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Science & Engineering: Offering Jobs for All Ed Levels

August 16, 2004

The vast majority of the nation's four million science and engineering (S&E) occupations are held by individuals with a bachelor's degree education or higher; however, a surprising 22 percent - 1.036 million - are not, according to a National Science Foundation (NSF) InfoBrief released last week. The analysis, based on the April 2003 Current Population Survey, reveals 5 percent of S&E workers hold only a high school diploma and 17 percent reported an associate's degree as their highest level of educational attainment.

While not argued in NSF's InfoBrief, the findings support arguments for the important role vocational education and community colleges can play in training a regional tech-based economic development workforce. This is particularly apparent when the data are sorted by occupational group.

Computer and math sciences hold the greatest opportunity for individuals with less than a bachelor's degree, according to the report, where they already comprise 40 percent of all positions. Only 7 percent of physical science occupations are held by individuals with a high school diploma or associate's degree, while 20 percent of engineering positions went to similarly educated individuals.

Only 10 percent of occupations in the final two groups, life sciences and social sciences are held by individuals with less than a bachelor's degree. With the expected maturation of the biotech industry over the next few years, it is possible the percentage for the life sciences will grow as more jobs are created in lower wage, lower skill biomanufacturing.

The InfoBrief is available at: http://www.nsf.gov/pubsys/ods/getpub.cfm?nsf04333