Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada and Mexico

The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages, and Unemployment*

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada and Mexico

The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages, and Unemployment*

Article excerpt


Many congressional policymakers have maintained an ongoing interest in the adequacy of the number of U.S. scientists and engineers required to address the needs of U.S. employers, to spur economic growth and job creation through innovation, to maintain U.S. global technological leadership and industrial competitiveness, and to help address important national and societal needs.

To help ensure an adequate S&E workforce, Congress has enacted and appropriated funds for a variety of federal programs. These programs intend to foster improved science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills among students; to incentivize students to pursue degrees in science and engineering (S&E) through tools such as fellowships, assistantships, and traineeships; and to provide graduate and post-graduate research experiences at U.S. colleges and universities through the financing of university-based research. The 113th Congress is considering legislation to create, reform, and provide funding for STEM education efforts, and may seek to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69) and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-358).1 In addition, Congress is considering changes to immigration policies, among them the number and processes associated with F-1 visas, H-1B visas, L1 visas, and legal permanent residency (commonly referred to as -Green Cards"), to address U.S. S&E workforce needs.2

As Congress develops policies and programs and makes appropriations to help address the nation's needs for scientists and engineers, it may wish to consider past, current, and projected S&E workforce trends. In this regard, this report provides employment, wage, and unemployment information3 for the computer occupations, mathematical occupations, engineers, life scientists, physical scientists, and S&E management occupations, in three sections:

* -Current Employment, Wages, and Unemployment" provides a statistical snapshot of the S&E workforce in 2011 (the latest year for which data are available) with respect to occupational employment, wage, and unemployment data.

* -Recent Trends in Employment, Wages, and Unemployment" provides a perspective on how S&E employment, wages, and unemployment have changed during the 2008-2011 period.

* -Employment Projections, 2010 -2020" provides an analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' occupational projections examining how the number employed in S&E occupations are expected to change during the 2010-2020 period, as well as how many openings will be created by workers exiting each occupation (replacement needs).

A final section, -Concluding Observations," provides various stakeholder perspectives that Congress may wish to consider as it seeks to ensure that the United States has an adequate S&E workforce to meet the demands of the 21st century.


Occupational Taxonomy

Most experts agree that there is no authoritative definition of which occupations comprise the science and engineering (S&E) workforce. Rather, the selection of occupations included in any particular analysis of the S&E workforce may vary. Some analysts, policymakers, and organizations may refer to the group in different ways (e.g., the scientific and technical workforce, the STEM workforce) and include varying sets of occupations. In 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in defining the STEM occupations for a particular analysis, stated, -This is only one possible definition of STEM occupations; other definitions exist that may be better suited for other uses."4

The size of the S&E workforce varies substantially depending on which occupations are included in the definition. In its 2012 Science and Engineering Indicators report, the National Science Board (NSB) stated, -In the most recent estimates, the U.S. S&E workforce (defined by occupation) totaled between 4.8 million and 6. …

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