Workers with S&E expertise are integral to the creation of new products and processes. They advance basic scientific knowledge and transform these advances into tangible and useful goods and services through their innovative ideas and ability. The use of S&E expertise is widespread in the United States with credentials ranging from high school diplomas to doctorates, individuals with S&E training make significant contributions to the S&E enterprise and throughout the economy. Although S&E workers are employed throughout the economy, they are primarily employed in the for-profit business sector. However, 4-year academic institutions continue to also be primary employers of S&E doctorate holders. The skilled technical workforce provides valuable expertise in key industries such as the medical industry, construction, and manufacturing. Across all sectors and industries, S&E workers and skilled technical workers tend to have favorable labor market outcomes relative to non-S&E workers, including higher salaries and lower unemployment rates.

Many suggest that a nation’s workforce diversity is associated with increased innovative capacity. Women and some racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in S&E overall; however, representation levels vary by occupational category and field of degree. In addition, the representation of these groups in S&E occupations and with S&E degrees has increased in recent decades.

Foreign-born people account for a considerable share of S&E employment in the United States (nearly 30%). Foreign-born noncitizens comprise a large proportion of S&E doctorate holders; the bulk of these students remain in the United States after graduation, indicating that their contributions to the U.S. economy continue well after their training in U.S. institutions ends.

In today’s dynamic marketplace, where information flows rapidly and technology is always evolving, labor market conditions change fast. Many factors—global competition, demographic trends, aggregate economic activities, and S&E training pathways and career opportunities—will affect the availability of workers equipped with S&E expertise, as well as the kinds of jobs that the U.S. economy generates in the future. As a result, comprehensive and timely analysis of current labor force and demographic trends will play a critical role in providing the policy-relevant information needed to understand the dynamic S&E landscape in the United States and globally.