Mapping Maryland’s Comparative Advantages: Scientific R&D

Maryland and science go hand-in-hand. Maryland’s highly ranked universities like the University of Maryland College Park, the Johns Hopkins University, and Towson University produce valuable research and graduate thousands of STEM graduates each year. Maryland is also home to numerous federal research institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the FDA. But how does Maryland’s scientific focus vary across the state?

Scientific R&D Across Maryland

In our last blog post in this series, we looked at what a location quotient is and how we can use them to find Maryland’s comparative advantages. Maryland’s location quotient for Scientific R&D Services is 2.7, which means there are 2.7 times more people per capita employed in this industry in Maryland than nationwide. In fact, this industry has the highest location quotient of any in Maryland. Looking at regional variations within the state helps us understand what’s driving this industry. The map below shows how the location quotient for this industry varies by county.

Mapping Maryland’s Comparative Advantages

Map showing the location quotients for Scientific R&D Services for each county in Maryland.

As evident from the map above, Scientific R&D Services are concentrated in a handful of counties. Howard County has the highest location quotient in the state; there are 9.7 times more people employed in Scientific R&D Services per capita in the county than there are nationwide. Frederick County and Montgomery County have the second- and third-highest location quotients. Of note is that nine counties (two in Western Maryland and seven on the Eastern Shore) are missing a location quotient for this industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suppresses finer industry-level data in many counties to protect sensitive employment information.

Interestingly, although the presence of several research institutions and hospitals would suggest a high location quotient for Scientific R&D Services, the location quotient in Baltimore City is exactly 1.0 and the location quotient for Baltimore County is 0.6. This is because universities and hospitals are often classified under different NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) codes, and research conducted at those institutions will be classified differently than by a private company.

The most likely explanation for the variation in Scientific R&D Services is the presence of military installations and defense contractors, a topic RESI has examined in past blog posts. Military installations and other federal labs fund massive amounts of government contracting. Much of this contracting involves R&D supporting the missions of local military installations. For example, local contractors near NAS Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County support the development of unmanned aerial systems. Contractors near Fort Detrick in Frederick County frequently support the installation’s biomedical research mission.

Similarly, Howard County is home to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the nation’s largest University Affiliated Research Center. Aberdeen Proving Ground is located in Harford County, and Montgomery County, with the third highest location quotient, benefits not only from the presence of military installations such as NSWC Carderock, but also from the location of the National Institutes of Health. The Trump administration has expressed a desire to increase defense funding, and doing will likely boost the presence of Scientific R&D Services employment in the state.

Occupations in Scientific R&D

To get a sense of the people employed by this industry in Maryland, RESI used our proprietary Predictive Regional Occupational Matrix (PROM) tool to look at the occupations impacted by Scientific R&D Services, as well as the education required by these jobs. To measure education, RESI uses job zones as classified by O*NET OnLine. O*NET classifies occupations as belonging to one of five job zones, reflecting the degree and experience needed to obtain the job. The following table shows how job zones are organized:

Job Zone Preparation Needed
Example Degree/Experience
5 Extensive Doctors Doctorate’s and Master’s with experience
4 Considerable Teachers Bachelor’s and Master’s
3 Medium Electricians Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and apprenticeships
2 Some Tellers Some on-the-job training
1 Little to No Waiters Minimal on-the-job training

 

The table below shows the ten occupations with the most employment in the Scientific R&D Services sector in 2015, the last full year data was available for. The table also provides the job zone for each occupation.

SOC Code Occupation Employment in 2015 Job Zone
19-1042 Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists  3,139 5
19-4021 Biological Technicians  1,662 4
19-1021 Biochemists and Biophysicists  1,311 5
11-9121 Natural Sciences Managers  1,305 5
19-1029 Biological Scientists, All Other  1,044 5
15-1133 Software Developers, Systems Software  1,038 4
19-2031 Chemists  831 4
19-1022 Microbiologists  805 5
15-2041 Statisticians  802 5
43-6014 Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive  709 3

 

Of the 33,087 people employed in the industry statewide, roughly ten percent are medical scientists. Biology-related occupations are also key to the industry, with Biological Technicians, Biochemists and Biophysicists, and Biological Scientists being the second-, third-, and fifth-most common occupations in the industry. Of note is that Scientific R&D Services employment does not just employ scientists. The industry relies on over 1,000 software developers and over 700 Secretaries and Administrative Assistants.

Of note is that this is an extremely educated industry; 84 percent of the total jobs in Scientific R&D Services are classified in job zone 4 or 5, meaning they require considerable or extensive preparation. In addition to Maryland’s military installations, Maryland’s universities are critical to the long-term success of this industry as they train the workforce required by companies in the state.

Now that we’ve looked at some regional variations, it’s time to take a deeper dive into some of the local drivers of employment. For our next blog post, we’ll focus on Frederick County, the county with the second-highest location quotient for Scientific R&D Services. We’ll look at what industries drive employment in Frederick County, see how employment has trended over time, and what is supporting strong local industries such as Scientific R&D Services.

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Michael Siers
Michael Siers is a senior economist at the Regional Economics Studies Institute. He is charged with designing qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to better understand impacts to the Maryland and regional economies. Michael's posts focus on RESI projects.