Research Scientists Have Lower Unemployment Rates

September 17, 2014
Aimee Simone, Associate Editor

Last year, the unemployment rate among professionals who earned research doctoral degrees in science, engineering, and health was significantly lower than the unemployment rate across all individuals aged 25 years and older, according to a recent report from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The report released on September 12, 2014, found that the unemployment rate for individuals with doctorate degrees in science, engineering, and health research was 2.1% in February 2013, down from 2.3% in October 2010. By comparison, the rate among the general population aged 25 years and older in February 2013 was 6.3%.

The NSF report estimated that, in 2013, 837,900 Americans—735,900 of whom were employed full-time or part-time, or were actively seeking work—held research doctoral degrees in these areas. According to the report, 25.5% of those individuals received their degree in the biological, agricultural, or environmental life sciences; 18.5% in engineering; 17.1% in physical sciences; 14.5% in psychology; 12.3% in social sciences; 4.6% in health; 4.5% in mathematics and statistics; and 3% in computer and information sciences.

Full-time employment ranged from 64.5% for psychology doctorates to 90% for computer and information sciences doctorates, while unemployment rates ranged from 1.2% for those who received doctorates in mathematics and statistics to 2.7% for those who received doctorates in the physical sciences. Among health doctorates, 76.5% reported working full-time, and only 2% were unemployed.

The NSF analysis also found the number of women holding degrees in these areas continues to increase. In 2013, 32.9% of doctorate holders in science, engineering, and health research were women, up from 30.2% in 2008.

Although the labor force participation rate for these degree holders was 89.1% among women and 87.2% among men in 2013, a greater proportion of men were employed full-time (77.5%) than women (72.7%). However, unemployment rates were not significantly different between men and women in 2013.

Four-year colleges and universities employed 42.2% of all working individuals with doctoral degrees in these areas in 2013, while private, for-profit firms employed 32.3% of these professionals, the report found.