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The 2002 edition of Science and Engineering Indicators, published by the National Science Board, paints a remarkable picture of American knowledge workers at the beginning of the second millennium. It shows that there are about 10.5 million college-educated people in the U.S. with a science or engineering degree and that American universities are producing new scientists and engineers at an unprecedented rate of well over half a million a year.
The report also reveals a potential weak spot: the supply of doctorates in science and engineering. Ph.D.s in these disciplines have been a key element in making the U.S. the world's leader in high-tech exports during the past several decades. American universities awarded a rising number of S&E doctorates through 1996, but since then, the number has decreased, primarily because of the decline in degrees earned by noncitizens, who have been increasingly drawn to universities in China, South Korea and Taiwan. The number of doctoral degrees granted to U.S. citizens has apparently stopped growing and shows signs of leveling off at about 16,000 to 17,000 annually, probably not enough to meet recruitment needs over the coming decade.
This article was originally published with the title Filling the Pipeline.