NSF InfoBrief Examines Aspects of the S&E Workforce

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Publication date: 
15 November 2004

NSF's Science Resources Statistics Division (SRS) collects information on many aspects of the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) workforce, including ethnicity, gender, occupational group and highest degree earned, from high school diploma to PhD. An "InfoBrief" issued by SRS in August examines "the occupational and demographic characteristics of individuals who have been successful in obtaining employment in S&E occupations with the academic credentials of an associate's degree or a high school diploma."

"The S&E workforce of the United States depends heavily on graduates with at least a 4-year college education; however, individuals employed in S&E occupations with associate's degrees and high school diplomas represent a significant portion of this workforce and account for over one-fifth of all persons employed in U.S. science and engineering occupations," the InfoBrief states.

SRS looked at the over four million individuals who, as of April 2003, were participants in the S&E workforce and had at least a high school education. Of those individuals, 7 percent reported a doctorate as the highest level of educational attainment, 22 percent reported a master's, 48 percent reported a bachelor's, 2 percent reported a professional degree, 17 percent reported an associate's degree, and 5 percent reported a high school diploma.

According to the InfoBrief, a higher percentage of individuals with less than a bachelor's degree are employed in computer and mathematical sciences and engineering occupations than in the life sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences. "Approximately 40 percent of all individuals employed in computer and math science occupations and 20 percent of all individuals employed in engineering occupations have no higher than an associate's degree," it says, while the life, physical and social science occupational groups "have substantially smaller proportions (10 percent or less) of individuals with less than a bachelor's degree education."

The InfoBrief also found that "the proportion of individuals employed in S&E occupations with less than a bachelor's degree education is similar for men and women - slightly more than one-fifth. This ratio does not vary widely across S&D occupations: whether employed in science occupations or engineering occupations, women are as likely as men to have less than a bachelor's degree education." It continues, "The percentage of those with less than a bachelor's degree education in all S&E occupations combined varies by race/ethnicity, ranging from 6 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders to 34 percent for blacks and 37 percent for Hispanics."

This InfoBrief is entitled "More Than One-fifth of All Individuals Employed in Science and Engineering Occupations Have Less Than a Bachelor's Degree Education," (NSF04-333). It is available, along with other NSF InfoBriefs, at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/infbrief/ib.htm.