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THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 19 2 THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 2.1 CURRENT EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS The economy of the United States is absorbing rapidly increasing numbers of graduate scientists and engineers, but continued growth is less certain. The number of people with science and engineering PhD degrees from US universities who are working in this country has nearly doubled since 1973, from 220,000 to 437,000 in 1991.1 Figure 2â1 shows this growth by major field. Currently, more than 25,000 scientists and engineers earn PhDs from US institutions each year, most of whom enter the US labor 1 National estimates of employment-related characteristics of scientists and engineers used here and throughout the report are from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR). The SDR is a biennial panel survey of a nationally representative sample of recipients of doctorates in science and engineering from U.S. institutions working in the United States. It is conducted by the National Research Council and has gathered employment related information since 1973 for NSF and other federal agencies. Major changes in survey timing and procedures were made in the 1991 survey that limit the comparability of estimates with those of the 1973â1989 surveys. More vigorous follow-up increased the response rate from 58% to 80%, which reduced nonresponse bias among those outside academia or who had left the country. This should have reduced overestimates of the number of U.S. PhDs remaining in the U.S. and of those employed in academia of perhaps 5% in the earlier surveys. The SDR is described more fully in Appendix C, which has a fuller discussion of changes in the 1991 and 1993 surveys and their implications for comparability of time-series data and longitudinal analysis.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 20 FIGURE 2â1 Growth in employment of doctoral scientists and engineers in the United States, 1973â1991. SOURCE: NSF, 1991: Table 1, for 1973â1989; NSF, 1994d: Table 1, for 1991. NOTES: In this figure, postdoctoral appointees are included in the labor force. The data are national estimates of the numbers of scientists and engineers with doctorates from US institutions. The estimates are derived from the biennial sample Survey of Doctorate Recipients conducted for the National Science Foundation by the Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel, National Research Council. In 1991, survey procedures and timing were changed in ways that improved the estimates but introduced major comparability problems. The response rate, which had fallen steadily during the 1980s (from 66% in 1979 to 58% in 1989), increased to 80% in 1991. Nonresponse bias in the earlier surveys had led to overestimates of 5% or more in the total number of scientists and engineers in the United States. The new procedures, which involved much more intensive followup of those who did not respond initially, no doubt reduced the overestimate, but the extent is not known. The drop in number of employed scientists and engineers from 1989 to 1991 is due at least in part to the change in survey procedures. For example, if the estimates in 1989 were reduced by 5%, the number of doctorates working in the United States would have increased by 3% instead of decreased by 3% from 1989 to 1991.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 21 market either immediately or after a period of postdoctoral study.2 Appendix 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. Employment Trends 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,3 industry, and government laboratories where scholarship and researchâespecially basic researchâconstitute 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 2â2). 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.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 22 FIGURE 2â2 Scientists and engineers with US PhDs, by employment sector, 1973â1991. SOURCE: Calculated from NSF, 1991: Table 3, for 1973â1989, and from NSF, 1994d: Table 9, for 1991. NOTES: See notes for Figure 2â1 for important information about the comparability of 1991 estimates with the estimates for previous years. Academe includes those employed at 4-year colleges, universities, and medical schools (including university- affiliated hospitals and medical centers). Business/industry includes those who are self-employed. Other employment includes other education (junior colleges, 2-year colleges, technical institutes, and elementary, middle, and secondary schools); state and local governments; hospitals and clinics; private foundations and other nonprofit organizations; other employers; and those who did not respond to the employment-sector question.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 23 Employment difficulties are most acute among new PhDs, many of whom are unable to find desirable positions in their field. Barry Hardy, who has done postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health and is currently a postdoc at the University of Oxford in England, has spoken out about these difficulties and offered suggestions for change. With several other members of the Young Scientists' Network Internet discussion forum, he wrote an open letter to Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health, outlining options for change. At the committee's invitation, Dr. Hardy offered a series of suggestions for improving the graduate education experience: â¢ Include young scientists and engineers on policy panels, especially those affecting the funding of graduate students. â¢ Improve the evaluation of training grant programs. â¢ Fund an Internet-based information gathering and sharing system. â¢ Modify graduate student programs so they are more flexible and diverse. â¢ Improve employment conditions for postdocs so they can support their families and expect reasonable job security. â¢ Increase participation of young scientists at conferences. â¢ Reduce constraints on expression by graduate students. â¢ Balance immigration policies and fair treatment of foreign students. â¢ Develop computer simulation models to better predict science and technology employment patterns. Box 2â1: The plight of the new PhDâ Suggestions for change Furthermore, the fraction of total PhDs in science and engineering who are employed in academe has declined to less that half in recent years (see Figure 2â3). In addition, basic-research positions in some industry and national laboratories have also been declining. As a result, the activities and employment sectors that scientists and engineers with PhDs have been going into have been diversifying. Those long-term trends are the basis for a major conclusion of this report, i.e., that PhDs are increasingly finding employment outside universities and more and more are in types of positions that they had not expected to occupy. It should be noted that different fields and subfields of science and engineering vary widely with respect to employment patterns, job availability, and degree requirements. For example, in chemistry and engineering, many PhDs have long worked in industry; in other fields, many still work in universities. Within nearly all fields, however, the broad trend is consistent: a smaller proportion of PhDs is going into universities and the federal government, and a larger proportion is going into business and industry (engineering was the only field in which the proportion of PhDs entering universities increased substantially. With the SDR data, it is possible to compare cohorts of scientists and engineers 5â8 years after receipt of PhD, i.e., after most of them have completed a period of postdoctoral study. More than half the 1969â1972 science and engineering PhDs were employed in universities in 1977, compared with less than 43% of the 1983â1986 PhDs in 1991 (Figure 2â4). Only 26% of them were employed in business and industry in 1973, compared with 35% in 1991. Appendix C provides an in-depth analysis of the employment distribution of new and recent science and engineering PhDs by discipline. This is an original analysis based on data from the SDR. Information on a sectoral basis is also provided in the next section of this chapter.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 24 FIGURE 2â3 Primary work activity of scientists and engineers with PhDs from US universities, 1973â1991. SOURCE: Calculated from NSF, 1991: Table 3, for 1973â1989 and from NSF, 1994d: Table 10, for 1991. NOTES: See notes for Figure 2â1 for important information about the comparability of 1991 estimates with the estimates for previous years. The other activities surveyed, which accounted for nearly 20% of the PhD scientists and engineers in 1973, increasing to almost one-third in 1991, included management of non-R&D activities, consulting, professional services, statistical/data analysis/reporting, and âotherâ and âno report.â
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 25 FIGURE 2â4 Change in employment sector of scientists and engineers 5â8 years after receipt of US doctorates, 1977 and 1991. SOURCE: Special runs of data from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients on employment sector of US doctoral scientists and engineers 5â8 years after receiving the PhD (in this case, 1969â1972 PhD recipients in 1977 and 1983â1986 PhD recipients in 1991). Psychology PhDs, many of whom go into clinical psychology, are not included in the totals. NOTES: See notes for Figure 2â1 for important information about the comparability of 1991 estimates with the estimates for previous years. Academe includes those employed at 4-year colleges, universities, and medical schools (including university- affiliated hospitals and medical centers). Business/industry includes those who are self-employed. Other employment includes other education (junior colleges, 2-year colleges, technical institutes, and elementary, middle, and secondary schools); state and local governments; hospitals and clinics; private foundations and other nonprofit organizations; other employers; and those who did not respond to the employment-sector question. Not employed includes the unemployed (seeking work) and those not seeking employment, retired, or otherwise out of the workforce or not reporting workforce status.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 26 Unemployment and Delayed Employment Recent graduate scientists and engineers have been experiencing increasing delays in securing permanent employment. The employment picture for scientists and engineers, especially for recent graduates, is not clear, partly because the pertinent national surveys of new and recent PhD recipients lag by several years. The picture is complicated by wide differences among fields, some of which are shrinking as others grow. Nonetheless, we find clear evidence of employment difficulties in many disciplines. Such difficulties are hard to detect with traditional measures, such as the SDR. According to SDR data, unemployment rates for PhD scientists and engineers have remained steady and low for the last decade, compared with those in other segments of the economy. Unemployment rates for PhD scientists and engineers were about 1% in the 1980s surveys and about 1.5% in the 1990s. Unemployment rates for the most recent 2 years of science and engineering PhD graduates were about 1.5% in the 1980s, but rose to 2% in 1993, the last year for which data are availableâa disquieting increase that bears watching.4 The latter rate compares favorably not only with the overall unemployment rate (above 6% in the early 1990s), but also with unemployment among professional occupations generally (2.6% in 1992 and 1993) and among those with at least a college degree (around 3% in the early 1990s) (see Figure 2â5). The evidence obtained through committee panels and submitted comments (see Appendix G) and through surveys of recent PhDs by some of the scientific societies shows that an unusually high percentage of scientists and engineers are still looking for employment at the time of or soon after receiving their doctorates. Results of surveys by the professional societies of physicists, chemists, and mathematicians indicate that graduates in some fields are experiencing double-digit unemployment for increasing periods after graduation. Recent scientific and engineering PhDs do eventually find employment, but in some fields the process is taking much longer than it did for their predecessors. For example, the mathematical societies conduct surveys of new PhDs each summer and update them in the spring. The percentage of new PhD mathematicians still looking for positions in the summer was about 5% during most of the 1980s but in 1990 began to rise to more than 12% for the classes of 1991â1993.5 According to the American Mathematical Society (AMS) the percentage of new mathematicians looking for employment the summer after receiving their PhDs was 14.4% for the class of 1994, even though the number of new PhDs was 12% smaller than the class of 1993 (AMS, 1994b). Similarly, the percentage of new PhDs still unemployed in the next spring was about 3% in the late 1980s, 5% for the class of 1991, 7% for the class of 1992, and 9% for the class of 1993 (AMS, 1994a). The American Institute 4 It is not known how much of this increase in unemployment rates should be attributed to a change in survey methods. 5 A class is defined as those graduating each year from June to June.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 27 FIGURE 2â5 Unemployment rates among different occupational and educational groups in the civilian noninstitutional labor force, 1985â1993. SOURCES: US Bureau of the Census, 1994: Table 616, for average monthly unemployment of the civilian noninstitutional labor force aged 16 or older. US Bureau of the Census, 1994: Table 650, for average monthly unemployment of the civilian noninstitutional labor force aged 25 or older with 4 years or more of college. US Bureau of the Census, 1994: Table 649, and unpublished Bureau of the Census tables, for average monthly unemployment among civilian noninstitutional labor force aged 16 or older in professional specialty occupations (includes S&Es). NSF, 1991, NSF, 1994d, and unpublished SDR tables, for unemployment among S&Es with doctorates from US universities. Unpublished SDR tables, for unemployment among S&Es 1â2 years after receiving PhD from US university.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 28 of Physics (AIP), which also surveys new PhDs each year, found that in 1993, 14% of new doctoral physicists looking for employment had not received a job offer around the time of graduation, a figure that dropped to 6% six months after graduation. Preliminary estimates for the class of 1994 indicate that those numbers were about 12% and 4% respectively (unpublished AIP data). An American Chemical Society survey of new chemists found that more than 16% of the PhD class of 1993 were seeking employment during the summer of 1993 (Table B-1a in ACS, 1993). Underemployment and Underutilization When recent graduates do find employment, they are increasingly underemployed or underutilized. Doctoral students trained in American universities are traditionally well educated for permanent or tenure- track positions in which they conduct significant research in universities, industry, or government agencies. In the recent past, the US science and technology enterprise has grown so rapidly that most advanced-degree holders could expect such a position after graduation. Testimony provided to the committee, however, indicates that today many more new science and engineering PhDs are able to obtain only part-time positions, short-term non-tenure- track positions, postdoctoral positions that are extended for nonacademic reasons, or positions that are not of the expected type and for which one does not explicitly require a PhD degree.6 The National Science Foundation (NSF) uses two technical categories to describe such conditions. The underemployed are defined as those working part-time but seeking full-time work or those working in a nonscience and nonengineering job but desiring a science or engineering job. The underutilized are the unemployed (those who do not have positions but are seeking positions) plus the underemployed (NSF, 1994d:69). When considering the employment trends that graduate scientists and engineers have generally had since World War II, underutilized recent PhDs might be described as scientists and engineers whose present employment positions have not matched their career expectations. The SDR includes both underemployment and underutilization rates. In 1991, for example, 89.7% of scientific and engineering PhDs were employed and 1.4% were unemployed (together, these are considered the total scientific and engineering labor force).7 Of those employed, 1.7% were underemployed as defined above. Therefore, of the total labor force, 3.1% were underutilized. The underemployment rate was 1.3% in 1985, 1987, and 1989 and 6 Data limitations prevent quantitative analysis and verification of some of these claims. 7 The remaining 8.9% were retired, not looking for work, or otherwise out of the workforce. It is important to note that the survey retains people in the sample for 42 years, so some people are past common retirement ages.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 29 1.7% in 1991.8 The underutilization rate was 2.1% in 1985, 2.4% in 1987, 2.1% in 1989, and 3.1% in 1991. Those figures, of course, differ by field. Anecdotal information also indicates that although recent scientific and engineering PhDs are seldom working in jobs for which their graduate work is not relevant (e.g., working in a restaurant), they are increasingly able to obtain only part-time or temporary positions. Data collected by the scientific societies are also useful. For example, results of the AMS survey cited earlier indicate that beyond the 9% unemployment rate, an additional 5.5% of recent PhDs were able to obtain only part-time positions, and more than half those taking faculty jobs were in non-tenure-track positions (AMS, 1994a). About 10% of the physics PhD class of 1992 was working in temporary or part-time positions (Kirby and Czujko, 1993:23). Another statistical indicator of underutilization is the rising percentage of new PhDs taking postdoctoral positions. A postdoctoral position is intended to provide further depth of education and job preparation, but it can also act as a safety net when the labor market is poor. The number of scientists and engineers in postdoctoral positions has grown substantially, from less than 15,000 in 1982 to more than 24,000 in 1992 (see Table B-38). From 1991 to 1992, the number increased by 5%. Surveys do not determine the extent to which young scientists and engineers take postdoctoral positions for lack of regular employment. In chemistry, for example, the pool of postdoctoral scientists and engineers is estimated to have doubled during the last 10 years to more than 4,000. This is equivalent to the number of chemists who receive PhDs in 2 years (Rawls, 1994). Some attribute at least part of this increase to the preference of employersâespecially pharmaceutical companiesâfor chemists with 3 or 4 years of postdoctoral experience. 2.2 EMPLOYMENT TRENDS BY SECTOR Most of the long-term growth in employment demand for graduate scientists and engineers has occurred in business and industry. Professional careers are becoming increasingly varied and nonacademic, although this varies somewhat by discipline (see Figure 2â6). More and more scientists and engineers are being exposed to nonacademic fields before, during, or after their academic preparation. In 8 As this report was going to press, NSF released a Data Brief citing 4.3 percent underemployment among doctoral scientists and engineers in 1993. This rate should not be compared with the reported 1991 rate of 1.7 percent, however, because the definition of underemployment was broadened between the 2 survey years. In 1991, individuals were counted as underemployed if they were working part-time or outside of science or engineering when they desired a science or engineering position. In 1993, the requirement was expanded to include those working part-time or outside their doctoral field when they desired a position within their doctoral field.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 30 FIGURE 2â6 Employment sectors of scientists and engineers with US PhDs, by broad field, 1991. SOURCE: Calculated from NSF, 1994d: Table 9. NOTES: Academe includes those employed at 4-year colleges, universities, and medical schools (including university-affiliated hospitals and medical centers). Business/industry includes those who are self-employed. Other employment includes other education (junior colleges, 2-year colleges, technical institutes, and elementary, middle, and secondary schools); state and local governments, hospitals and clinics; private foundations and other nonprofit organizations; other employers; and those who did not respond to the employment-sector question.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 31 addition, because more courses are offered as evening or âdistance learningâ programs, many graduate students work part- or full-time as they study. Although most graduate scientists and engineers remain in the same general field as that of their bachelor's degree, many switch fields and thereby obtain interdisciplinary training. Furthermore, throughout their careers, graduate scientists and engineers commonly change subjects, kinds of employment, and employment sectors, moving, for example, between educational, industrial, business, and government organizations. The following sections attempt to describe the direction of employment trends by sector. Although not included in the following section because of the lack of information on their activities, an additional 29,000 PhDs work in nonprofit institutionsâincluding 9,000 in research and development, 9,500 in professional services, and 6,000 in administration (NSF, 1991). Education Of students who earn science and engineering PhDs, the proportion who enter academe has declined to less than half, and this long-term decline is likely to continue. However, there is likely to be increasing demand for teachers in precollege positions. In the educational sector, according to the 1989 SDR, 48% of the 22,000 people working in universities said their primary activity was teaching and 36% said research and development (24% basic research, 12% applied research and development). Of the 10,000 employed in other educational institutions (precollege and community college), 59% were teachers and 15% were administrators (calculated from Table 27 in NSF, 1991). In 1992, of the 176,777 faculty and staff (regardless of degree) with instructional responsibilities in natural sciences9 and engineering in postsecondary institutions,10 71% were full-time and 29% were part-time (NCES, 1994). As shown in Table 2â1, between 1977 and 1991, the proportion of scientists and engineers with US doctorates who were employed in colleges and universities declined from 51% to 43%.11 This trend was true for all fields except mathematics (which had a 1-year rise in 1991 after years of decline) and engineering. Only 31 % of those who received PhDs in 1983â 1986 were in tenure-track positions or had tenure as of 1991, whereas more than 35% of those who received PhDs in 1973â1976 were in such positions or had tenure in 1981. 9 âNatural sciencesâ are defined by the US Department of Education to include biological sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, and computer sciences. 10 âPostsecondary institutionsâ include junior colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities. 11 Note that some of this change might be due to an overestimation of the numbers of persons employed in academe in earlier surveys. This analysis was done for persons 5â8 years after they received their PhDs to account for the time taken in postdoctoral study, which varies by field.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 32 TABLE 2â1 Changes in Percentages of Scientists and Engineers Employed in Academe 5â8 Years after Receiving US PhD, by Broad Field, 1977 and 1991 1977 1991 TOTAL 50.7 42.9% PHYSICAL SCIENCES 46.5 37.3 Mathematical sciences 74.4 76.0 Computer sciences 45.8 41.8 Physics/Astronomy 45.9 38.3 Chemistry 32.1 21.2 Earth/Environmental sciences 50.2 45.1 LIFE SCIENCES 58.2 46.5 Agricultural sciences 55.4 47.1 Medical sciences 56.5 50.7 Biological sciences 59.1 45.7 SOCIAL SCIENCES 74.4 55.4 Psychology 45.7 26.0 ENGINEERING 28.8 32.2 NOTES: See notes for Figure 2â1 for important information about the comparability of 1991 estimates with the estimates for previous years. Academe includes those employed at 4-year colleges, universities, and medical schools (including university-affiliated hospitals and medical centers). SOURCE: Special runs of data from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients of employment sector of US doctoral scientists and engineers 5â8 years after receiving the PhD (in this case, 1969â 1972 PhD recipients in 1977 and 1983â1986 PhD recipients in 1991). Psychology PhDs, many of whom go into clinical psychology, are not included in the totals.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 33 Gerald Stancil received his PhD in physical chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in 1976. Today he is a high-school physics teacher in Orange, New Jersey. Is he disappointed? No, because when Dr. Stancil came to Orange High School, there was one physics class with 13 students. Today, there are three physics classes with 75 students. He is doing what he wants to do. But he was not guided to this path in graduate school, where he learned that PhDs do not work in public schools. Nor was he schooled in the skills and abilities he uses most todayâcommunication skills and social skillsâor in an understanding of youth or a love of sharing his knowledge with others. Dr. Stancil entered the high-school classroom 4 years ago through a New Jersey program called Alternate Route, set up specifically to attract people with graduate degrees to public-school teaching. In his comments to the committee, he noted that such alternative-teaching certification programs are becoming more common. In the past, many educators opposed hiring people at the graduate level; today, they recognize the growing need for better-prepared teachers in science and engineering. In the New Jersey program, a 1-year course leads to provisional certification. Then the new teacher works with a mentor and after 2 years receives full certification. Other states, including Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania, have initiated similar programs. Dr. Stancil believes that PhDs can make a great contribution to precollege education. He told the committee that many public-school students don't even know what a PhD is; for example, they ask him for medical advice. He believes that because of such ignorance, many potential scientists and engineers are lost at around the eighth grade. As a black man, he is able to serve as a model for minority-group students, who might have little understanding of how to approach a career in science and engineering. He does not have to make a financial sacrifice to do what he is doing. He told the committee that people with PhDs teaching high school make salaries comparable with the median salaries at most universities. Starting teachers with PhDs make about $36,000 in New Jersey, and senior PhD teachers like him earn a salary of about $55,000 for 9 months of work a year. Box 2â2: A High-School Teacher with a PhD Consider, however, our precollege-education system as an alternative employment market. Employment of master's-degree recipients and PhDs at the precollege level is expected to grow, and the salaries of entry-level teachers at the PhD level in many precollege school systems are not strikingly different from those of entry-level professors. According to Department of Education projections for the year 2002, the total number of science- related pre-college teachers is about 480,000 and is expected to increase by 1.3â1.6% per year, which would create thousands of new positions annually (plus those created by retirement or attrition). The average entry-level salary of a precollege teacher with a PhD is about $35,800, and that of an entry-level professor is about $36,600 (NCES, 1991;1993). Some might question whether this is an appropriate occupation for someone with a PhD science or engineering education. However, it is generally agreed that a basic education in science and mathematics will be essential to prepare all Americans for effective participation in our increasingly scientific and technical society in the 21st century. The national science-education standards prepared by the National Research Council call for hands-on inquiry-based science to become a core subject for all Americans starting in kindergarten (NRC, 1995 forthcoming). Who will lead this effort in each of the 16,000 school districts in the United States? And who will teach our children inquiry-based science? Large numbers of scientifically trained teachers are needed if science and mathematics
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 34 are to be core subjects for all precollege students; however, current graduate-education programs do not provide sufficient knowledge, validation, or training regarding education for graduate scientists and engineers to make a transition from scientific and engineering research to teaching at these lower levels. Some states offer innovative certification programs in precollege teaching for those with advanced degrees (see Box 2â2). As indicated by one committee witness, such programs can enliven precollege education and offer unique rewards to teachers. Furthermore, the talent of motivated graduate scientists and engineers should raise the overall level of science education for younger students who might eventually enter science and engineering. Government Positions for graduate scientists and engineers in government are decreasing, and this trend is likely to continue. However, there is likely to be more demand for scientists and engineers to work in particular fields, such as those related to environmental protection. In the government sector, of the 29,000 PhDs working for the federal government in 1989, half were in research and development and one-fourth were administrators. Of the 16,000 in research and development, one- third were in basic research and more than half in applied research. In the case of the 11,000 PhDs working in state government, about one-fifth were in research and development and one-third were in management (calculated from NSF, 1991). The federal government has long been a major source of employment for scientists and engineers. However, as shown in Table 2â2, this trend is decreasing for all fields except earth/environmental sciences. As of September 1993, 112,543 engineers and 99,239 scientists were federal employees.12 Of the engineers, 3,681 had doctorates and 25,482 had master's degrees; of the scientists, 18,109 had doctorates and 25,744 had master's degrees. In 1989, the federal government hired more than 13,000 new scientists and engineersâ1,100 with PhDs, 2,600 with master's degrees, and more than 9,000 with other degrees. By 1993, low turnover, program cuts, and hiring freezes had reduced the number of newly hired scientists and engineers to barely 4,000, or about 71% fewer than in 1989 (81% fewer engineers, because of staff reduction in the Department of Defense, and 50% fewer scientists). Moreover, those being hired were a little older, probably because the federal agencies had a choice of people with more experience. 12 Data on federal employment of scientists and engineers were provided by Leonard Klein, Associate Director of the Office of Personnel Management, Career Entry and Employee Development Group, in a presentation to the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy at its April 6â7, 1994 meeting at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 35 TABLE 2â2 Changes in Percentages of Scientists and Engineers Who Are Civilian Employees of the Federal Government 5â8 Years after Receiving US PhD, by Broad Field, 1977 and 1991 1977 1991 TOTAL 9.5 5.9 PHYSICAL SCIENCES 9.1 5.5 Mathematical sciences 3.5 1.9 Computer sciences 9.5 0.8 Physics/Astronomy 13 9.5 Chemistry 6 2.4 Earth/Environmental sciences 18.0 22.7 LIFE SCIENCES 9.7 6.7 Agricultural sciences 16.1 11.7 Medical sciences 7.8 5.7 Biological sciences 8.3 5.7 SOCIAL SCIENCES 5.8 5.1 Psychology 3.8 2.4 ENGINEERING 12.9 5.4 NOTES: See notes for Figure 2â1 for important information about the comparability of 1991 estimates with the estimates for previous years. SOURCE: Special runs of data from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients of employment sector of US doctoral scientists and engineers 5â8 years after receiving the PhD (in this case, 1969â 1972 PhD recipients in 1977 and 1983â1986 PhD recipients in 1991). Psychology PhDs, many of whom go into clinical psychology, are not included in the totals.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 36 Some PhDs are now adapting to fields once considered remote from science and engineering. Albert Bellino, an executive at Banker's Trust in New York, told the committee that investment banking is one such field in which advanced scientists and engineers are held in high esteem. Mr. Bellino is a managing director at Banker's Trust, one of a number Wall Street firms that hire a total of perhaps 100 PhDs in science each year. His firm, for example, hires about 10â 15 PhDs each year. In total, the company now employs approximately 150 PhDs among its 5,000 employees. Most newly hired employees have traditionally been economists, but the number of PhDs in physical sciences and mathematics is rising. The company believes that such training is excellent preparation that is easily transferred to financial markets. There have been other changes in the qualities desired at Banker's Trust. In the past, said Mr. Bellino, the bank looked for these traits: âhardworking, reliable, local, team player, consistent performer.â Now, it prefers âsmart, intense, driven, problem solver, entrepreneur, quixotic, a little abrasive.â It used to seek out people who were involved in jogging, swimming, tennis, and travel; now, it looks for bridge, chess, crossword puzzles, trading of baseball cards or stamps, linguistics, and music. Mr. Bellino explained that the latter traits are desirable because investment banking has become an âideas business.â It wants people who have the best ideas, who know how to implement ideas, and who can manage risk on behalf of their clients and themselves. It also seeks those with an interest in markets (for example, someone who ran a family fund or had such a hobby as trading baseball cards) and those whose communication skills enable them to be effective in a less-hierarchical organization. Box 2â3: Investment Banking There are niches of opportunity in specific fields, such as energy and environment, but the overall numbers are steady or declining because of staff reductions and low turnover. Business and Industry Over the long term, demand for graduate scientists and engineers in business and industry is increasing; more employment options are available to graduate scientists and engineers who have multiple disciplines, minor degrees, personal communication skills, and entrepreneurial initiative. In the business and industry sector, according to the 1989 SDR, of the 113,000 working in for-profit organizations, half listed research and development as their primary activity. Mostâ35,000âwere in applied research, and another 18,000 did development work. Another large groupâ29,000âwere administrators and managers (primarily of research and development). Less than 3% of the PhDs in industry were doing basic research. Of the 32,000 who were self-employed, half were in professional services and one-fourth were consultants (calculated from NSF, 1991). As shown in Table 2â3, the proportion of scientists and engineers employed in business and industry for all fields has increased from 26% in 1977 to 35% in 1991. In some fieldsâsuch as chemistry, engineering, and computer scienceâgraduate scientists and engineers have long found employment in nonacademic markets. But survey data, buttressed by testimony of committee witnesses and correspondents, show that this trend now applies to
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 37 TABLE 2â3 Changes in Percentages of Scientists and Engineers Employed in Business/Industry 5â8 Years after Receiving US PhD, by Broad Field, 1977 and 1991 1977 1991 TOTAL 25.6 34.5 PHYSICAL SCIENCES 30.4 44.2 Mathematical sciences 12.2 18.6 Computer sciences 42.0 50.3 Physics/Astronomy 25.1 38.2 Chemistry 45.5 60.9 Earth/Environmental sciences 18.6 22.7 LIFE SCIENCES 12.9 26.4 Agricultural sciences 17.9 30.8 Medical sciences 15.9 26.4 Biological sciences 11.4 25.4 SOCIAL SCIENCES 5.6 13.1 Psychology 15.4 36.5 ENGINEERING 50.5 56.7 NOTES: See notes for Figure 2â1 for important information about the comparability of 1991 estimates with the estimates for previous years. SOURCE: Special runs of data from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients of employment sector of US doctoral scientists and engineers 5â8 years after receiving the PhD (in this case, 1969â 1972 PhD recipients in 1977 and 1983â1986 PhD recipients in 1991). Psychology PhDs, many of whom go into clinical psychology, are not included in the totals.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 38 other fields as well (see Table 2â1). For example, in biological sciences, the percentage employed in business and industry increased from 11% in 1977 to 25% in 1991. The evidence received by the committee indicates that the trend will continue and that most job creation for scientists and engineers in coming years will occur in business and industry. However, for a variety of reasons, some large industries are modifying or closing their central research laboratories: some have become smaller, and some have shifted into enterprises that emphasize development, marketing, and R&D activities that are designed primarily for short-term economic gain. Hence, although industries will continue to perform research and to offer employment, they might not support traditional research to the degree that they have in the past. In small and medium-size companies, new and emerging technologies develop rapidly. Such companies provide one of the few increases in R&D funding. Because staff sizes in such companies are limited, successful science and engineering employees are those who can cross disciplinary boundaries and have talents in product development, manufacturing, or technical services. Jobs in industries that depend on emerging technologies show steady increases (which, however, can fluctuate with the business cycle). Within those industries are fields that are expanding, such as manufacturing simulation, information science, computational simulation, software engineering, data processing, visualization, forensic science, and electronic networking. 2.3 EMPLOYER PERSPECTIVES As part of its outreach effort, the committee sent out a call for comments to over 1,000 persons: graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, professors, university administrators, industry scientists and executives, and representatives of scientific societies. The 100 responses received (50% of which came from industry) are summarized in Appendix F. This section provides an overview of graduate education from an employer perspective. Why do organizations employ individuals with a scientific background? Here is a view from the president of a biotechnology company: We employ people with a scientific background in almost all aspects of our operations: general management, marketing and sales, business development, regulatory and quality affairs, clinical development, manufacturing and, obviously, research and research management. We find that a scientific education prepares people well for a number of careers, because it teaches them to be analytical, adaptable, and pragmatic problem-solvers. Furthermore, the spirit of scientific enterprise encourages them to be entrepreneurial which is an increasingly valuable personal quality across the breadth of today's commercial environment.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 39 What do employers think of the current science and engineering graduate education program? Generally, industry and academic administrators responded favorably to the current concept of graduate education, although they expressed some concern as to the relationship between that education and the positions eventually attained. The following statement typifies the general sentiment: âWe may see some specific difficulties in the relationship between academe and the profession it is intended to serve, but the structure itself is sound.â Some concerns were also expressed about the level of additional education that is needed to enable recent graduates to become fully participating employees. Consider the response from one major industrial employer who hires several hundred people with graduate science and engineering degrees in laboratories each year from many universities and in many disciplines: Even âthe best of the cropâ take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to become good, productive industrial researchers. Most recent graduates, particularly those who have not summer-interned, do not have the foggiest idea of what industrial research is all about. Some even think that using or developing technology to do something useful is not research and if it is a product that makes a profit, is even slightly dishonorable. Those from the academic arena had concerns as wellâfocused primarily on the teaching and mentoring skills of students trained in the science and engineering graduate system. The following comment is from a graduate dean and provost: I have long been concerned about the teaching expectations of graduate studentsâall graduate students, not just in the sciences and engineering. How we can expect that an individual will intuit teaching skills is an amazement. While teaching is somewhat an art, there are many skills and techniques that need to be learned before an individual should be turned loose to teach a course. We do our graduate students no service, and certainly provide no service to the teachers, if we expect them to function in that capacityâ¦. They also need to be prepared to be academic advisers. It is not enough to walk into a class and conduct that experience. If graduate students are to be teachers, they need to know how to interact outside the classroom with undergraduate students, providing them the support that they should have during their undergraduate experience.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 40 A common subject was the changing environmentâin both the industrial and the academic world. The following is from the dean of a major graduate school: Graduates are not necessarily being well trained to participate in much of our higher educational system as faculty: facilities for front-line research in sciences are not likely to get less costly. Not many colleges and universities will be able to afford the kinds of equipment required for faculty to make significant contributions to science in many areas. If this is true, most academic PhD positions will be in institutions which do not have essential facilities for what is viewed by these fields as cutting-edge research. Either the faculty in such institutions will have to carve out areas of research which don't rely on expensive equipment, or they will have to change their expectations of being significant players on the national and international science scene. It may be that there should be some effort devoted to training PhDs for research appropriate to those other institutions, either for enhancing their instructional roles or for providing them with realistic lines of research. These are from an industry perspective: In my judgment, educating and training students to do research as well as conducting basic research are still the primary objectives of graduate programs. However, [the programs] must be responsive to changing national policies and industrial needsâ¦. I would agree that the American graduate system has been/is a great success. However, to ignore the indicators that show change is needed would be a mistake. Clearly, the challenge ahead is to retain the best of the system while making the changes that will strengthen the nation's outstanding research universities and make them more responsive to the nation's needs. The days when a person could do a PhD thesis in surface thermodynamics (as I did) and reasonably expect to work in the field for a career are overâand I think will never return. One must be ready with the skills to change one's area of focus several times over a career. Most PhD education is training people in the exact opposite direction, and I think this needs to be changed promptly.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 41 This comment from a university graduate dean shows both perspectives: Unfortunately, the training the graduates receive in universities is not directed to any specific career path. Most of the time, after some necessary training in their background, graduate students are pushed into narrow specialization. The consequence of such training is that many of them lack the breadth for work in industry. From what I have seen from the job offers received by our engineering students, they are successful with relatively less effort if their research topic and/or their assistantship experience is closely related to the prospective job description. The universities are not doing any better in training PhDs for academe either. Except for the recent initiatives taken by some universities in giving them pointers on effective teaching, generally their training is in a narrow area of research and they are faced with on-the-job training. There was also a general concern that although the scientific and technological education received was sufficient, the skills training that is part of that educational experience was not. The following comment is from a major consulting firm: It is our general finding that US graduate schools successfully continue their tradition of producing well-educated scientists and engineers that are capable of making important contributions in their chosen fields. We also believe that the effectiveness of these graduates could be enhanced through practical (âhands-onâ) experiences/traineeships, functioning as a member of a (multidisciplinary) team, strengthened interpersonal skills, ability to communicate clearly the purpose (including the âstrategicâ value and relevance) of the activity in question, and substantial knowledge of the business environment/culture (including project-management fundamentals, time/effort/budget deliverables, sensitivity to human-resource concerns, safety, intellectual property, etc.). These are from international corporations: Why are industries such as ours not more accepting of PhDs with little or no experience? Because many fresh PhDs see their research area as their sole focus, at least for the immediate future. They generally tend to be very narrow. And, more important, they generally have no meaningful understanding of the business of business. Some might say that such understanding is the responsibility of
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 42 business to provide. I say no. A highly trained scientist or engineer cannot be very effective if she/he has no knowledge at all of how a company is organized and why, lacks understanding about the principal staff and operating functions, is ignorant of the rudiments of accounting and finance, is unaware of product-liability issues that directly affect product development, etc., etc. Industry cannot be expected to deliver such training and education in a short period of time. True, with years of experience working in industry such knowledge is slowly acquiredâbut it is an extremely inefficient transfer mechanism. Meanwhile, in the early years when the new technologist is working without awareness of these forces and boundary conditions, that person cannot be as effective as she/he otherwise might be. Careers are throttled. Most of the new PhDs that we hire seem to be relatively well prepared for careers in our organization. I would urge, however, that rather than move towards increasing specialization, which occurs very early in their training, the students should be given a broad array of courses in related areas early in their training. I have the impression that, also from day one in their program, students are now put into laboratories and given a research project so that they can develop the knowledge and skills in their specific area of activity to allow them to compete for grants in the future. However, it has been my observation that this type of training limits their ability to participate in multi- disciplinary teams that are often necessary in the industrial setting. We look for top-notch technical skills and some evidence of ability to âreduce to practiceâ the technologies the candidate has been involved in. If we look at new graduates, we look for curiosity about and an appreciation for practical applications of science. As we move away from independent, stand-alone research and toward more team projects, we screen and hire candidates based on their ability to work in teams, to lead collaborations and teams in an effective way. Skills like project management, leadership, planning and organizing, interpersonal skills, adaptability, negotiation, written and oral communication and solid computer knowledge/utilization are critical for an industrial R&D scientist/engineer. If you walk on water technically but can't or won't explain or promote your ideas and your science, you won't get hired. If you do get hired, your career will stall.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 43 Expectations are slightly different for those with master's degrees and PhDs. Here is an overview from a major company: In the case of PhDs we are looking for high intelligence and creativity, the ability to originate and conduct independent research, a research background involving at least a solid thesis research experience, and the potential breadth of talent to move from one research field to another. The flexibility required by the latter point is important to us because we cannot hire new talent every time we wish to enter new research fields. A number of universities are attempting to improve the preparation of graduate students who plan to become professors. One example is a pilot program at North Carolina State University, âPreparing the Professoriate.â N.C. State found in focus-group discussions that doctoral students wanted âopportunities to prepare more fully for the academic life of a professorâ¦to learn to teach in the same way that they learn to do research in a significant and extensive advising atmosphere.â The program uses âmentoring pairs,â each of which teams a doctoral candidate with a current or emeritus professor. Throughout an academic year, the mentors work with their graduate students (âteaching associatesâ) to develop individualized plans for substantive teaching experiences; these range from course preparation and planning to final course evaluation. Students document their experience by developing a professional portfolio, which can include student evaluations, letters of recommendation that specifically address teaching, and evidence of course planning and preparation with videotapes. The portfolio may be used when a student applies for a position in academe. Box 2â4: Preparing Professors We are also looking for excellent communication and interpersonal skills, so that with proper training they can develop into potential management candidates both in the research organization and in management positions in our operations. We have had a good track record in our research organization in supplying high-caliber talent to our operations. In the case of master's-degree candidates, we are looking for the same kind of talents, except we do not expect experience in conducting research. In summary, the anecdotal information collected via the committee's call for comments indicates that although employers are generally pleased with the result of US graduate education, they have some specific concerns as to its breadth, versatility, and skill development. In particular, employers do not feel that the current level of education is sufficient in providing skills and abilities to the people that they are interested in employing, particularly in
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 44 â¢ Communication skills (including teaching and mentoring abilities for academic positions). â¢ Appreciation for applied problems (particularly in an industrial setting). â¢ Teamwork (especially in interdisciplinary settings). They are also concerned that the graduate-education systemâalthough acceptable for the past employment worldâis less and less acceptable in today's more global world. 2.4 THE CHANGING CONTEXT OF EMPLOYMENT During the preparation of this report, the committee heard sufficient testimony to be convinced of the considerable pain and dislocation among new PhDs. One forum for such discussions is the Young Scientists' Network (YSN), through which junior scientists and engineers discuss employment and other issues on an Internet bulletin board. For example, the YSN recently posted an open letter that said, in part: âJobs in research are more than scarce today: advertised research positions routinely attract hundreds of excellent applicants.â The tone of the letter carried the urgency and anxiety that the committee heard during panel discussions with members of the YSN and with other young scientists and engineers. The changes in the employment market described earlier suggest that the most effective graduate-education programs are the ones that prepare students not only for independent careers in academic research, but also for nontraditional employment in a variety of nonacademic settings (see Box 2â 5). Universities and their professors need to revise the science and engineering graduate curriculum so that students are educated and prepared for the opportunities available. For example, although employers prefer to hire people who have a strong background in basic These are some nontraditional positions and employment sectors identified for physicists with graduate degrees (APS, 1994). A list could be developed for other fields. Medicine: medical-physics practitioner, radiological technician, CAT scan and MRI technician. City, state, and federal government: science adviser, science attache, state-level educator or administrator, transportation staff, environment staff, statistics personnel, computational staff, World Bank staff, international trade personnel, International Atomic Energy Commission (UN) staff. Computing: software developer, business-data handler, securities broker, banking personnel. Small business: consultant, computational staff, forecaster, data analyzer, instrumentation expert, indexer, abstracting staff. Law: patent attorney, expert witness. Education: precollege teacher, community and technical college staff, museum staff, librarian, educational-materials developer, district-level school administrator. Science journalism: newspaper journalists, scientific journalist. Box 2â5: Nontraditional Positions and Employment Sectors
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 45 principles and reasoning, graduate research activities often focus on specialized training and techniques. In addition, more opportunities are available to graduates who are flexible enough to shift careers. The field that is âhotâ when a student enters graduate school might cool by the time of graduation. The first permanent job will seldom be the last, as workers in all fields are expected to change positions and even careers with greater frequency. Job-seekers who do not limit their educational preparationâor their job searchâto traditional research positions might be better able to take advantage of a vocational environment that is changing rapidly. As indicated in Appendix F, committee testimony and written comments from a variety of employers supported that point of viewâthat employers favor potential employees who â¢ Can collaborate across disciplines, in various settings, and learn in fields beyond their specialty. â¢ Can adapt quickly under changing conditions. â¢ Work well in teams and demonstrate leadership ability. â¢ Can work with people whose languages and cultures are different from their own. In some cases, multiple advanced degrees or multidisciplinary backgrounds will be useful. For example, a student who combines a degree in life sciences with a law degree might be well qualified for the specialty of patent law within biotechnology. Likewise, a minor in geology might help an ecologist to obtain employment. Other growing multidisciplinary fields are biostatistics, numerical analysis, operations research, and digital signal processing. In some fields, single projects require multiple skills. For example, engineers with specialties in interdisciplinary fields like transportation are more likely to find employment than their mechanical- or civil- engineering counterparts. Others have emphasized the extent to which strong scientific trainingâwith its emphasis on analytical problem-solving, experimental strategy, and creativityâprepares a person for productive roles in government, business, and industry beyond roles that require the specific scientific or technical expertise acquired in the education process. It is impossible to predict whether the rapid growth of traditional positions will resume during the 1990s, as was widely predicted in the late 1980s (Atkinson, 1990; Bowen and Sosa, 1989; NSF, 1989). History has shown that employment trends for graduate scientists and engineers are particularly difficult to forecast (Fechter, 1990; Leslie and Oaxaca, 1990; Vetter, 1993). Public spending on R&D and employment of scientists and engineers can change suddenly in response to unexpected events, such as the launching of Sputnik in 1957 and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic recession of the early 1990s. The continuing debate over employment of scientists and engineers clearly requires a continuing re-evaluation of the graduate education and training of scientists and engineers.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF GRADUATE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 46