Employment

Science and engineering (S&E) education is a large investment of time and resources for both the individual and the economy. Underutilization of this S&E expertise because of unemployment or underemployment affects the U.S. S&E enterprise. The unemployment rate is lower overall for scientists and engineers—those with at least a bachelor’s degree and an S&E or S&E-related degree or occupation—than for the U.S. labor force. However, a larger share of scientists and engineers working part time want a full-time job, compared with the corresponding share of all U.S. part-time workers.

Employment status

Women and men

Among scientists and engineers, more men than women were employed full time in 2019 (13.3 million men versus 10.7 million women) and about twice as many women were employed part time (3.0 million women versus 1.6 million men) (figure 28).

Employment status of scientists and engineers, by sex: 2019

(Number in thousands)
Sex Employed, full time Employed, part time Not employed, looking Not employed, not looking Not employed, retired
Women 10,673 3,047 376 1,594 1,811
Men 13,288 1,618 399 539 2,193
Note(s):

Numbers are rounded to nearest 1,000. Full-time employment is 35 hours or more per week. Part-time employment is less than 35 hours.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Survey of College Graduates, 2019. Related detailed data: WMPD table 9-9.

Among those working part time, the share wanting to work full time was slightly higher for men than for women. However, the reasons for working part time varied. A larger share of women than men reported that family responsibilities resulted in their part-time work schedules. Men and women working part time did not differ in their rates of reporting that a full-time job was not available, which may be an indicator of overall economic conditions rather than of an individual’s situation. In 2019, this category of part-time workers, part time for economic reasons, was only 11.9% of the U.S. labor force that was employed part time, whereas among scientists and engineers working part time and who wanted full-time work, 23.6% of women and 21.6% of men reported full-time work was not available among their reasons for working part time (figure 29).

Part-time employed scientists and engineers who want full-time work, and reason for working part time: 2019

(Percent)
Employment preference and reason for working part time Women Men
Wanted full-time work 19.43 26.82
Did not need or want full-time work 51.82 48.52
Family responsibilities 45.95 20.95
Full-time job not available 23.56 21.57
Hold another job 12.87 11.31
Retired 15.43 34.43
Student 12.83 11.25
Other 9.78 14.34
Note(s):

Detail may not add to total because of rounding and suppression. Respondents could select more than one reason. Full-time employment is 35 hours or more per week. Part-time employment is less than 35 hours.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Survey of College Graduates, 2019. Related detailed data: WMPD table 9-11.

Among scientists and engineers, the numbers of unemployed men and women—those who are not working but are looking for work—are close, about 400,000 each. Those who are not working but looking for work are considered part of the U.S. labor force, along with employed scientists and engineers. Almost three times as many female scientists and engineers as their male counterparts reported that they are not employed, not looking for work, and not retired. Although scientists and engineers who are not working and not looking are not considered part of the U.S. labor force, they are considered part of the science and engineering workforce.

In reporting reasons for not working among scientists and engineers, a larger share of women than men cited family responsibilities (27.2% versus 6.1%). However, the share of women who reported that a suitable job was not available was similar to that of men. A larger proportion of men than women reported being retired. Some of these differences may be attributed to the differences in the age distributions of scientists and engineers who are men compared with the distributions of those who are women (figure 30).

Scientists and engineers' reasons for being unemployed or not in the labor force, by sex: 2019

(Percent)
Reason for not working Women Men
Chronic illness or disability 10.36 9.29
Did not need or want to work 24.80 16.77
Family responsibilities 27.23 6.10
Laid off 2.75 6.32
Retired 49.23 72.31
Student 7.38 7.31
Suitable job not available 7.46 8.37
Other 7.62 4.66
Note(s):

Respondents could select more than one reason for not working.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Survey of College Graduates, 2019. Related detailed data: WMPD table 9-12.

Race and ethnicity

Two-thirds of scientists and engineers employed full time are White. White scientists and engineers represent a larger share of those not in the labor force because of retirement (84.3%) than do those from other racial or ethnic groups (figure 31). Some of these differences in employment by race and ethnicity may be attributed to the differences in the age distributions within each group. For example, a larger share of older cohorts of scientists and engineers are employed and have a higher representation of White individuals, compared with recent waves of graduates.

Employment status of scientists and engineers, by ethnicity and race: 2019

(Percent)
Employment status White Asian Black or African American Hispanic or Latino American Indian or Alaska Native Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander More than one race
Employed full time 66.78 13.76 7.45 9.08 0.31 0.33 2.30
Employed part time 69.12 12.30 6.00 10.07 0.30 0.06 2.14
Not employed, looking 52.65 17.03 13.16 13.55 0.26 S 3.23
Not employed, not looking 61.79 19.64 5.81 9.70 0.75 0.28 1.97
Not employed, retired 84.27 6.22 4.02 3.90 0.20 S 1.05
Note(s):

Hispanic or Latino may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin. For reasons of confidentiality or reliability, data for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander has been suppressed in the categories Not employed, looking and Not employed, retired. Suppression is indicated with an "S." Detail may not add to total because of rounding and suppression. Full-time employment is 35 hours or more per week. Part-time employment is less than 35 hours.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Survey of College Graduates, 2019. Related detailed data: WMPD table 9-9.

Disability status

About 10% of employed scientists and engineers reported having one or more disabilities, that is, difficulties in seeing (with glasses); hearing (with hearing aid); walking without assistance; lifting 10 pounds; or concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. Men had a higher disability rate than did women (11.1% versus 9.3%). This is because reported disabilities increase with age and because men made up a larger share of scientists and engineers ages 50 and over than did women (36.9% versus 30.3%). Asians had a lower disability rate (7.7%), and underrepresented minorities had a higher rate (12.3%), compared with the overall disability rate for employed scientists and engineers (figure 32).

Employed scientists and engineers with disability, by sex, ethnicity, and race: 2019

(Percent)
Sex, ethnicity, and race Disability rate
Women 9.29
Men 11.09
White 10.22
Asian 7.74
Underrepresented minority 12.33
Note(s):

The National Survey of College Graduates asks the degree of difficulty—none, slight, moderate, severe, or unable to do—an individual has in seeing (with glasses), hearing (with hearing aid), walking without assistance, lifting 10 pounds, or concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. Respondents who answered "moderate," "severe," or "unable to do" for any activity were classified as having a disability. Underrepresented minority groups include black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native. Hispanic or Latino may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Survey of College Graduates, 2019. Related detailed data: WMPD table 9-42 and table 9-43.

Unemployment rate

Looking at the unemployment rates of scientists and engineers in 2019, the rates for both women (2.7%) and men (2.6%) were lower than that of the U.S. labor force (3.7%), indicating a strong demand for those with S&E expertise. Among scientists and engineers, Hispanics or Latinos had an unemployment rate of 3.8%, which is greater than the unemployment rate of Whites (2.1%) but similar to that of the U.S. labor force (3.7%); Blacks or African Americans had an unemployment rate of 4.7%, greater than the rate for Whites. Scientists and engineers with one or more disabilities had an unemployment rate of 5.3%, greater than that of the U.S. labor force (figure 33).


Unemployment rates of scientists and engineers, by sex, ethnicity, race, and disability status, and of the U.S. civilian labor force: 2019

(Percent)
Sex, ethnicity, race, and disability status Unemployment rate
Women 2.67
Men 2.61
Hispanic or Latino 3.82
Asian 3.30
Black or African American 4.70
White 2.08
More than one race 3.70
Without disability 2.33
With disability 5.27
Total U.S. labor force 3.70
Note(s):

Hispanic or Latino may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin. The National Survey of College Graduates asks the degree of difficulty—none, slight, moderate, severe, or unable to do—an individual has in seeing (with glasses), hearing (with hearing aid), walking without assistance, lifting 10 pounds, or concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. Respondents who answered "moderate," "severe," or "unable to do" for any activity were classified as having a disability. Unemployment rate calculated as the percentage of the labor force not working and looking for work. Total U.S. labor force unemployment rate covers the labor force ages 16 and over.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Survey of College Graduates, 2019, and Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey, 2019. Related detailed data: WMPD table 9-9.