R&D employment by businesses in the U.S. 

Scientist writing


R&D workers account for just over 1 percent of total business employment in the United States.

Companies active in research and development (R&D) employed 1.5 million scientists, engineers, researchers, managers, technicians, support staff and other R&D workers in 2013, according to a new report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

Although R&D workers account for just over 1 percent of total business employment in the Unites States, they play a vital role in creating the new ideas and technologies that keep companies competitive, create new markets and spur economic growth. The three largest industry groups in terms of domestic R&D employment in 2013 were:

  • Software publishing (181,000 R&D workers).
  • Pharmaceuticals and medicine (117,000).
  • Semiconductors and other electronic components (109,000).

Large companies dominated R&D employment, accounting for two-thirds of the total 1.5 million workers. However, small companies devote a greater share of their operations to R&D, due in part to the fact that small businesses include more startups. R&D workers make up 11.7 percent of the total workforce at small companies active in R&D, in contrast to 6.5 percent at large companies.

Women accounted for one-quarter of the 1.5 million total R&D workers, consistent with their underrepresentation in science and engineering fields of study. The fields that saw the highest rates of representation for women were pharmaceuticals and medicine, as well as scientific R&D services, a category largely made up of contractors that assist pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies.

Industries with large numbers of employees but low representation of women — including software publishing and computer and electronic products — typically employ R&D workers from educational fields such as engineering and computer science, areas where women have historically had low participation rates.

Two-thirds of business R&D employees in the U.S. were scientists, engineers or R&D managers, and the remainder were technicians or other support staff.

See:  Shackelford and Morris, A Snapshot of Business R&D Employment in the United States, NSF InfoBrief 17-302, October 31, 2016

Leave a Reply