Employment in STEM

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While occupations in the science, technology, engineering and math—or STEM—fields may not make up a huge portion of total jobs, those positions are growing quickly.1

  • STEM jobs make up about 6.2 percent of all employment, or 8.3 million positions.
  • STEM positions grew at a rate of just under 10 percent from May 2010 to May 2014 while total employment across all occupations grew by 6 percent over the same period.
  • From 2012 to 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that STEM employment will grow about 13 percent compared to a projected total job growth rate of 11 percent. For example, software developers—both in applications and systems—are predicted to have more than 350,000 positions open up by 2022. Those positions paid a median annual wage of $97,035 in May 2013.
  • Computer occupations make up the largest category of STEM positions, with 3.7 million people employed in this category. Seven of the 10 largest STEM occupations are related to computers.

STEM jobs are a bigger part of the workforce in some states or localities than in others.

  • In Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington state, at least 9 percent of total employment falls under a STEM category. That’s compared to just 3 percent of jobs in Mississippi and Nevada.
  • The importance of STEM jobs to a local economy can be even more dramatic. For example, more than 1 in 5 jobs in the metropolitan area of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., are in the STEM field. In Huntsville, Ala., 16.7 percent of jobs are STEM positions and the average salary for those jobs is $91,900 (compared to an average annual wage of $51,730 for all occupations in the metro area).

Not all STEM positions are created equal. Wages for STEM positions can depend heavily on which industry they are in or where they are located.

  • The average annual wage for STEM jobs is $85,570—nearly twice the wage for all occupations, or $47,230.
  • The mean wage for STEM positions in the oil and gas extraction industry is $128,310—the highest among all industries—compared to STEM positions in the office supplies, stationery and gift stores industry, which have the lowest mean wage at $35,110.
  • System software developers in the San Jose, Calif., metro area are paid an annual mean wage of $138,410. That same job in a different area, however, could pay a much different salary. For example, the same job title in Lafayette, La., pays more than 60 percent less—$52,720—and at the state level, wages for this job ranged from $68,580 in North Dakota to $124,070 in California in 2014.



1 There is no standard definition for occupations that fall under the STEM category. This brief uses classifications from the U.S. Department of Labor, which include computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering, and life and physical science occupations; managerial and postsecondary teaching occupations related to these functional areas; and sales occupations requiring scientific or technical knowledge at the postsecondary level. Unless otherwise noted, all data throughout this brief is from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics – May 2014 (http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm).