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Useful Stats: Science and engineering workforce, by state (2003-2017)

October 18, 2018
By: Jonathan Dworin

Across the country, there are nearly 6.9 million scientists and engineers, representing 4.8 percent of the nation’s workforce. There are 20 states having at least 100,000 workers in these occupations. Scientists and engineers are concentrated around the nation’s capital, making up the largest share of the workforce in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. From 2003 to 2017, the number of scientists and engineers grew the fastest in Arkansas, North Dakota, and Utah. With an interactive map and downloadable spreadsheet, this article breaks down the changes in the science and engineering workforce across the United States over the last 15 years.

First, a note on the data: This analysis stems from figures sourced by the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators series, which uses data from across the federal agencies. This data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, which assigns workers to the state where they work. In this case, the science and engineering workforce (sometimes referred to as scientists and engineers or science and engineering occupations) is defined by the Standard Occupational Classification, and includes engineers; computer, mathematical, life, physical, and social scientists; and postsecondary teachers in these fields. The midpoint method is used to make estimates in the few instances where data is missing.

The map below offers an interactive look at the geography of scientists and engineers across the United States. The data is also downloadable via an excel spreadsheet at the bottom of this page.

Where scientists and engineers work

The states with the most scientists and engineers in 2017 were California (946,680 scientists and engineers), Texas (567,040), and New York (392,570). Wyoming (7,960), Vermont (13,160), North Dakota (14,010) had the fewest scientists and engineers in 2017.

Scientists and engineers tend to cluster around Washington D.C., where they comprise 10.8 percent of the workforce — the most of any area. Maryland (7.6 percent), Virginia (7.5 percent), Washington (7.4 percent), and Colorado (7.1 percent) also rank among the top five states for scientists and engineers as a share of total workforce. These occupations make up the smallest share of the workforce in Mississippi (2.3 percent), Louisiana (2.4 percent), and Nevada (2.4 percent).

Where the science and engineering workforce is growing over 15, 10 and 5 years

Every state has grown their science and engineering workforce over the last 15 years, though levels of growth have varied. Arkansas (67.2 percent growth in scientists and engineers), North Dakota (66.2 percent), Utah (60.9 percent) experienced the most growth in scientists and engineers from 2003 to 2017. Connecticut (1.9 percent) and Louisiana (7.4 percent) were the only states where the science and engineering workforce grew by less than 10 percent.

During the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, North Dakota (48.3 percent), Utah (39.5 percent), and Arizona (37.4 percent) saw the largest increase in scientists and engineers. Wyoming (10.1 percent decrease) and Mississippi (4.5 percent decrease) were the only states with fewer scientists and engineers in 2017 than in 2008.

More recently, for the years between 2013 and 2017, the science and engineering workforce grew the most in Utah (26.5 percent), Georgia (24.7 percent), and Delaware (20.2 percent). The number of scientists and engineers decreased in four states during the five-year period: Wyoming (10.4 percent decrease), Alabama (4.2 percent decrease), Louisiana (3.7 percent decrease), and Alaska (2.6 percent decrease).

Where the science and engineering workforce is concentrating over 15, 10 and 5 years

Scientists and engineers, as a share of total workforce, increased in every state during the 15-year period from 2003 to 2017. The share of total workers in science and engineering occupations grew the most in Delaware (1.7 percentage points) Washington, D.C. (1.6 percentage points), and Michigan (1.6 percentage points) during those years. Notably, the share also increased at a high-rate in Washington (1.5 percentage points), Maryland (1.5 percentage points), and Virginia (1.3 percentage points), where the science and engineering workforce was already among the nation’s most concentrated. The share of the workforce in science and engineering occupations changed little in Connecticut (0.03 percentage point increase), Louisiana (0.10 percentage point increase), and New Mexico (0.12 percentage point increase) during the 15-year period.

During the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, scientists and engineers as a share of the total workforce increased the most in Arizona (1.3 percentage point), Rhode Island (1.1 percentage points), and Georgia (1.1 percentage points). The share declined in Wyoming (0.2 percentage points) and Mississippi (0.1 percentage points) during these years.

From 2013 to 2017, the share of the workforce comprised of scientists and engineers increased the most in Washington D.C. (1.0 percentage points), Delaware (0.6 percentage points) and Michigan (0.6 percentage points). Meanwhile, 10 states saw their share of workers in science and engineering decline, led by Alabama (0.3 percentage points).

This analysis is based on 15 years of science and engineering workforce data by state prepared by the National Science Foundation. SSTI has prepared a spreadsheet of this data, which is downloadable below.


useful stats, workforceFile Useful Stats 101818.xlsx