Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has been the focus of much research and discussion as a catalyst for innovation and economic growth. With recent publications from the Brookings Institution and the National Center for Education Statistics, new research supports the idea that a STEM degree pays off – both in salary and rate of employment.
The Brookings report, “Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills,” used labor market information to analyze the skill requirements and duration of online job postings, and found that job openings for STEM positions take an average of 50 days to fill – compared to the 33-day average for non-STEM jobs. In particular, advertisements for health science and information technology jobs within the STEM sphere were advertised 23 and 15 days longer, respectively, than non-STEM jobs, and professional STEM vacancies are staying vacant longer on average than before the recession. The study’s author suggests that these indicators show a short supply of STEM skills in the labor market despite clear demand, particularly in tech hubs such as Seattle, San Jose and San Francisco.
The report also pointed to an important variation that is often lost in data aggregation – STEM jobs requiring less than a bachelor’s degree were harder to fill than non-STEM jobs that required a bachelor’s degree. At the high school level, the hardest job to fill are STEM-intensive health care practitioners, such as medical and lab technicians, jobs that often pay in excess of $20/hour.
“These job openings data provide new evidence that, post-recession, STEM skills, particularly those associated with high levels of educational attainment, are in high demand among employers,” author Jonathan Rothwell wrote. “Meanwhile, job seekers possessing neither STEM knowledge nor higher education face extraordinary levels of competition for a scarce number of jobs.”
Another report, released this week from the National Center for Education Statistics, further supported the economic value of STEM skills through a four-year longitudinal study of baccalaureate graduates and their rates of employment.
As part of its ongoing “Baccalaureate and Beyond” data collection series, NCES surveyed a nationally representative sample of graduates who completed their bachelor’s degrees during the 2007-2008 school year. Of the 17,000-person sample, about 16 percent were STEM majors (including computer science, engineering, biological/physical sciences, math and agricultural sciences) and 83.8 percent were non-STEM majors.
In general, the data show that STEM degree-holders generally fared better than non-STEM degree holders in nearly every way including overall employment, number of jobs held since graduation, percentage of months spent unemployed, and average salary. Important to note, the NCES survey, unlike the Brookings report, classifies health sciences as a non-STEM degree, yet still STEM fares better overall. However, even with its NCES classification as a non-STEM degree, health sciences graduates still outperform their non-STEM peers in almost every category.
To learn more about how STEM fits into the CTE enterprise, check out our issue paper, “CTE is Your STEM Strategy”.
Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate