Scientific and Technical Employment, 1990-2005
Braddock, Douglas J., Monthly Labor Review
Alternative employment projections of scientists, engineers, and technicians indicate growth ranging widely from 9 percent to 59 percent over the 1990-2005 period
Our Nation's economic progress and general well-being depend in considerable measure on the work of scientists, engineers, and technicians. These men and women contribute to the development of new products, improvements in productivity, enhanced defense capabilities, environmental protection, and advances in communications and health care. Because of the importance of scientific and technical workers, information about the current and future labor market for scientists and technicians has great significance. The National Science Foundation's Division of Science Resources Studies, charged with the responsibility for monitoring the adequacy of the supply of scientific and technical workers in meeting the Nation's needs, supported a Bureau of Labor Statistics study of employment prospects for these workers. This article summarizes the results of that study.
The BLS study focused on the development of alternative employment projections for scientists, engineers, and technicians' covering the period 1990-2005. The study also analyzed alternative future supply and demand scenarios for these workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics develops alternative projections of the labor force, economic growth, industry output and employment, and occupational employment every other year.
The most current projections, covering 19902005, were published in the November 1991 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. Each set of projections consists of a low, moderate, and high growth alternative, developed through a series of models that relate economic theory to economic behavior. While these alternative projections indicate a wide range of employment growth in most occupations, including the scientific and technical occupations, the range of growth for each is determined primarily by variations in the growth of the labor force and in the factors affecting aggregate economic variables, such as the gross national product (GNP), exports and imports, and national defense.
For any single occupation or occupational group, however, the Bureau's regular alternative projections program is not designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of the full range of possible employment alternatives. Variations in the major assumptions and associated aggregate economic variables cannot cover all the conditions that could affect employment in each of the 500 occupations included in the program. Thus, the potential range of projected employment for any specific occupation is much wider than that shown in the alternatives regularly prepared by BLS. Consequently, in developing the high and low alternatives for scientists, engineers, and technicians discussed in this article, the Bureau's projection methodology was modified so that the procedures could account for economic and other factors most likely to have a significant impact on employment in scientific and technical occupations.
Highlights of the projections
The alternatives prepared by BLS with the support of the National Science Foundation indicate a wide potential range of employment growth in scientific and technical occupations. For scientists, engineers, and technicians as a group, growth over the 1990-2005 period is projected to range from 9 percent to 59 percent. Among the individual scientific and technical occupations, engineers have the widest projected range of employment, from a decline of 2 percent in the low alternative to an increase of 54 percent in the high alternative. In each alternative, the fastest growth among the groups of scientific and technical occupations is for computer, mathematical, and operations research analysts, ranging from an increase of 46 percent in the low alternative to an increase of 97 percent in the high alternative. Social scientists show the least variation in growth among the alternatives. …