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Science and Engineering Employment Reached 5.8 Million in 2008

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Employment in science and engineering occupations in the United States reached an estimated 5,781,000 by May 2008, according to data derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment Statistics Survey (OES). This number was up 13.7 percent from 5,086,000 in May 2004, compared to the 5.5 percent increase in employment in all occupations for the same time period.

Computer science and mathematical jobs increased to 2,973,000 in May 2008, up 15.9 percent from 2,566,000 in May 2004, according to the OES. The average annual growth rate for computer scientists and mathematical jobs was 3.7 percent over that period.

The number of technicians, programmers, and science and engineering (S&E) managers decreased 0.2 percent to 2,071,000 in May 2008, down from 2,075,000 in May 2004. The 5.8 million individuals in S&E occupations represented 4.3 percent of all employment counted by the OES.

Science and Engineering Occupations

The average annual growth in employment for all S&E occupation groups (3.3 percent) ranged from 2.3 percent for engineers to 3.8 percent for life scientists and social scientists, compared to 1.3 percent for all occupations covered by the OES. The ratio of estimated S&E employment growth to general employment growth of about 2.5 to 1 is broadly consistent with long-term trends found in 2000 U.S. Census data.

STEM Occupations

Studies and reports often refer to a broader definition of the technical labor force that includes other technical workers, as well as scientists and engineers. This definition is varyingly termed either the science and technology (S&T) or the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) labor force. As generally used, these two broader categories have the same definition: including technicians, computer programmers, and technical managers, as well as those in science and engineering occupations. The broader aggregate may be thought of as S&E occupations plus individuals who directly manage S&E workers, as well as the technical workers who support those in S&E occupations.

Total employment in this broader set of STEM occupations was 7.9 million in May 2008. Mathematical and computer scientists accounted for 37.9 percent of the total, the largest percentage of any occupation group. Estimated STEM employment grew at an average annual rate of 2.3 percent, compared to 1.3 percent for the whole labor market. The increase in STEM employment reflected growth in S&E occupations along with a small decline in the estimated employment of technicians, programmers, and S&E managers.

Annual Earnings

The median annual earnings for S&E occupations were $72,940 compared to median earnings of $32,390 for all occupations. The median annual earnings for mathematical and computer scientists were $71,250, increaasing at an average annuarl rate of 3.5 percent. The average annual growth rate in median annual earnings was 3.4 percent for all S&E occupations and 3.5 percent for the broader set of STEM occupations, compared to 3.0 percent for all occupations.

A spread also occurs in average (mean) earnings: individuals in S&E occupations earned an average of $76,680 compared to $42,270 for all occupations. Average earnings in S&E occupations ranged from a mean of $67,980 for social science occupations to $84,120 for engineering occupations.

BLS breaks down science and engineering employment estimates for 25 metropolitan areas or divisions. Areas with the highest estimated S&E employment are shown here:


  Metropolitan Areas   

   Workers in S&E    

  DC-VA-MD Metropolitan Division   
  New York-White Plains-Wayne,
  NY-NJ Metropolitan Division
  Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
  Metropolitan Division
  Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL
  Metropolitan Division
  MA-NH NECTA Division
  Houston, Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
  San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara,
  WA Metropolitan Division


The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metropolitan Division had the highest estimated number employed in S&E occupations, 244,950, followed by the New York-White Plains-Wayne Metropolitan Division with 208,210.[9] Due to their large workforces, three metropolitan areas with large numbers of workers in S&E occupations actually have proportions of workers in S&E occupations that are below the national average: the metropolitan divisions that include the central cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.


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