Graduates in plasma physics have been primarily white male U.S. citizens: of the 1960–1991 total, nearly 97% were male and 74% were U.S. citizens. Of the 1976–1991 plasma physics doctorate recipients, 65% were white. In 1991–1992 there was a change in the nongender categories: plasma physics PhD recipients were 61% U.S. citizen and 53% white, but still 96% male.

The AIP provided data on employment based on a sample estimate of approximately one-tenth of all plasma physicists who are members of the AIP.2 This information indicates that for PhD AIP members working full or part time in plasma physics in 1990, there is not one predominant category of employer. Four national laboratories, the university sector, and industry each account for about one-third of the positions:

University or university-affiliated research institute


Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC)








Most employees of FFRDCs were at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

Plasma scientists associated with universities are often on the research staff of the university, not the teaching faculty:

Research staff (e.g., research scientist)




Associate professor


Assistant professor




Although the data do not indicate tenure-track versus non-tenure-track positions, the predominance of research staff positions suggests strongly that a large number of plasma physicists in university-associated positions are not on the tenure track.

Similar data for other fields in 1990 are given in Table 10.1. In none of these fields do physicists appear as likely to be in a non-tenure-track position as in plasma physics. This point probably is not missed by graduate students selecting a field.


Information from AIP Statistics Division, included with letter from Jean M. Curtin, research associate, to John Ahearne, September 16, 1992.

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