7 Things to Know if You’re Thinking About a STEM Career

It’s probably common knowledge that jobs in science, technology, engineering and math often pay well, and that many STEM fields are growing. But did you know that seven of the 10 largest STEM jobs involve computers, or that the highest-paying STEM occupation is a petroleum engineer?

Those aren’t the only surprising insights from the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data on occupational employment and wages. Here are seven things you should know if you’re considering a STEM career:

1) The average wage for all STEM occupations is $85,570, nearly double the average for all occupations ($47,230).

Only five out of the 100 STEM jobs have wages below the average for all occupations. Want to know which jobs are on the list? You can find them here, but note that there’s no single standard definition for these occupations.

chart showing highest-paying STEM jobs

2) Seven out of the 10 largest STEM occupations are related to computers.

Some of the largest are applications software developers (686,470), computer user support specialists (563,540) and computer systems analysts (528,320).

3) There were over 8.3 million STEM jobs as of May 2014, representing about 6.2 percent of total U.S. employment.

This is up from 7.6 million jobs in 2010. While STEM jobs currently make up only a relatively small portion of total U.S. employment, they’re growing more rapidly than non-STEM jobs.

4) Several of the U.S. industries with the highest mean wages are STEM-related.

These include software publishers, computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing, scientific research and development services, oil and gas extraction, computer systems design and related services, and other information services (which includes internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals). When looking at specific jobs, the highest-paying STEM occupations are petroleum engineers, with an annual mean wage of $147,520, physicists ($117,300) and several management-related jobs.

5) Some STEM jobs are more concentrated in specific geographic areas.

For example, as a percentage of total state employment, Massachusetts and Virginia had about 2.9 and 2.6 times as many systems software developers, respectively, as the U.S. as a whole. Both of those states also are among those with the highest percent of STEM employment. At the metropolitan area level, systems software developers could be found at concentrations nearly 10 times the U.S. average in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, and the Framingham, Massachusetts, NECTA division.

Map of the United States showing which states have the highest concentrations of STEM employment.

6) Wages for specific STEM jobs can differ greatly in different industries.

For example, computer systems analysts who work in motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing might make $58,940 a year, but computer systems analysts working in support activities for mining might make $118,770.

7) Wages for specific STEM jobs also vary by geography.

Besides having a high concentration of systems software developers, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, also was the highest paying metropolitan area for this job, with an annual mean wage of $138,410. Wages for systems software developers in other metropolitan areas ranged from $52,720 in Lafayette, Louisiana, to $124,220 in the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, California, metropolitan division. At the state level, wages for this job ranged from $68,580 in North Dakota to $124,070 in California.

For more info on specific occupations, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Need help finding a job? Visit your local American Job Center or explore our resources online.

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