Chart Book, May 2010

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)

STEM occupations are technical jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Although many possible definitions exist, the STEM group is defined here to include computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering, and life and physical science occupations, as well as managerial and postsecondary teaching occupations related to these functional areas, and sales occupations requiring scientific or technical knowledge at the postsecondary level. For more information on STEM occupations, see “Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations: a visual essay” in the May 2011 issue of Monthly Labor Review, available online at www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2011/05/ art1full.pdf.

Figure 7

Most of the largest STEM occupations were related to computers.

Employment and annual mean wages for the largest
STEM occupations, May 2010

  • Eight of the 10 largest STEM occupations were related to computers and information technology, including computer support specialists, applications software developers, and computer systems analysts.
  • Each of the 10 largest STEM occupations had employment of between 200,000 and 600,000. By comparison, the largest occupation overall, retail salespersons, had employment of nearly 4.2 million— more than the 10 largest STEM occupations combined.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, the smallest STEM occupations included astronomers, with employment of 1,840; animal scientists (2,440); and agricultural engineers (2,520).
  • STEM occupations were typically high paying. All of the 10 largest STEM occupations had annual mean wages above the U.S. all-occupations mean of $44,410. The largest STEM occupation shown, computer support specialists, was also the lowest paying, with an annual mean wage of $49,930.

Figure 8

Nearly half of the 15,280 biomedical engineers in the United States were employed in three manufacturing industries.

Industry employment for biomedical engineers, May 2010>

  • Twenty-five percent of employment was in medical equipment and supplies manufacturing, and an additional 15 percent was in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing.
  • The average wage for biomedical engineers in May 2010 was $84,780.
  • Out of the six major industries that employed biomedical engineers, two of the industries—scientific research and development services and navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing—had above-average wages for the occupation, while the remaining four had below-average wages.

Figure 9

Nearly two out of every five medical scientists were employed in scientific research and development services.

Employment and annual mean wages for the largest occupations in scientific research and
development services, May 2010

  • Medical scientists, except epidemiologists, was the largest occupation in scientific research and development services, making up about 6 percent of industry employment. In contrast, this occupation made up less than 0.1 percent of overall employment. Thirty-seven percent of medical scientists were employed in the scientific research and development services industry.
  • Other large STEM occupations in this industry included a mix of computer-related occupations, such as software developers; engineering occupations, such as mechanical engineers; and life and physical science occupations, such as chemists and biological technicians.
  • The average wage in scientific research and development services was $81,350, reflecting both the high concentration of high-paying occupations in this industry and above-average wages for specific occupations. This industry had higher-than-average wages for each of the individual occupations in the chart, including those that were not STEM occupations.

Figure 10

STEM occupations were among the largest occupations in communications equipment manufacturing.

Employment and annual mean wages for the largest occupations in communications equipment
manufacturing, May 2010

  • The largest STEM occupations in communications equipment manufacturing were related to electronics or information technology and included such occupations as systems software developers and electrical engineers. The largest occupations in this industry also included general and operations managers and several production occupations.
  • The six STEM occupations shown in figure 10 made up about 21 percent of employment in communications equipment manufacturing. However, because of its low overall employment, communications equipment manufacturing accounted for a relatively low share of jobs in these occupations. For example, only 1.4 percent of systems software developers were employed in this industry.
  • Although wages among the largest individual occupations varied widely, communications equipment manufacturing was a high-paying industry overall, with an annual mean wage of $68,900 across all occupations.

Figure 11

The highest paying life and physical science occupations had mean wages more than double the U.S. average.

Annual mean wages for the highest and lowest paying life and physical science occupations, May 2010

  • Twenty-five out of 30 life and physical science occupations had mean wages significantly above the U.S. all-occupations average.
  • The highest paying life and physical science occupations included physicists, with an annual mean wage of $112,020; geoscientists ($93,380); and astronomers ($93,340). These occupations typically required postsecondary education ranging from a bachelor’s degree to a doctoral degree.
  • Technician occupations tended to be lower paying. The lowest paying life and physical science occupations included chemical technicians, biological technicians, forest and conservation technicians, and agricultural and food science technicians, all of which had mean wages similar to or below the U.S. average.

Figure 12

Only one architecture and engineering occupation had below-average wages.

Annual mean wages for the highest and lowest paying architecture and engineering occupations, May 2010

  • Surveying and mapping technicians was the only architecture and engineering occupation with a mean wage below the U.S. all-occupations average. More than half of architecture and engineering occupations had annual mean wages of $75,000 or more.
  • The highest paying architecture and engineering occupations included petroleum engineers, computer hardware engineers, and nuclear engineers, all with annual mean wages of over $100,000. A bachelor’s degree was the most common level of education for these occupations.
  • In addition to surveying and mapping technicians, the lowest paying architecture and engineering occupations included several drafter and technician occupations, such as environmental engineering technicians, civil engineering technicians, and architecture and civil drafters. Workers in these occupations typically had a postsecondary vocational award or an associate’s degree.

Figure 13

The employment share of biochemists and biophysicists in Durham, NC, was nearly 10 times the U.S. average.

Metropolitan areas with the highest concentrations of biochemists and biophysicists, May 2010

  • Biochemists and biophysicists had a location quotient of 9 in Framingham, MA, and nearly 10 in Durham, NC. Location quotients represent the ratio of an occupation’s share of area employment relative to its share of national employment; a location quotient greater than one indicates that the occupation makes up an above-average share of local employment.
  • Even in areas with high location quotients, this occupation made up a relatively small share of employment. For example, biochemists and biophysicists made up about 1.7 jobs per 1,000 in Durham, compared with about 0.2 jobs per 1,000 in the United States as a whole.
  • The U.S. mean wage for biochemists and biophysicists was $86,580 per year. Among the areas shown, wages ranged from $83,300 in San Francisco-San Mateo- Redwood County, CA, to $110,090 in Durham, NC.

Figure 14

Three of the areas with the highest concentrations of mechanical engineers were in Michigan.

Metropolitan areas with the highest concentrations of mechanical engineers, May 2010

  • The Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI, metropolitan division had both the largest number of mechanical engineering jobs— 14,680—and the highest location quotient for this occupation.
  • High concentrations of mechanical engineers did not necessarily translate into high employment for this occupation. Excluding Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, employment of mechanical engineers in the areas shown ranged from 740 in Niles-Benton Harbor, MI, to 2,050 in Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, SC. In comparison, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA, metropolitan division had 5,770 mechanical engineering jobs, although the location quotient for this occupation was below 1 in this area.
  • Of the six areas shown in figure 14, only Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI, and Huntsville, AL, had above-average wages for mechanical engineers. Wages in the remaining areas were below or similar to the U.S. annual mean of $82,480 for this occupation.

Figure 15

Framingham, MA, had one of the highest concentrations of STEM occupations in May 2010.

STEM occupations with the highest location quotients
in Framingham, MA, May 2010

  • All of the occupations in figure 15, with the exception of biological technicians, had higher wages in Framingham than in the United States as a whole.
  • There were 1.6 biochemists and biophysicists per 1,000 jobs in Framingham compared with 0.2 per 1,000 jobs in the nation. Only Durham, NC, had a higher concentration of biochemists and biophysicists at 1.7 per 1,000 jobs.
  • Four of the occupations with the highest location quotients in Framingham were from the life, physical, and social science occupational group, which had an overall location quotient of 2.3. However, the computer and mathematical occupational group had a higher location quotient at 3.0.

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Last Modified Date: October 24, 2011