Despite massive layoffs, STEM jobs are still hot; here’s where

Even with thousands of recent layoffs at Google, Microsoft and other tech firms, the long-term job outlook for engineers and others in STEM careers remains robust, both globally and in the US.

STEM jobs in the US are expected to grow nearly 11% by 2031, more than double other occupations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Also, the median annual wage for STEM occupations is currently more than double that of non-STEM jobs, reaching $95,420 in 2021, compared to $40,120.  About 6% of all US jobs are in the STEM sector, with 9.9 million STEM jobs in 2021, compared to 158 million overall.

Against that long-term jobs growth and income trend, personal-finance website WalletHub recently ranked the best and worst 100 metro areas in the US for STEM professionals. The study was based on 21 key metrics grouped by three key dimensions: professional opportunities, STEM-friendliness and quality of life. The 21 metrics were divided across 100 total points so that the three dimensions each made up 33.33 points out of 100.

The data set WalletHub used ranges from per-capita job openings for a STEM grad in a given city to median wage growth for STEM workers.

list of 10 best and 10 worst in wallethub study

Many of the results confirm popular conventional attitudes that Seattle, Austin, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco and San Jose are good metro areas for STEM professionals, but there are some potentially surprising findings as well.

 For example, one potential surprising data point is that the highest STEM employment growth  is a tie between three metro areas, one in Texas and two in Florida. Those are McAllen-Edinburgh-Mission in Texas and Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach in Florida and Lakeland-Winter Haven in Florida. 

One metric, math performance, showed Springfield, Massachusetts, in a tie for highest with Worcester, Mass, and Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.  But the surprise was that Springfield, Mass., was ranked 99th in STEM employment growth.

Many areas in the US not far outside of major STEM hubs do poorly in STEM growth and other metrics such as Oxnard, Calif., ranked 84th overall in the study, while Los Angeles is ranked 26th. And, San Jose and San Francisco are ranked fifth and sixth overall while Stockton is ranked 91st.

The highest annual median wage for STEM workers is in Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina, at $106,932, adjusted for cost of living, which is 2.5 times higher than in Honolulu, the metro area with the lowest at $42,483. Albuquerque, New Mexico, ranked first in housing affordability, while ranking 28th overall in the study. 

Also, San Jose has the highest average monthly earnings for new STEM workers at $14,904 and San Jose has the highest share of all workers in STEM at more than 22%.

WalletHub took the results a little further, even asking experts in the STEM jobs why STEM grads do not ultimately work in a STEM occupation.

In response to that query, Mary Blair-Loy, a professor in sociology at University of California, San Diego, said many STEM jobs are not conducive to work-life balance. She said long-term data show that 43% of women and 23% of men leave full time STEM jobs after having their first child.

“Women STEM professionals generally have high levels of work devotion, but those with children feel overloaded and not fully appreciated,” Blair-Loy said.  She also said highly-educated STEM professional can command higher pay in other industries, such as finance, which may be more important as workers become parents and have children to support.

While the recent layoffs at Google and Microsoft and other companies might be distressing to young engineers, WalletHub said its results still stand even though the layoffs came after the study was conducted.  Despite the layoffs, the US keeps adding more jobs, including in tech. “The outlook is positive in the STEM industry,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez via email. “We have to keep in mind that because these layoffs happen at big name companies, they get a lot of coverage and tend to alter the perspective of the general public.”

“The general trends is that STEM workers are still and will continue to be in fierce demand for the foreseeable future,” Gonzalez added. “STEM professions are expected to grow by more than 10% by 2031, not to mention that they are significantly better remunerated. Thus, the future looks bright for STEM graduates and they should not have any trouble finding a job.”

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