Home | About | Members | Resources | Comments | Search

Comments | Additions/Updates

Search:

Quick Links

Current Topics

Introduction

Research Resources

Organizations and Societies

Professional Resources

Educational Resources

 

 

 


Labor Market Trends For Health Physicists Through 2000

Prepared by:

Science/Engineering Education Division™

 

August 1995

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT TRENDS, 1983-1994
Total Number of Degrees and Total Employment
Job Openings and New Graduates

CURRENT LABOR MARKET SITUATION
Health Physicist Salaries
Placement of New Graduates
Health Physics Society Employment Exchange
DOE Contractor Laboratories and Operations Facilities

FUTURE LABOR MARKET TRENDS
Future Employment Trends
Future Education Trends
Future Job Openings and Supply of New Graduates

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

ENDNOTES

 

 

 

LIST OF FIGURES

     

  1. Trends in Health Physicists Employment, 1983-1993
  2. Total Health Physics Degrees and Supply of Graduates Available for Employment, 1983-1994
  3. Past Average Annual New Graduate Health Physicists Labor Supply per 100 Job Openings
  4. Average Annual 1994 Starting Salaries for B.S. Level Health Physicists and Other S&Es, 1994
  5. Future Demand for New Health Physics Graduates
  6. Total Health Physics Enrollments and Degrees, 1983-1994
  7. Projected Average Annual Job Openings and New Available Supply of Health Physicists, 1994-2000

     

 

 

 

LIST OF TABLES

 

Table 1. Employment of Health Physicists, 1991 and 1993
 

INTRODUCTION

Throughout the latter half of the 1980s and the early 1990s, a large number of employers in both the private and public sectors were concerned about the availability of an adequate supply of qualified health physicists. This concern was exacerbated by a substantial increase in activities related to health and safety and to environmental restoration and waste management coupled with a general decline in the number of new health physics graduates available for civilian, non-medical employment. Current and scheduled future cut-backs in government funding for nuclear-related activities have generated questions regarding future demand.

This report reviews the labor market trends for health physicists using data on employment, degrees, job openings, supply of new graduates, and salaries. This review is then used as a basis for assessing future employment needs and new graduate supply to provide an outlook for future labor market conditions through 2000.

 

 

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT TRENDS, 1983-1993

Total Number of Degrees and Total Employment

Between 1983 and 1993, employment of health physicists increased by over 40 percent to a level of 4,500.1 (See Figure 1.) The rise in employment between 1991 and 1993 was the largest 2-year increase over the past decade. This employment is for professional civilian, non-medical positions in the United States. During the same 10-year period, the total number of new graduates from health physics programs (bachelor's plus master,s plus doctorates) varied considerably, declining to its lowest level in 1989, but increasing considerably in 1993. In 1994, another increase resulted in the largest number of degrees since 1986. Figure 2 indicates the trends in the total number of health physics degrees and in the supply of new graduates available for civilian, non-medical employment.2

For 1983 through 1989, an average of 296 degrees were awarded annually; however, for the 4-year period, 1990-1994, the annual average dropped to 275 degrees or a 7 percent decline.3 The number of new graduates available for civilian, non-medical employment declined from an annual average of 171 for 1983-1989 to an annual average of 155 for 1990-1994, a decline of over 9 percent.

The relatively large employment increases compared with the declining supply of new graduates during 1983-1994 provide indications of the potential inadequacy of the supply of new graduates in health physics during this time period.

 

Job Openings and New Graduates

Job openings for new graduates result from growth in employment and from replacement needs for health physicists who retire, die, leave the labor force, or switch occupations (e.g., move from health physics into business management or sales work). While some of the health physics job openings are filled by workers moving in from other scientific or engineering occupations or by persons returning to health physics, most are filled by new graduates. Actual labor force movements are complex and detailed data on occupational mobility and job openings do not exist. However, net replacement needs (the number of replacement jobs to be filled by new graduates) can be estimated using methods developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as adjusted by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.4

For 1983-1993, estimated job openings (for growth and replacement) averaged 243 positions annually5 while the annual average number of graduates available for civilian, non-medical employment was only about 160. On average, there were approximately 66 graduates available for each 100 job openings. Dividing 1983-1993 into two time periods indicates a growing inadequacy of supply of new graduates during the decade. For 1983-1989, the average was 91 graduates per 100 job openings but this decreased substantially to an average of 45 for 1990-1993. (See Figure 3.) Thus, the data indicate a small inadequacy of supply of new graduates during the 1980s, increasing to a substantial inadequacy in the new graduate supply in the early 1990s.

Another important indicator of labor market conditions is salary trends. The evidence of an insufficient supply of new graduates in the early 1990s is reinforced by the finding that starting salaries for new B.S. and M.S. health physicists increased fairly rapidly between late 1989 and the early 1990s. By late 1992, the average starting salaries for new bachelor,s health physicists was $33,900 and for new master,s graduates, $37,600.6

 

 

CURRENT LABOR MARKET SITUATION

Health Physicist Salaries

Surveys of starting salaries revealed, that in the fall of 1994 the average starting salary for new bachelor,s health physicists was $34,000, only $100 higher than in 1992. This salary was slightly less than that for the new bachelor,s nuclear engineers, who like health physicists are primarily employed in positions related to the nuclear industry.7 However, as Figure 4 shows, the 1994 average starting salary for new bachelor,s health physicists exceeded considerably that for most other science fields.8

In 1994, at the master,s degree level, average starting salaries for new graduates in health physics was $37,700, slightly lower than for new nuclear engineering graduates but higher than all science fields except for computer sciences.9

 

Placement of New Graduates

Contacts with 14 university and college health physics programs during the early summer of 1994 and 1995 revealed that in most instances, as in 1993, almost all of their graduates seeking employment had obtained jobs; this was especially true for those with graduate degrees. It does appear, as mentioned by several schools, that a somewhat larger number of bachelor,s graduates were going on to graduate school. Also, there was virtually no recruiting on campuses, and successful job searches were taking longer than in the past.

 

Health Physics Society Employment Exchange

Contact with Health Physics Society staff responsible for monitoring employment placement activities at the society,s national meetings continue to reveal what appears to be a lessening of available job opportunities. At the 1994 annual meeting, the job placement service had over 120 resumes submitted and some 40 jobs posted by employers. In comparison, at the most recent meeting in July 1995, about 135 job resumes were posted and only 21 organizations were seeking prospective employees. It should be noted that there have been no jobs posted by nuclear utilities during the past four years.

 

 

DOE Contractor Laboratories and Operations Facilities

In the late spring and early summer of 1994, communication with a number of large DOE contractor-operated facilities revealed that the need for various engineering and scientific specialties, including health physicists, was very selective and down considerably from the early 1990s. There was very little active recruiting of new health physics graduates; primarily persons with experience or those with graduate degrees were sought where needed. In some instances, because of proposed changes in missions and redirection in funding, there was a freeze on hiring new personnel although vacancies did exist.

 

 

FUTURE LABOR MARKET TRENDS

 

 

Future Employment Trends

Health physicists are employed in a wide variety of nuclear-related activities. As Table 1 reveals, in 1993 (the most recent year for which detailed data are available), over 80 percent of the employment continued to be concentrated in four segments--waste management and decommissioning, reactor operations and maintenance, government, and universities. For the most recent 2-year period, 1991-1993, by far the fastest growing segment was waste management and decommissioning which increased its employment of health physicists by over 90 percent. Reactor operations and maintenance which had grown during the 1980s has declined since the early 1990s.

Overall, current estimates indicate a decline of 10 percent in nuclear-related engineering and scientist employment between 1994 and 2000.10 It is anticipated that almost all of this employment decline will occur in DOE-funded activities. The impact on health physicist employment is expected to also result in a 10 percent decline for these personnel; most of this decline is projected to occur during the latter part of this period.

 
Table 1. Employment of Health Physicists, 1991 and 1993
(Excludes Medical Establishments)
     
Primary Segment 1991 1993
Fuel Cycle, Front End 50 80
Waste Management and Decommissioning 280 520
Reactor Operations and Maintenance 740 710
Reactor, Facility and Instrument Design 120 160
Health Physics and Industrial Safety 150 130
Non-University Research and Development 150 150
Weapons Development 200 210
Government 1,770 1,940
University 430 470
Miscellaneous 160 100
     
TOTAL 4,050 4,470

 

From 1994 through 2000, the anticipated decline in the number of health physics positions is expected to be only partly offset by job openings created by attrition of health physicists who retire, switch occupations, etc. The replacement needs due to attrition are expected to generate a net annual demand for new graduates ranging from 220 down to about 50 over the period. (See Figure 5). The replacement needs are estimated using two replacement rates. The lower replacement rate used in making these estimates (3.5 percent) is a slightly higher rate than was used for estimating attrition over the previous decade. The higher replacement rate (4.5 percent) would result in more job openings and may occur because of factors particularly relevant to the health physicist work force (e.g., an aging population).

 

 

Future Education Trends

During the period 1983 to 1994, total enrollments in health physics programs (undergraduate plus graduate programs) peaked in 1984, declined to its lowest level in 1988 and then increased steadily to its highest level ever (1,129 enrollees) in 1994. (See Figure 6). During the same period, as shown previously, the total number of health physics degrees awarded also peaked in 1984, declined to its lowest levels between 1990-1992, and rose sharply in 1993. Based on recent estimates of trends in all bachelor,s degrees in science and engineering for the period 1994-2000, it is anticipated that total health physics degrees will decline from 302 in 1993 to an annual average of approximately 275 in the 1994-2000 period. Using estimates for the most recent years of the supply of new graduates available for civilian, non-medical employment, it appears that the average annual number of graduates available for employment will decrease somewhat to 160 for the same 1994-2000 period.

 

 

Future Job Openings and Supply of New Graduates

Currently, the projected employment decline from 1994 to 2000 means that virtually all job openings for new graduates during this period will result from replacement needs. Figure 7 shows job openings for new graduates at two different attrition rates because data on actual attrition and replacement needs are not available--a lower rate of 3.5 percent and a higher rate of 4.5 percent as indicated previously.

For the entire period 1994-2000, projected job openings compared with projected available supply of new graduates indicates a substantial oversupply at the lower attrition level but a much smaller potential oversupply at the higher attrition level (i.e., an estimated ratio of 163 new graduates available per 100 job openings versus 113 graduates per 100 jobs openings). For the current short-term period, 1994-1996, the labor market appears to be much more balanced, with even a modest shortfall if the higher attrition rate occurs. However, for 1997-2000, a substantial oversupply appears possible at both the lower and higher attrition rates. For example, even at the higher attrition rate, there is an estimated ratio of 150 new graduates available for employment per 100 job openings.

 

 

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

Employment opportunities for health physicists in both the private and public sectors increased rapidly during the latter part of the 1980s and early 1990s, and the supply of new graduates appeared insufficient to meet the demand. During the current period, there appears to be generally a balance between the demand for and the supply of new health physics graduates; however, there are indications that the number of positions available are far fewer than in prior years and successful job searches are taking longer.

Based on current trends, even at the higher rate of attrition, the number of potential job openings will be considerably less than the average available supply of new graduates during the last several years of the decade. Factors which could well affect the demand/supply situation include the future level of DOE funding available for environmental restoration, waste management, and health and safety issues, a greater than anticipated outflow from health physics positions, and a decision by health physics majors to switch to other fields thereby lessening the potential available supply.

 

 

ENDNOTES

 

  1. The employment data are from the biennial U.S. Department of Energy Survey of Occupational Employment in Nuclear-Related Activities conducted by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). The health physics employment includes health physics scientists and radiation protection engineers. The survey data are augmented by data from the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and by estimates of university faculty employment developed by ORISE staff.
  2. New graduates available for civilian, non-medical employment are estimated by subtracting from total new graduates those who join the military, undertake further study, accept medical-related employment, or accept foreign employment. Also excluded from the available new supply are the graduates from one institution who are already professionally employed while completing their academic programs.
  3. The enrollment and degree data, the placement data, and the data on the number of graduates available for U.S. civilian, non-medical employment are developed from the annual U.S. Department of Energy Survey of Health Physics/Radiation Protection Enrollments and Degrees conducted by ORISE.
  4. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Employment Projections, Total and Net Occupational Separations: A Report of Recent Research, Washington, D.C. 1991 and Assessing the Adequacy of Future Science and Engineering Degree Awards, Michael G. Finn and Joe G. Baker (Oak Ridge, TN: ORISE, 1992).
  5. Net annual attrition for the period 1983-1993 was estimated to be 3 percent.
  6. Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Salary Information for Nuclear Engineers and Health Physicists, October 1992 (Oak Ridge, TN: ORISE 1992).
  7. Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Salary Information for Nuclear Engineers and Health Physicists, October 1994 (Oak Ridge, TN: ORISE 1994).
  8. College Placement Council, Salary Survey, September 1994 (Bethlehem, PA, 1992).
  9. See footnotes (6) and (7).
  10. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science Education Programs, Scientist and Engineer Energy Employment Expected to Decline During 1994-2000 as DOE Funding is Reduced, Manpower Assessment Brief, No. 29, June 1995.

 

 

This report is based on work performed under Contract No. DE-AC05-76OR00033 between the U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

 

Prepared by:
Norman Seltzer
Analysis and Evaluation Programs
Science/Engineering Education Division
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-0117

Prepared for:
Office of Science Education Programs
Office of Nuclear Energy, Science, and Technology
U.S. Department of Energy
and
Office of Personnel
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

All opinions expressed in this paper are the authors, and do not necessarily reflect policies and views of the U.S. Department of Energy or Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

 

 

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) was established by the U.S. Department of Energy to undertake national and international programs in science and engineering education, training and management systems, energy and environment system, and medical sciences. ORISE and its programs are operated by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) through a management and operating contract with the U.S. Department of Energy. Established in 1946, ORAU is a consortium of 88 colleges and universities.

 

 

 

 

   Home | About | Members | Resources | Comments | Search

 

 

©2005 UMSHPS