Scientists and Engineers shows no change from 1993.

  In 1995, there were almost 543,000 scientists and engineers (S&Es) in the U.S. with doctoral degrees earned from U.S. institutions. This number is an increase of about 6 percent from 1993. Nearly one-tenth (9.0 percent) of the 1995 total were not in the labor force, i.e., not employed and not seeking employment. These include, amongst others, retirees below the age of 76.

Of the approximately 492,000 doctoral S&Es in the labor force in 1995, about 484,800 (98.5 percent) reported themselves as working for pay or profit. Most of these (84 percent) held degrees in the sciences; 16 percent held doctorates in engineering. About one third (33 percent) of the employed scientists held degrees in the life sciences.

Approximately 1.5 percent of the doctoral S&Es in the labor force were unemployed in 1995, about the same as in 1993. The unemployment rate for the total U.S. labor force in 1995 was 5.6 percent, down from 6.8 percent in 1993. Those with science doctorates showed an unemployment rate of 1.4 percent overall in 1995, compared to 1.8 percent for those with engineering Ph.D.s. Among the sciences, doctorate holders in chemistry (not including biochemistry) showed the highest unemployment rate at 2.2 percent while chemical engineering was the highest among engineering fields at 2.7 percent.

As in 1993, recent Ph.D. graduates (those less than 3 years after graduation) were more likely to be unemployed than their more senior peers-1.9 percent unemployment across all fields in 1995. This rate drops, however, for those who are from 3-5 years beyond their graduation. For example, the unemployment rate for S&Es receiving their Ph.D.s between 1990 and 1992 was 1.6 percent in 1995. Unemployment rates during the working life of most S&Es (those who received their doctorates after 1960) remain below the level of unemployment for new graduates.

Involuntarily Out-of-Field
These low unemployment rates among doctoral S&Es do not necessarily mean that they are all fully employed at work of their own choosing. A rough measure of this phenomenon is provided by the S&E involuntarily out-of-field (IOF) rate. This shows the ratio to total employment of those who are working part-time but are seeking full-time jobs, or who are working in a non-S&E job when an S&E job would be preferred.

The overall S&E IOF rate stood at 4.2 percent in 1995, roughly the same as in 1993. Again, variations by field are apparent, with the physical science doctorates showing the highest IOF rate (6.3 percent) and the life scientists the lowest (3.4 percent), a pattern unchanged from 1993. These numbers continue to support the widespread anecdotal discussions of employment problems among doctoral physicists and geoscientists noted in 1993, but they also put the problems into a perspective of overall employment and involuntarily out-of-field rates.

Employment and Gender
Employed female doctoral S&Es constituted 21.7 percent of all employed doctoral S&Es in 1995, up from 20.2 percent in 1993. Women comprised 24.9 percent of employed scientists and 5.1 percent of employed engineers in 1995, compared to 24.1 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively, in 1993. Thirty-six percent of women scientists reported life sciences as their field of degree in 1995, compared to 34.2 percent in 1993.

In 1995, educational institutions employed just under half of all doctoral S&E's while just over two fifths (41%) were employed in the private sector.

  Female S&E doctorate holders (86.6 percent) were slightly less likely than their male counterparts (94.5 percent) to be employed full-time in 1995, but much more likely to be employed part-time (men-4.0 percent, women-11.8 percent). An equal proportion of men and women (1.5 percent) reported themselves as not employed, but seeking employment.

Employment and Racial and Ethnic Identity
Asian S&E doctorate holders represented 12.1 percent of all employed doctoral S&Es in 1995, 9.2 percent of scientists and 27.1 percent of engineers. By contrast, blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans collectively represented 5.0 percent of employed doctoral scientists and 3.8 percent of employed doctoral engineers in 1995. Black, Native American and Hispanic doctoral S&Es were more likely to be social scientists than whites. Asian S&E doctorate holders, on the other hand, were more likely to be engineers.

Doctorate holders from racial and ethnic minorities were more likely to be employed full-time than their white counterparts in 1995—94.5 percent for Native Americans, 94.7 for blacks, and 95.7 percent for Asians, versus 92.3 percent for whites. Minority group doctorate holders were less likely than whites to be employed part-time, and much less likely to be retired, but somewhat more likely to be unemployed.

  Employment by Sector
Educational institutions employed over one-half (51.5 percent) of all doctoral scientists and about one-third (33.1 percent) of all Ph.D. engineers in 1995, proportions about the same as in 1993. Doctoral engineers were most likely to be employed in private-for-profit industry. In 1995, private-for-profit (including self-employed) industry employed 56.9 percent of S&Es having their doctorates in engineering fields and 32.1 percent of those with doctorates in the sciences.

  Information in this Data Brief is from the 1995 Survey of Doctorate Recipients, conducted by the National Research Council for the National Science Foundation.

For more information contact R. Keith Wilkinson (703) 306-1776, Science and Engineering Personnel Program, Division of Science Resources Studies, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230. For a free copy of Data Briefs, write to the above address, call (703) 306-1773, or send e-mail to

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