CRA Logo

About CRA



Government Affairs






What's New



The Supply of Information Technology Workers in the United States

Chapter 9: Data Issues

What Are the Sources of Data on IT Workers?

Data are available from three primary sources: the federal government, professional societies, and the private sector. In a separate project, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology (CPST) to develop an Internet-based Guide to Data on Scientists and Engineers.90

Federal data. The most relevant federal data on information technology (IT) workers are provided by NSF's Science Resources Studies (SRS) division, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES; Department of Education), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; Department of Labor).

Data on the employment of those working in the U.S. on temporary visas are very limited and were not particularly helpful to this study. The relevant agencies include the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Services (issuance of H1-B visas to individuals) and the U.S. Department of Labor (employer applications for H1-B visas).91

NSF has a wealth of data on scientists and engineers.92 The largest amount of worker-related NSF data is on doctoral scientists, since this has long been considered the principal professional degree for independent researchers. Data also are collected on those who hold a baccalaureate or a master's in science or engineering. The data are maintained at the direction of Congress to provide an inventory of human capital for national prosperity and security, and a source of information for policy formulation by other agencies.

NSF's Science Resources Studies division oversees the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR), a biennial survey of a representative sample of those who have received doctorates in the United States in a science or engineering field.

In addition, NSF oversees the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), which is an annual population survey of individuals receiving doctorates that year in science or engineering. SED data are stored in a Doctoral Records File (DRF), from which the sample for the SDR can be pulled for longitudinal follow-ups and for replenishments and retirements every two years.

NSF also collects workforce-related data on individuals with bachelor's and master's degrees in science and engineering fields, as part of the biennial National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG) and the National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG).93 Data at all degree levels have been merged recently into a database called SESTAT, which is accessible from the Web site.

In addition to the surveys of individuals described thus far, NSF annually collects institutional-level data on enrollments and degrees from the baccalaureate and above in science and engineering at U.S. universities. These data are available in a database called CASPAR, which is accessible from the Web site.

The National Center for Education Statistics focuses on enrollments, degrees, faculty counts, and numerous other statistics on the status of the educational enterprise in the United States.94 The annual Digest of Education Statistics, available on their Web site, contains voluminous data. NCES also sponsors periodic longitudinal surveys that follow up on the work experiences of samples of selected cohorts of high school and college students.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides employment data and outlooks based primarily on data collected from employers and extrapolated into the future BLS data are not usually sorted by degree level or degree field, since the reporting burden on employers would be somewhat onerous.95 BLS is planning a national job vacancy survey in 1999 for the first time in this country.

Professional society data. The Computing Research Association (CRA) conducts an annual survey of Ph.D.-granting departments in computer science and computer engineering to ascertain enrollments, degrees, faculty size and salaries, as well as the placement of doctoral graduates as reported by departments.96

The Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies collects data on enrollments, degrees, and salaries of engineers at all degree levels.97

The American Society for Engineering Education surveyed the employment experiences of recent engineering doctorates as part of an NSF-funded CPST project on outcomes of doctorates.98 CPST also coordinated a comparable survey of computer science doctorates.99 The National Association of Colleges and Employers (formerly the College Placement Council) collects data from college and university placement/career centers covering job and salary offers made to new graduates, primarily at the baccalaureate level.100

The Council of Graduate Schools conducts an annual Survey of Graduate Enrollments, which includes data on applications to graduate schools, as well as enrollments and degrees granted.101

The International Association of Managerial Education collects data on information technology graduates from business schools.

Private sector data. Private data sources include Abbott, Langer & Associates,102 Computerworld,103 and Datamation.104 The first is a professional survey research organization that specializes in salary surveys of employers; the latter two organizations publish IT-related magazines and periodically survey their individual readers. These salary surveys are particularly interesting for a project such as this because they reflect the diversity, inconsistencies, and change among job position titles in organizations that employ IT workers.

Other data sources. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) is a trade association that conducts an annual compensation survey with the help of William M. Mercer, Inc.105 As with the private sector surveys, the ITAA survey includes paragraph-length descriptions of an extensive inventory of more than 80 IT and related job descriptions.

As part of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program of the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California, Los Angeles, data have been collected annually since 1966 from freshmen in the U.S. on their intended majors and career plans 106 The American Council on Education is a sponsor. Periodic, longitudinal follow-ups of selected cohorts have been performed as research funding has allowed.

What Are the Limitations of Existing Data on the IT Workforce?

Numerous and serious problems with the supply and demand data make it difficult to establish a sound basis for making policy decisions. Much of the data coming from non-federal sources exhibit the following problems:



Copyright © 2004 Computing Research Association. All Rights Reserved. Questions? E-mail:

Document last modified on Wednesday, 04-Apr-2012 06:51:20 PDT.