Skip all navigation and go to page content.
S&E Indicators Home  >> Digest Contents  >> U.S. S&E Workforce: Trends and Composition

U.S. S&E Workforce: Trends and Composition

Why is this important?

Workers with S&E expertise are an integral part of a nation's innovative capacity. Their high skill level and inventiveness provide them with the ability to not only advance basic scientific knowledge, but also to transform that knowledge into useful products and services.

Key observations:

Individuals in S&E occupations in the United States: 1960–2011

SEI 2014: Growth of the S&E Workforce, Chapter 3.

Workforce growth

The U.S. S&E workforce—made up of chemists, mathematicians, economists, engineers, and other such workers—has grown faster over time than the workforce overall. Over the past 50 years it has grown fivefold and now represents more than 4% of all U.S. jobs.

During and after the 2007–09 recession, employment in S&E or S&E related jobs was generally more resilient than was overall employment.

Unemployment rates for selected groups of workers: 1990–2012

SEI 2014: S&E Labor Market Conditions, Chapter 3.


For decades, workers in S&E occupations have almost always had lower unemployment than workers in other types of jobs. The unemployment rate for college-graduate workers in S&E occupations is generally lower than it is for college-graduate workers in non-S&E occupations, and it is far lower than the overall unemployment rate. However, S&E workers are not immune to overall business cycles, as the spikes in S&E unemployment in the 2001 and the 2007–09 recessions illustrate.

Men and women in S&E occupations: 1993, 2003, and 2010


Women and underrepresented minorities

Despite accounting for nearly half of the college-educated workforce, women in 2010 accounted for less than one-third of S&E employment. Although the number of women in S&E jobs has risen significantly in the past two decades, the disparity has narrowed only modestly.

Underrepresented minorities in S&E occupations: 1993, 2003, and 2010

NOTE: Underrepresented minories comprise blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians and Alaska Natives in 2003 and 2010 and blacks and Hispanics in 1993.

SEI 2014: Women and Minorities in the S&E Workforce, Chapter 3.

Women and underrepresented minorities

Similarly, although underrepresented minorities—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—have made substantial strides, their representation in S&E jobs remains below their proportion in the population.

Women and underrepresented minorities in S&E occupations: 2010


Women and underrepresented minorities

For both women and underrepresented minorities, growth in participation slowed during the 2000s. Women's presence varies widely across S&E occupations. For underrepresented minorities, variation among occupations, although present, is much less pronounced.

Foreign-born graduates whose highest degree is in S&E, by level and field of degree: 2010

SEI 2014: Immigration and the S&E Workforce, Chapter 3.


Foreign-born scientists and engineers, whether educated in the United States or abroad, are a critical part of the U.S. S&E workforce. Among individuals with their highest degree in an S&E field, 33% of master's degree holders and 42% of doctorate holders are foreign born. Reliance on foreign-born scientists and engineers is greatest on those with engineering and mathematics and computer sciences degrees. More than half of the doctorate holders in these fields are foreign born.

Next Theme

Bookmark and Share.