market either immediately or after a period of postdoctoral study.2Appendix C discusses employment trends among graduate scientists and engineers in more detail.
Although increasing numbers of new PhDs have been readily absorbed into the job market over the years, there are clear indications that the most recent new PhDs in some fields are not finding employment as easily as earlier ones, and graduates who have found employment have been more likely to find less-desirable or less-secure positions than earlier graduates.
Among recent PhDs, there is a steady trend away from positions in education and basic research and toward applied research and development and more diverse, even nonresearch, employment.
Graduate scientists and engineers have traditionally been educated and prepared for employment positions in which the ability to perform original research is the skill of highest value. The traditional positions include research-intensive occupations in academe,3industry, and government laboratories where scholarship and researchespecially basic researchconstitute the primary focus of employment. During recent decades, such research-intensive jobs have increased steadily, and many new PhDs have been able to choose from an expanding number of such traditional jobs. However, available information on job distribution and trends in terms of both primary work activity and the location of that work indicates a persistent long-term trend away from employment in traditional research and teaching positions and toward applied research and development and non-academic employment (see Figure 2-2).
For example, the proportion of scientists and engineers engaged in basic research and teaching as their primary activity has declined while the proportion of people involved in applied research and development and other types of work has increased. According to the SDR, in 1973, 52% of scientists and engineers with PhDs from US universities were engaged in basic research or teaching activities, but, in 1991, only 37% were in such positions (Table C-3B). On the other hand, individuals employed in applied research and development increased by about one-third, and the fraction employed in business and industry increased from about 24% in 1973 to 36% in 1991. Within that group, the share of self-employed people more than quadrupled, to nearly 9% (Table C-3B).
2 An unknown number of graduate scientists and engineers graduating from foreign institutions also enter the labor market.
3 Academe is defined in this report to include 4-year colleges, universities, and medical schools, but not 2-year colleges or precollege (K-12) educational institutions.