With STEM jobs projected to grow 10.8% between 2021 and 2031, compared to 4.9% for other occupations, a new study gives insight into 2023’s Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals.

What is STEM

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. These four fields emphasize innovation, problem-solving, and critical thinking. And together they make up a popular and fast-growing industry. Most STEM workers use computers and other technology in their day-to-day jobs.

To determine the best markets for STEM workers, WalletHub compared the 100 most significant metro areas across 21 key metrics. The data set ranges from per-capita job openings for STEM graduates to median wage growth for STEM workers.

Here are the findings as well as commentary from industry leaders.

Best Metro Areas for STEM ProfessionalsWorst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals
1. Seattle, WA91. Stockton, CA
2. Austin, TX92. Winston, NC
3. Boston, MA93. Tulsa, OK
4. Atlanta, GA94. Bridgeport, CT
5. San Francisco, CA95. North Port, FL
6. San Jose, CA96. Augusta, GA
7. Pittsburgh, PA97. Memphis, TN
8. Minneapolis, MN98. Little Rock, AR
9. Madison, WI99. Cape Coral, FL
10. Sacramento, CA100. Jackson, MS

Best vs. Worst

  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has the most per-capita overall STEM job openings for STEM graduates, 298.68, which is 38 times higher than in Deltona, Florida, the metro area with the fewest at 7.87.
  • San Jose, California, has the highest average monthly earnings for new employees in STEM industries, $14,904, which is 3.3 times higher than in Little Rock, Arkansas, the metro area with the lowest at $4,570.
  • San Jose, California, has the highest share of all workers in STEM occupations, 22.10 percent, which is 11.2 times higher than in McAllen, Texas, the metro area with the lowest at 1.97 percent.
  • Raleigh, North Carolina, has the highest median annual wage for STEM workers (adjusted by cost of living), $106,932, which is 2.5 times higher than in Honolulu, the metro area with the lowest at $42,483.

Work-Life Balance

According to recent census figures, the majority of STEM grads do not ultimately work in a STEM occupation. Why is that the case?

“There are several reasons. Many STEM jobs are not conducive to work-life balance. Research using longitudinal (over-time) data on a nationally representative sample of STEM professionals finds that 43% of women and 23% of men leave full-time STEM employment after having their first child. 12 percent of new mothers leave STEM for full-time employment elsewhere, and most of those say that the reasons were ‘family-related.’  Women STEM professionals generally have high levels of work devotion, but those with children often feel overloaded and not fully appreciated. Other reasons include the higher pay that some highly-educated STEM professionals can command in other industries, e.g., finance. This may be particularly important as people become parents and have children to support,” according to Mary Blair-Loy, professor and interim director of graduate studies, sociology, at the University of California San Diego.

“Recent census figures show a majority of graduates in STEM-related fields do not ultimately work in STEM occupations. In my opinion, a cause for this is rooted in one of the cornerstones of most STEM-related fields, problem-solving. STEM graduates have been trained to use critical thinking skills to solve complex issues. These graduates become familiar with using their training to innovate and solve issues that come before them. Employers in non-STEM fields seek problem solvers and provide attractive options for these new graduates to consider. Many STEM graduates gravitate to fields that allow them to diversify their careers while utilizing their problem-solving skills. As these graduates show a talent for helping a business solve issues or create growth opportunities, they advance to positions of increased responsibility in the organization. This leads to creating role models for new STEM-related field graduates and the cycle continues,” according to Harold Wright,  STEM instructor, at The University of Alabama.

Ways to Increase Women, Minorities in STEM Fields

“Employers can reduce barriers for involved caregivers to participate as involved employees with more humane schedules and set up ramp-up tracks for those who have taken time out of the labor market for family or other reasons to re-enter their STEM fields. Women are more likely than men to work part-time, but part-time STEM jobs often come with penalties, such as being pulled away from the most highly valued work tasks. So, employers can review work task assignments and make sure that part-timers and caregivers are not being given less valued assignments and tasks than full-timers and those without caregiving responsibilities,” according to Blair-Loy,

“The solution to this challenge is systemic because we start to lose our girls early in the educational process. In some cases, girls shift from doing well in STEM classes to doing poorly as early as late elementary and middle school. STEM curriculum needs to be exemplified in a broader range of fields. For example, STEM is in art and design, nutrition, medical support fields, etc. We need to move away from more conventional expressions of STEM expertise to include a wide variety of stem examples. By doing so, a broader range of learners, including girls, will be more likely to see themselves as future STEM professionals. Beyond that, STEM industries need to make themselves more comfortable and welcoming places for women. From human resource policies to work culture, we have a lot of work to do as a society to make the STEM workplace welcoming,” said Catherine Snyder, Ph.D., MAT, MBA, NBCT,  chair, and associate professor, Department of Education at Clarkson University.

Rising Inflation’s Affect on STEM Field

“One of the things I have noticed is that the demand for STEM workers has impacted education in two different, yet related, ways. First, undergraduate students (and graduate students) who are majoring in STEM fields may be wooed away from completing their degrees because there are currently good-paying jobs that they can get now rather than waiting until graduation. As costs rise, including the cost of higher education, the need to earn more money is enticing. Yet the same is true for those who are educators in higher education. I know numerous former faculty (tenured faculty) who left academia for industry because the pay differential was substantial. In other words, a tenured faculty member within a high-demand field can more than double their annual salary by leaving academia. Thus, retention of talent is a problem within institutions of higher education,” said Susan Ramlo, Ph.D., professor at The University of Akron; and president, of SueZQ, LLC.

To view the full report and your metro area’s rank, please visit here.

Source: WalletHub