17 October 2022

Workforce Survey Summary Results Released

Lee Anne Willson Iowa State University

The AAS Demographics Committee's Report on the 2021 Workforce Survey

We polled 50% of the AAS membership, and 56% responded, thus 28% of the total AAS membership (1,808 members).

Many of the questions were the same as were asked on previous surveys, allowing us to look at changes over time. There were new questions related to the COVID pandemic, with how well astronomers are prepared for alternative career paths for the Beyond Astronomy Academe Task Force, and about astronomers’ salaries and cost of living situation for the Committee on Employment.

For the repeated questions, we saw a continuation of most trends: an increasing fraction of the membership is in categories beyond Caucasian and male. The main predictors of salary are having had a postdoc and working outside of academia; gender no longer shows up as a significant predictor of salary.

Responses to the COVID questions reflect general experience: there were a lot of different approaches to dealing with the shift to mostly online instruction, particularly when it came to managing exams and grades. There was significant erosion in the contact between faculty and students, even where extra effort went into finding ways to stay connected. Many graduate students felt their progress had been slowed, but most undergraduates did not. Faculty stated they weren’t able to teach as much material in a course as pre-pandemic, and noted increased problems with attendance. Only 3% of those responding took time off due to having COVID, but 11% took time off to care for someone who did have COVID.

We found a result that may be surprising. In response to the question of whether people felt their salary levels were adequate, most said yes, even though most respondents felt they were living in a high-cost-of-living area. When asked if salary had been a factor in refusing a job, leaving a job, or leaving the field, most said no, with refusing a job as the most frequently selected answer at 12%.

Read the Report

Sections in the Summary Report

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • Educational Experience and Employment Status
  • Employment: Postdocs and Careers
  • AAS Members: Demographics and Family
  • AAS Members: Effects of COVID
  • Appendix A: Challenges Facing the Field of Astronomy
  • Appendix B: Additional Tables, Queries from the Beyond Academe Task Force and the Society's Committee on Employment