STEM Pay and Job Security

In the twenty-first century, workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the STEM disciplines) will drive our nation’s innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas, and creating new companies and industries, according to a recent report from the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future.

In 2010, about 1 of every 18 American workers (7.6 million workers) worked in STEM occupations. STEM jobs have grown three times as fast as non-STEM jobs over the last 10 years. This growth in STEM occupations is projected to continue at a rate well above the average for other jobs. From 2008 to 2018, the projected rate is 17.0 percent, compared to 9.8 percent for non-STEM occupations.
To take advantage of these opportunities, an undergraduate degree is beneficial. More than two-thirds of STEM workers have at least an undergraduate degree, compared to less than one-third of non-STEM workers (with the physical and life sciences having the highest-educated workforce). STEM-educated workers are also less likely to experience joblessness.
The benefits of STEM education and employment are not equally distributed across the STEM education levels and occupations. Interestingly, the highest earnings premium for STEM workers is for those with less than a college degree. Also interesting, almost two-thirds of the 9.3 million workers with a STEM undergraduate degree work in a non-STEM job. Yet even these STEM degree holders enjoy an earnings premium relative to other college graduates. The larger payoff, however, comes when a STEM major goes on to work in a STEM job, as their earnings (all else equal) are about 20 percent higher than those of non-STEM majors working in non-STEM jobs. The largest earnings advantage goes to STEM workers as a whole, who command 26 percent more, on average, than workers in non-STEM fields, a six percentage point increase since 1994.