If you think research is only for scientists and people with PhDs, think again. Nearly half of all jobs in research do not require Bachelor's degrees or higher. But this is an industry with a workforce that is more highly educated than average. This industry owes much of its growth to connections with Oregon's research universities - University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Oregon Health and Science University, and Portland State University. Many owners and employees of research businesses have connections to the universities through prior work and education experiences. The symbiotic relationship between universities and research firms has helped this industry grow and has contributed to the success of many new and innovative businesses in Oregon and beyond.
Within research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences, research and development in biotechnology is its own unique industry. Biotechnology involves studying the use of microorganisms and cellular and biomolecular processes to develop or alter living or non-living materials. DNA research is a common example. The rest of physical, engineering, and life sciences research includes work in the sciences focused on agriculture, electronics, the environment, biology, botany, computers, chemistry, food, fisheries, forestry, geology, health, mathematics, medicine, oceanography, pharmacy, physics, veterinary medicine, and other allied subjects. Research and development in the social sciences and humanities is made up of firms conducting research in cognitive development, sociology, psychology, language, behavior, economics, politics, and other related fields.
|Research Employment Concentrated Near Research Universities|
|County||Location Quotient||2009 Covered Employment|
Physical, engineering, and life sciences research accounts for most research activity in Oregon. This type of research employed about 2,500 people in 2009, compared to fewer than 1,000 people employed in social sciences and humanities research. Average annual wages were also higher in physical, engineering, and life sciences research - at $76,646 - compared to an annual average of $45,450 in social sciences and humanities research.
Over the past nine years, Oregon research employment grew much faster than the all industry average (Graph 1). Between 2001 and 2009, covered employment in research increased 17 percent, while total private covered employment decreased 1 percent.
Strong employment growth is projected to continue for research over the next few years. Employment projections from the Oregon Employment Department forecasted an increase of 20 percent in research employment between 2008 and 2018. Total private employment was forecast to grow by 9 percent over the same time period.
Jobs in research that require a bachelor's degree are expected to account for about half of all new jobs created in research by 2018. The largest occupations in this group include mechanical engineers and social science research assistants.
|Largest Occupations in Scientific Research and Development Services in Oregon|
|Scientific Research and Development Services||All Industries|
|Occupation||2008 Employ-ment||2018 Employ-ment||Percent Growth||Growth Openings||Replace-ment Openings||Total Openings||2010 Average Annual Wage||Minimum Education Requirement|
|Social Science Research Assistants||201||241||20%||40||95||135||$38,839||Postsecondary|
|Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||162||194||20%||32||24||56||$43,676||Moderate OJT|
|Computer Software Engineers, Applications||114||137||20%||23||11||34||$89,532||Bachelor's|
|Psychologists, All Other||100||120||20%||20||31||51||$87,541||Master's|
|Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists||93||111||19%||18||21||39||NA||Doctorate|
|Social Scientists and Related Workers, All Other||86||103||20%||17||47||64||$71,668||Bachelor's|
|Life, Physical, and Social Science Technicians, All Other||81||97||20%||16||38||54||$42,318||Associate|
|Note: OJT = On-the-job training; moderate = less than one year. NA = Not available|
Grants are vital to the sustainability of many, but not all, research firms in Oregon. The biggest grantor to research firms in Oregon is the NIH. The NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting medical research. In 2010, the NIH awarded 676 grants worth $294 million in Oregon. The biggest recipients of NIH grants in Oregon were public research universities, which brought in more than $238 million in NIH grants last year. Private research firms received the next biggest chunk of NIH grant funding, with firms like Oregon Research Institute, Oregon Social Learning Center, and Oregon Center for Applied Science amongst others receiving grants.
Some research firms rely on grants from the NIH and others to sustain their business. Grants, by their very nature, can be unpredictable and susceptible to changes in the economy. Foundations and industry organizations can also change the focus of their funding, which can leave some research businesses without grants if they cannot adapt. While grants are vital to the sustainability of some businesses in this industry, many are selling their products and services on the open market. This not only provides an element of stability to businesses; it also provides more opportunities for economic and employment growth.
Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC) is located in Eugene. OSLC conducts research in behavioral psychology aimed at child development with an emphasis on the role that families play in child development. "Eugene is a hotbed of behavioral research," says Janet Chappell, Senior Administrator with OSLC.
The work of OSLC is primarily funded by competitive research grants from the NIH. Its primary products or services are published papers in professional journals in the field of childhood development. OSLC's location in Eugene, near the University of Oregon, is beneficial to its work. "Scientists in this field know each other really well; it's a fairly tight knit community," Chappell says. "The Psychology and Education Departments at the U of O, and Human Development and Family Sciences at OSU are where we connect the most. We have colleagues in a lot of universities."
OSLC employs scientists and research associates with PhDs, but don't think you need an advanced degree to work for OSLC. Chappell says the PhDs are a small portion of the workforce. "The biggest number of jobs are in data collection, interviewers who collect information, and data analysts." Workers with higher education have the best chance of getting hired at OSLC. "The most common requirement [for jobs] is a bachelor's degree," explains Chappell. "Some of our data analysts might have master's degrees. We have a lot of people just out of school."
These are desirable jobs, and as a result, OSLC attracts quality workers. "We typically attract a lot of job applicants," says Chappell. "A large portion of our employees have benefits and we have a nice benefit package." While the high wages, good benefit package, and nice work environment help attract workers, those aren't the main reasons people go to work for OSLC. "The work is interesting," explains Chappell. "It has a social purpose. What we learn can make our social situation better. We work with children and families, so we have a lot of family-oriented employees. We like to say it's science benefiting families."
Scientific research and development in Oregon encompasses a wide array of research activities, from agriculture and biotechnology to psychology. These are often good jobs with high pay, a real benefit to Oregon's economy.
This article was originally written by Mike Meyers, former Workforce Analyst, in October 2009.