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Many engineers lack a four-year degree

The news comes as some observers warn that the United States needs to focus more on training scientists and engineers.

More than one-fifth of U.S. science and engineering workers do not have a bachelor's degree, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation.

Of the more than 1 million workers without bachelor's degrees, 5 percent hold high school diplomas and 17 percent hold associate's degrees, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF) report, which was based on data from the April 2003 Current Population Survey.

This news comes as some observers warn that the United States needs to focus more on training scientists and engineers. The number of science and engineering doctorate degrees produced in the United States dropped from 27,300 in 1998 to 24,550 in 2002. And that figure may decline further, given that fewer educational visas are being issued and fewer international candidates are applying to graduate schools. Typically, international students earn a large portion of tech-related doctorates at U.S. schools.

On other hand, NSF data shows that graduate enrollment in science and engineering programs reached a record of nearly 455,400 students in fall 2002, up 6 percent from 2001. And a recent report from the Rand think tank found no evidence of shortages of scientific, technical, engineering and mathematics personnel in the U.S. work force since at least 1990. The report also said it did not find evidence that such shortages are on the horizon.

The new NSF report breaks out data for several specific fields: In computer and math science, holders of high school diplomas and associate's degrees make up approximately 40 percent of employees. In engineering, 20 percent of workers have less than a bachelor's degree. The proportions are much smaller (10 percent or less) for occupations in the life, physical and social sciences.

When it comes to academic qualifications, male and female science and engineering workers are represented in about the same proportions; that is, slightly more than one-fifth of men and women employed in those fields do not have bachelor's degrees.

The study also looked at engineering workers by race and ethnicity, finding that 6 percent for Asia-Pacific Islanders do not have bachelor's degrees, 34 percent of blacks do not, nor do 37 percent of Hispanics.