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appears that S&E graduate programs rarely make such information available.17

Career Prospects in S&E

Students considering research careers can face daunting prospects. Graduate and postdoctoral training may take over a decade, usually with low pay and few benefits. Most researchers do not become full-fledged members of the profession until their mid-30s or later—an especially onerous burden for those who are trying to balance the demands of work and family.

Even at the end of this long training period, many do not find the jobs for which they have been trained. The stagnation of funding for the physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, and the social sciences over the last decade has led to fewer academic faculty positions in these fields. Even in expanding fields, such as the biosciences, the number of permanent academic research and teaching positions has not kept up with the growing number of students who are entering these fields. As a result, more and more researchers languish in temporary positions.18 The fastest-growing employment category since the early 1980s has been “other academic appointments,” which is currently increasing at about 4.9% annually.19 These jobs are essentially holding positions filled by young researchers coming from postdoctoral positions who would like to join an academic faculty on a tenure track and are willing to wait. It is an increasingly long wait as institutions are decreasing the number of faculty appointments to decrease the long-term commitments that they entail. From 1993 to 2001, the number of biomedical tenure-track appointments increased by 13.8%, while those for nontenure-track faculty increased by 45.1% and other appointments by 38.9% (see Figures TS-3A and B).

In fields outside the life sciences, most doctorates go on to careers in industry or government (see Figures TS-4A and B). Increasingly, these sectors are providing research opportunities for the best students. At the same time that biotechnology firms are gearing up their R&D operations, top industrial research laboratories, such as Bell Labs and Xerox PARC are


P. Romer. Should the Government Subsidize Supply or Demand in the Market for Scientists and Engineers? Working Paper 7723. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau for Economic Research, 2000. Available at:; National Research Council. Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998.


National Research Council. Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998.


National Research Council. Advancing the Nation’s Health Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2005.

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