Washington Update

New Factsheets Highlight 2021 NSF STEM Workforce Data

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
FASEB recently updated its series of factsheets highlighting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce data. Each one page, these factsheets collate data from disparate National Science Foundation (NSF) sources into themes of interest for use by the community.

The first two factsheets spotlight female doctorate recipients. One looks at female PhD representation in science and engineering, as well as resources used and debt accumulated to support educational and living expenses during graduate school disaggregated by sex. The second examines female life sciences PhD employment and salary compared to their male counterparts.

Removing sex as a key variable, the third factsheet highlights doctorate recipient debt in 2021. For PhD recipients in all fields, debt related to costs during graduate education outweighs debt accumulated during the undergraduate degree. The percentage of PhD recipients with graduate debt greater than $30,000 is smaller for those in science and engineering fields, as well as in biological and biomedical sciences, compared to all fields. Notably, there are clear disparities across racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Scientists pursuing their PhD or postdoctoral training in the United States but from another country of origin are the focus of the fourth factsheet. The top three countries of origin of temporary visa holders earning a PhD in science and engineering in the United States are China, India, and South Korea. Foreign-born scientists who receive their PhD from a U.S. institution of higher education are more likely to intend to stay in the United States after degree completion than they are able to secure a definite offer to work in the United States. Additionally, the proportion of temporary visa holders making up graduate students and postdoctoral appointees in the United States has increased over time, with more than half of postdoctoral scholars in the United States being temporary visa holders for over 20 years. 

Master’s degrees are the core of two factsheets. Part five shows the percent female of science master’s students compared to doctoral degree students. The ratio of enrolled master’s to doctoral students by race and ethnicity is also highlighted. Overall, master’s students in the sciences compared to doctoral students have greater representation of those who identify as female and from ethnic or racial backgrounds that have been historically excluded from science. The sixth factsheet looks at doctorate recipients who also earned a master’s degree in 2021. The rates of PhD holders who also have a master’s degree varies significantly by field of study.

Finally, the last two factsheets investigate PhDs with one or more disabilities. The PhDs with a disability in 2021 factsheet identifies PhD recipients living in the United States in 2021 with one or more disabilities by doctorate field of study. Disability is further broken down into type of disability for 2021 doctoral recipients in science and engineering, with cognitive and visual disabilities being most common. A newly debuted FASEB factsheet reviews PhD recipients with a disability in 2021 by their other demographic identities, age and work sector. Employed PhD recipients with one or more disabilities are contributing across employment sectors—both on and off the tenure track at four-year academic institutions, as well as in all other work sectors surveyed such as for profit, non-profit, government, and self-employment.

View these updated factsheets to learn more and use in your policy and advocacy efforts.