The National Science Board delivered the State of U.S. Science and Engineering report to the President and Congress on January 15, 2020, in fulfillment of the congressional mandate.
According to the most recent estimates, the U.S. workforce includes about 17 million skilled technical workers. That is people who are employed in occupations that require science and engineering (S&E) knowledge, and whose educational attainment is some high school or a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, or equivalent training.
Among U.S. students who earned science and engineering bachelor’s degrees between 2010 and 2017, about half (47%) had done some coursework at a community college and nearly a fifth (18%) earned associate’s degrees. Community colleges play a key role in preparing Americans to enter the workforce with associate’s degrees or certificates or to transition to four-year educational institutions.
The 28 European Union (EU) countries together produced nearly 1 million of these degrees, with the top 6 EU countries accounting for about 70% of the EU total. China produced 1.7 million S&E first university degrees. Much of China’s increase has been in engineering, which accounted for nearly 70% of China’s S&E first university degrees.
In the United States, science and engineering workers are concentrated in four categories: construction and extraction (21%), health care (20%), installation, maintenance, and repair (20%), and production (16%).
The report also describes trends in the U.S. Science and Engineering enterprise, including science and engineering education and workforce, research and development (R&D), R&D-intensive commercial output, and innovation.
However, a “great deal of confidence” in the scientific community is higher among those with more advanced education (68% of graduate degree holders, compared with 29% of those with less than a high school diploma) as well as among men (50%, compared with 39% of women) and those with higher income (55% in the highest income quartile, compared with 37% in the lowest income quartile). About 68% of those with less than a high school diploma agree that science makes life change too fast. For those with a graduate degree, 45% share this view.
Although the United States continues to lead globally in R&D expenditures, science and engineering (S&E) doctoral-level degree awards, and production of highly cited research publications, other nations, particularly China, are rapidly developing their S&E capacity. As a result, the United States has seen its share of global S&T activity flatten or shrink. As more countries around the world develop R&D and human capital infrastructure to sustain and compete in a knowledge-oriented economy, the United States is playing a less dominant role in many areas of S&E activity.
Many Americans continue to have a “great deal of confidence” in the scientific community (44%). This perception has remained stable since 1973 (37%) and is second only to confidence in the military (59%). A substantial percentage of Americans also think science makes life change too fast (49%). Almost all Americans report that they believe science will benefit future generations and favor federal support for scientific research.