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Employment and Educational Characteristics of Scientists and Engineers

NSF 13-311 | January 2013 | PDF format. PDF  
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Errata (Jan 11, 2013) [close -]
Data displayed in table 1 for individuals in science occupations were incorrect. Table 1 has been replaced with a corrected version, and the percentage reported in the text for women who are psychologists has been corrected from 70% to 67%.


by John Finamore, Daniel J. Foley, Flora Lan, Lynn M. Milan, Steven L. Proudfoot, Emilda B. Rivers, and Lance Selfa[1]

Nearly 22 million persons classified as scientists and engineers were employed in the United States as of October 2010: about 5.4 million in science and engineering (S&E) occupations, 7 million in S&E-related occupations, and 9.5 million in occupations other than S&E (non-S&E) (table 1). These estimates are from the National Science Foundation's Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT).

TABLE 1. Employed scientists and engineers, by occupation, sex, ethnicity, and race: 2010 (corrected January 2013)
Not Hispanic
Occupation All employed Female Male Hispanic White Asian Black American Indian or Alaska
Native
Native
Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Multiple race
All occupations 21,903,000 9,765,000 12,138,000 1,468,000 16,155,000 2,542,000 1,318,000 58,000 69,000 294,000
S&E occupations 5,398,000 1,487,000 3,911,000 282,000 3,772,000 997,000 246,000 10,000 12,000 78,000
Scientista 3,829,000 1,287,000 2,542,000 183,000 2,649,000 735,000 191,000 6,000 7,000 59,000
Biological/life scientist 597,000 288,000 309,000 29,000 423,000 116,000 16,000 1,000 S 9,000
Computer/information scientist 2,204,000 517,000 1,687,000 102,000 1,427,000 505,000 131,000 2,000 3,000 34,000
Mathematical scientist 190,000 85,000 105,000 7,000 135,000 37,000 8,000 * D 2,000
Physical scientist 320,000 96,000 225,000 15,000 244,000 44,000 11,000 1,000 1,000 5,000
Psychologist 209,000 141,000 69,000 14,000 173,000 7,000 10,000 * S 4,000
Social scientist 309,000 161,000 148,000 16,000 247,000 26,000 14,000 1,000 * 6,000
Engineerb 1,569,000 200,000 1,369,000 99,000 1,123,000 262,000 56,000 5,000 5,000 19,000
Aerospace engineer 91,000 10,000 81,000 8,000 68,000 9,000 3,000 D S 3,000
Chemical engineer 69,000 13,000 55,000 4,000 48,000 14,000 2,000 * D 1,000
Civil engineer 228,000 34,000 193,000 18,000 169,000 26,000 9,000 1,000 1,000 3,000
Electrical engineer 385,000 46,000 340,000 20,000 240,000 100,000 17,000 D 2,000 5,000
Industrial engineer 74,000 13,000 61,000 6,000 53,000 11,000 3,000 D D *
Mechanical engineer 299,000 22,000 277,000 17,000 235,000 33,000 9,000 1,000 * 3,000
Other engineers 380,000 56,000 324,000 24,000 285,000 54,000 11,000 S 1,000 4,000
S&E-related occupations 6,957,000 3,898,000 3,059,000 447,000 5,193,000 788,000 393,000 21,000 29,000 85,000
Health-related occupation 4,325,000 2,953,000 1,373,000 295,000 3,168,000 508,000 263,000 14,000 21,000 57,000
S&E manager 861,000 260,000 601,000 43,000 679,000 84,000 37,000 S 3,000 10,000
S&E precollege teacher 917,000 480,000 437,000 55,000 769,000 45,000 40,000 1,000 1,000 7,000
S&E technician/technologist 654,000 157,000 497,000 45,000 430,000 130,000 37,000 D 4,000 7,000
Other 199,000 48,000 150,000 10,000 147,000 21,000 S D D S
Non-S&E occupations 9,549,000 4,380,000 5,169,000 739,000 7,190,000 756,000 678,000 27,000 28,000 130,000

* = estimate less than 500. D = suppressed to avoid disclosure of confidential information. S = suppressed for reliability; coefficient of variation exceeds publication standards.

S&E = science and engineering.

a Data for postsecondary teachers in science fields are collected by field and are included in individual science field totals.
b Data for postsecondary teachers in engineering fields are not collected by field and are included in engineering total only.

NOTES: Numbers are rounded to nearest 1,000. Detail may not add to total because of rounding and suppression. The term scientists and engineers refers to all persons with bachelor's or higher degree in S&E or S&E-related fields, plus persons holding a non-S&E bachelor's or higher degree who were employed in an S&E or S&E-related occupation in 2010.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT), 2010.

Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Data available through SESTAT are collected by three surveys: the National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG), the National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG), and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR). SESTAT integrates these data, and combined, the data provide a profile of scientists and engineers in the United States. (See "Definitions" for a full description of how scientists and engineers are classified.) This InfoBrief presents data from all four sources.

Scientists and Engineers in the United States

Data from SESTAT show that as of October 2010, scientists are about 17% of the S&E workforce, with computer and information scientists constituting the largest group. Engineers are about 7% of the S&E workforce. A majority of engineers work in three fields: electrical engineering (25%), mechanical engineering (19%), and civil engineering (15%). Nearly one-third of individuals in the S&E workforce have S&E-related occupations, with the largest concentration being in health-related professions (62%).

Other detailed data from SESTAT show that 44% of individuals who were trained as scientists (especially in the social sciences) or engineers work in non-S&E occupations. Thirty percent of these individuals work in other non-S&E occupations, a category that encompasses a wide variety of jobs.

Women are 45% of the overall S&E workforce and hold 28% of S&E jobs. Female scientists and engineers constitute 68% of individuals who work in health-related occupations. In science occupations, 67% of psychologists are women. Of individuals in engineering occupations, 87% are men.

Nearly three-quarters of employed scientists and engineers are white, and most (70%) scientists and engineers in S&E occupations are white. Asian scientists and engineers are the next largest group, constituting 18% of employment in S&E occupations.

NSCG

The NSCG is the core of SESTAT, providing data collected over time that detail the characteristics of the entire college-educated population in the United States. Its population of college graduates includes scientists and engineers who hold at least a bachelor's degree. The NSCG provides information on individuals educated or employed in S&E fields and non-S&E fields.

Of the nearly 52 million college-educated persons represented by the 2010 NSCG, 59% reported their highest degree to be in a non-S&E degree field. Another 12% reported their highest degree to be in an S&E-related degree field, predominately health fields. About 28% reported S&E fields, with social or related sciences (11%) being the most commonly reported S&E field (table 2).

TABLE 2. Citizenship status of the college-educated population, by field of highest degree: 2010
Foreign-born
Field of highest degree Total Native-born
U.S. citizen
All foreign-born U.S citizen, naturalized Non-U.S. citizen, permanent resident Non-U.S. citizen, temporary resident
All degree fields 51,567,000 44,320,000 7,248,000 4,415,000 1,827,000 1,006,000
Biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences 2,256,000 1,832,000 423,000 230,000 128,000 65,000
Computer and mathematical sciences 2,329,000 1,630,000 700,000 376,000 193,000 131,000
Physical and related sciences 881,000 648,000 233,000 142,000 56,000 35,000
Social and related sciences 5,758,000 5,064,000 695,000 439,000 181,000 75,000
Engineering 3,236,000 2,214,000 1,022,000 554,000 267,000 201,000
S&E-related fields 6,425,000 5,201,000 1,224,000 786,000 303,000 135,000
Non-S&E fields 30,682,000 27,731,000 2,951,000 1,888,000 699,000 364,000

S&E = science and engineering.

NOTES: Numbers are rounded to nearest 1,000. Detail may not add to total because of rounding. College-educated population in this table refers to individuals residing in United States as of 1 October 2010 with at least a bachelor's degree earned by 1 January 2009.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation/National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Survey of College Graduates, 2010.

Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

The degree fields chosen by native-born and foreign-born college graduates differ significantly. Native-born U.S. citizens comprise 86% of the college-educated population residing in the United States. Given the large size of the native-born population, the distribution of fields in which their highest degree was earned is very similar to that of the overall college-educated population.

Foreign-born college graduates (including naturalized U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens) are more likely to hold S&E and S&E-related degrees. Among the 7.2 million college-educated persons who are foreign-born, 42% hold S&E degrees and another 17% hold S&E-related degrees as their highest degree.

NSRCG

Whereas NSCG data in SESTAT cover the general college-educated population, the NSRCG adds the influx of recent college graduates at the bachelor's and master's degree level. The 2010 NSRCG data represent almost 1.5 million recent bachelor's and master's graduates in science, engineering, and health (SEH) fields from academic years 2008 and 2009 (about 1.1 million bachelor's graduates and 340,000 master's graduates).

As of October 2010, 82% of recent SEH graduates were employed. The unemployment rate for this group was 6.8%, which compares favorably against the 9.5% civilian unemployment rate in October 2010.[2]

The vast majority of recent graduates employed in 2010 were working full time, ranging from 70% of those with degrees in social and related sciences to 89% of engineering graduates (table 3).

TABLE 3. Full- and part-time employment status of recent college graduates in science, engineering, and health fields, by level and field of degree: 2010
All employed Employed full time Employed part time
Degree level and field Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
All degrees, all fields 1,224,000 100.0 953,000 77.9 270,000 22.1
Biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences 138,000 100.0 98,000 71.0 40,000 29.0
Computer and mathematical sciences 127,000 100.0 109,000 85.8 18,000 14.2
Physical and related sciences 45,000 100.0 36,000 80.0 9,000 20.0
Social and related sciences 433,000 100.0 303,000 70.0 129,000 29.8
Engineering 169,000 100.0 151,000 89.3 18,000 10.7
Health 313,000 100.0 257,000 82.1 56,000 17.9
Bachelor's, all fields 922,000 100.0 699,000 75.8 223,000 24.2
Biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences 120,000 100.0 83,000 69.2 37,000 30.8
Computer and mathematical sciences 88,000 100.0 74,000 84.1 13,000 14.8
Physical and related sciences 35,000 100.0 28,000 80.0 8,000 22.9
Social and related sciences 361,000 100.0 251,000 69.5 110,000 30.5
Engineering 113,000 100.0 100,000 88.5 13,000 11.5
Health 205,000 100.0 164,000 80.0 41,000 20.0
Master's, all fields 302,000 100.0 255,000 84.4 47,000 15.6
Biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences 18,000 100.0 15,000 83.3 3,000 16.7
Computer and mathematical sciences 39,000 100.0 35,000 89.7 4,000 10.3
Physical and related sciences 9,000 100.0 8,000 88.9 1,000 11.1
Social and related sciences 72,000 100.0 52,000 72.2 19,000 26.4
Engineering 57,000 100.0 52,000 91.2 5,000 8.8
Health 107,000 100.0 93,000 86.9 15,000 14.0

NOTES: Numbers are rounded to nearest 1,000. Recent science, engineering, and health graduates are those who earned bachelor's or master's degrees in these fields from U.S. postsecondary institutions between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2009. Employed graduates who worked 35 or more hours per week on principal job during a typical week are classified as full time; all other employed graduates are classified as part time. Detail may not add to total because of rounding.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation/National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Survey of Recent College Graduates, 2010.

Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Other detailed data from the NSRCG show that part-time employment was more common among bachelor's graduates (24%) than among master's graduates (16%). Being a student was the most commonly cited reason given by recent bachelor's and master's graduates alike for working part-time. Bachelor's graduates provided "Full-time job not available" as the second most-mentioned reason for part-time employment, and master's graduates provided "Did not need or want to work more hours" as their second most-mentioned reason.

SDR

The SDR data further supplement the NSCG and the NSRCG data in SESTAT with doctoral scientists and engineers who earned their SEH doctorates from U.S. academic institutions.

The unemployment rate for SEH doctorate recipients as of October 2010 was 2.4%. The median annual salaries among those working full time varied across employment sector, with engineers reporting median salaries ($115,000) that were higher than those reported by doctorate recipients in the science and health fields ($95,000 and $93,000, respectively) (table 4).

TABLE 4. Median annual salaries of doctoral scientists and engineers employed full time, by employment sector, years since doctorate, and broad field of doctorate: 2010
(Dollars)
Employment sector and years since doctorate Science Engineering Health
All full-time employed 95,000 115,000 93,000
<10 70,000 95,000 82,000
≥10 106,000 130,000 104,000
4-year educational institutiona 80,000 97,000 85,000
<10 58,000 75,000 76,000
≥10 93,000 116,000 96,000
Private, for-profitb 120,000 120,000 129,000
<10 100,000 100,000 109,000
≥10 130,000 135,000 144,000
Private, non-profit 101,000 121,000 105,000
<10 71,000 94,000 92,000
≥10 122,000 142,000 125,000
Federal government 110,000 119,000 110,000
<10 87,000 100,000 90,000
≥10 124,000 132,000 125,000
State/local government 84,000 87,000 79,000
<10 71,000 79,000 90,000
≥10 87,000 89,000 71,000
Self-employedc 90,000 70,000 96,000
<10 79,000 S D
≥10 93,000 77,000 98,000
Otherd 71,000 66,000 73,000
<10 65,000 51,000 58,000
≥10 75,000 74,000 79,000

D = suppressed to avoid disclosure of confidential information. S = suppressed for reliability; coefficient of variation exceeds publication standards.

a Includes 4-year colleges or universities, medical schools (including university-affiliated hospitals or medical centers), and university-affiliated research institutes.
b Includes those self-employed in an incorporated business.
c Self-employed or owner of nonincorporated business.
d Includes 2-year colleges, community colleges, or technical institutes, and other precollege educational institutions, as well as employees not elsewhere classified.

NOTE: Median annual salaries are for principal job and are rounded to nearest $1,000.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation/National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 2010.

Table 4 Source Data: Excel file

Across the three broad fields of degree, doctorate recipients working in the private, for-profit sector reported median annual salaries higher than those reported by doctorate recipients working in 4-year educational institutions. Individuals who had earned a doctorate in a science field and were employed in the federal government reported median salaries of $110,000: lower than those reported by individuals employed in the private, for-profit sector ($120,000) but higher than those reported by their counterparts working in the private, nonprofit sector ($101,000).

In general, earnings rose with experience. In the science fields, doctorate recipients who earned their doctorates before 2001 had a median salary 51% higher than that of more recent doctorate recipients ($106,000 versus $70,000). Among engineers, this difference was 37% ($130,000 versus $95,000). For those holding a doctoral degree in a health field, the difference was 27% ($104,000 versus $82,000).

Definitions

Non-S&E degree fields. Management and administration, education (except science and math teacher education), social service and related fields, sales and marketing, arts and humanities. Other non-S&E fields include communications, journalism, criminal justice, law, and library sciences.

Non-S&E occupations. Non-S&E managers and management-related occupations, non-S&E teachers, social services and related occupations, sales and marketing, and arts and humanities-related occupations. Other non-S&E occupations include bookkeepers, secretaries, lawyers, librarians, protective services, and construction and repair occupations.

Race and ethnicity. All graduates, both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens, are included in the race and ethnicity data presented in this report. American Indians or Alaska Natives, Asians, blacks or African Americans, Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, whites, and persons reporting more than one race refer to individuals who are not of Hispanic origin. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

S&E degree fields. Biological/agricultural/environmental life sciences, computer and information sciences, mathematics and statistics, physical sciences, psychology, social sciences, and engineering. S&E-related fields include health, science and mathematics teacher education, technology and technical fields, and other S&E-related fields, such as architecture/ environmental design and actuarial science.

S&E occupations. Computer and mathematical scientists; biological, agricultural, and other life scientists; physical and related scientists; social and related scientists; and engineers. S&E-related occupations include health-related occupations, S&E managers, S&E precollege teachers, S&E technicians and technologists, and other S&E-related occupations, such as architects and actuaries.

S&E workforce. See scientists and engineers.

Scientists and engineers. Persons residing in the United States on 1 October 2010 who had ever received a bachelor's or higher degree in an S&E or S&E-related field or who held a non-S&E bachelor's or higher degree and were employed on 1 October in an S&E or S&E-related occupation.

Data Sources

Data presented here are from the 2010 Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT), which comprises three large demographic and workforce surveys of individuals conducted by the National Science Foundation: the National Survey of College Graduates, the National Survey of Recent College Graduates, and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. The 2010 SESTAT included people who were trained in S&E or S&E-related fields or were working in S&E or S&E-related occupations. The 2010 SESTAT surveys had a reference week of 1 October 2010, with an eligible population of persons under age 76 residing in the United States. All demographic, employment, and education data on scientists and engineers represent the status of these individuals during the reference week. For information, please contact the SESTAT project officer, Steven L. Proudfoot (sproudfo@nsf.gov).

National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG). —Data from the 2010 NSCG were collected from the college-educated population residing in the United States as of 1 October 2010 with at least one degree earned before 1 January 2009. The NSCG data are collected through a dual-frame design that includes a returning sample from the 2008 NSCG and a newly selected sample derived from the 2009 American Community Survey. For survey information, please contact the NSCG project officer, John Finamore (jfinamor@nsf.gov).

National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG).—Data from the 2010 NSRCG were collected from bachelor's and master's graduates who received SEH degrees from a U.S. academic institution between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2009. For survey information, please contact the NSRCG project officer, Flora Lan (flan@nsf.gov).

Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR).—Data from the 2010 SDR (sponsored by the NSF and the National Institutes of Health) were collected from doctoral graduates who received SEH research degrees from a U.S. academic institution before 1 July 2009. For survey information, please contact the SDR project officer, Lynn Milan (lmilan@nsf.gov).

Data Availability

Data presented in this report are now available through SESTAT at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/sestat/. Data from these sources are also included in reports such as Science and Engineering Indicators and Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, and in data tools, such as Science and Engineering State Profiles. SESTAT public use data files are available at http://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/datadownload/.

Forthcoming individual reports from each of the three component SESTAT surveys will provide the results of each survey in greater detail. For more information on this report, or on SESTAT, please contact Steven L. Proudfoot. For specific information on the NCSG, NSRCG, or SDR, please contact the respective project officer.

Notes

[1]  John Finamore (jfinamor@nsf.gov; 703-292-2258), Daniel J. Foley (dfoley@nsf.gov; 703-292-7811), Flora Lan (flan@nsf.gov; 703-292-4758), Lynn M. Milan (lmilan@nsf.gov; 703-292-2275), Steven L. Proudfoot (sproudfo@nsf.gov; 703-292-4434), and Emilda B. Rivers (erivers@nsf.gov; 703-292-7773), Human Resources Statistics Program, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington VA 22230; Lance Selfa, NORC at the University of Chicago, 55 E. Monroe, Chicago, IL 60603.

[2]  Bureau of Labor Statistics civilian unemployment rate; available at http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000 [accessed on 4 December 2012].


National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Employment and Educational Characteristics of Scientists and Engineers
Arlington, VA (NSF 13-311) [January 2013]


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