The nation's need for highly-trained workers to fill 21st century jobs,
and its capacity to produce such a skilled workforce, are frequently
discussed topics for policymakers and the science community alike. In
order to consider future needs, it can be instructive to look at current
information. An entire chapter of the National Science Board's "Science
and Engineering Indicators: 2002" is devoted to recent data
(through 1999) on the science and engineering (S&E) workforce. Below
are selected highlights from the "Indicators" on the nation's
S&E workforce, including details on women, minorities, foreign-born
workers, and the number of Ph.D.s taking postdoctoral positions. FYI
#127 will provide additional highlights on the aging of the
S&E workforce and expected employment trends.
S&E LABOR FORCE: Unless otherwise specified, the Indicators
uses the term "scientists and engineers" to refer to people
educated in, or holding occupations in, the life, physical, social,
computer and mathematical sciences and engineering, including technicians,
researchers, educators and managers within the S&E enterprise.
In 1999, the total number of scientists and engineers employed in the
U.S. was 10,981,600, although more than half (7,440,800) were not employed
in S&E occupations. "Altogether, approximately 3.5 million
individuals held S&E occupations in 1999. Engineers represented
39 percent (1.37 million) of the S&E positions, and computer scientists
and mathematicians represented 33 percent (1.17 million). Physical scientists
accounted for less than 9 percent of those working in S&E occupations
UNEMPLOYMENT RATES: In 1999, the unemployment rate for the entire
labor force was 4.4 percent, while the unemployment rate for those with
S&E occupations was 1.6 percent. The highest unemployment rate in
that year for those in the S&E workforce "was for physical
scientists (1.9 percent), and the lowest rate was for computer scientists
and mathematicians (1.2 percent)."
EMPLOYERS: In 1999, "approximately 74 percent of scientists
and engineers with bachelor's degrees and 62 percent of those with master's
degrees were employed in private, for-profit companies. The academic
sector was the largest sector of employment for those with doctorates
S&E WORKFORCE COMPOSITION: In 1999, "women made up
almost one-fourth (24 percent) of the S&E workforce but close to
one-half (46 percent) of the U.S. workforce." In the same year,
"Eleven percent of scientists and engineers...were Asian, although
they constituted 4 percent of the U.S. population. Blacks, Hispanics,
and American Indians as a group constituted 24 percent of the U.S. population
but only 7 percent of the total S&E workforce in 1999. Blacks and
Hispanics each represented about 3 percent of scientists and engineers,
and American Indians represented less than 0.5 percent. Between 1993
and 1999, the portion of Asians in the S&E workforce increased by
about 2 percent, whereas the portion of blacks, Hispanics, and American
Indians remained virtually unchanged."
The percentage of foreign born college graduates in the U.S. S&E
labor force grew from 11.2 percent in 1980 to 19.3 percent in 2000.
The report finds that "In April 1999, 27 percent of doctorate-holders
in S&E in the United States were foreign born.... Almost one-fifth
(19.9 percent) of those with master's degrees in S&E were foreign
born. Even at the bachelor's degree level, 9.9 percent of those with
S&E degrees were foreign born."
POSTDOCTORAL POSITIONS: The percentage of recent S&E Ph.D.
recipients taking postdocs declined slightly in recent years, "from
32.7 percent of 1994 graduates in 1995 to 31.5 percent of 1998 graduates
in 1999." However, "in the biological sciences, which account
for about two-thirds of all postdocs, the postdoc rate one year after
receipt of degree increased slightly from 59.6 to 61.2 percent. At the
same time, physics, the other traditionally large postdoc field, experienced
a decline in the incidence of postdocs one year after receipt of degree
from 57.1 percent in 1995 to 47.0 percent in 1999."
The information highlighted above is only a small sampling of the data
provided in Chapter Three of the Indicators. The two-volume "Science
and Engineering Indicators - 2002" is available on the web at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/pdfstart.htm.
A CD-ROM of the Indicators can be ordered, free of charge, from the
same site. For a hardcopy version, contact email@example.com or call