There is no denying that careers in STEM-related fields are here to stay. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics pave the way to our advancement into the future. The numbers simply don’t lie, and these statistics about STEM education and careers clearly show how lucrative these positions can be. However, they also show some other alarming issues related to diversity and gender.
Here, you can find compelling STEM statistics that show that a career in it is a wise choice. We cover every aspect of STEM, including preschool through 12th-grade education, college, and career, as well as discuss some of the social and economic challenges that STEM is experiencing.
STEM is a way to better understand the world, and the facts and information below are a good way to learn more about it.
The sky is the limit with a career in STEM. The United States Department of Labor estimates that the total number of jobs in these fields will grow by 11% through 2031. This is more than double the projected growth for all other fields.
Technological positions are leading the charge for growth, and people who choose to specialize in computer and mathematical degrees will stand to gain a unique advantage. The projected growth for jobs such as data scientist, information security analyst, and web developer are all north of 30% over the next decade.
In addition to providing satisfying work, STEM occupations are financially lucrative. The average median wage for STEM careers as of 2021 was $95,420, more than twice the average median wage for non-STEM jobs, which lands at $40,120. This is partly due to the fact that a vast majority of STEM professions carry a degree requirement of at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific field.
Starting salaries for over 70 in-demand STEM positions are well above the average median wage. A few of these options begin in the high five and even six-figure range. By the time a person has reached the middle of their career, they can easily expect to bring in six figures a year.
The Gender Divide
Men dominate STEM fields, and this highlights the inherent gender divide and biases that still remain firmly in place. Women only account for 28% of the total workforce in STEM jobs.
When you investigate individual career paths within STEM, the numbers become especially lopsided. Women in computer and mathematics careers only account for 25.2% of the total STEM workforce. Among engineers and architects, women make up a mere 16.5%.
Western cultures are still predominantly male, and the existing systemic prejudices put women, as well as minorities, at a significant disadvantage. When you take a look at the wage gap, this becomes all too obvious. Women in STEM can expect to take home $15,000 less than a man for the exact same position. Black and Latina women will see a staggering decrease of $33,000.
These statistics highlight a problem that has existed as long as work has, but strides are being made to level the playing field. The gaps that have formed over decades could take just as long to close. Education and outreach to girls starting in primary school have increased, as well as the number of women who receive degrees in STEM-related fields.
Women have gained a substantial foothold within certain categories of STEM careers. For instance, in the social sciences, women hold an impressive 64% share of the workforce. This is an increase of 45% since 1970. There is still room for improvement in computer and engineering occupations, but the overall trend is upward toward equality.
Diversity In STEM
There is a real problem with diversity among STEM professions, indicative of the same problem in the overall STEM workforce. Representation among Asian, Black, and Hispanic individuals in STEM careers accounts for only 30% of the entire workforce.
The situation that leads to such poor representation is incredibly complex and begins at a young age. Minorities experience a substantially different version of education and barriers to entry that equally qualified white peers will never have to navigate.
Once a minority student graduates with a STEM-related degree, they can expect to trail their white counterparts in starting salary offers by as much as $17,000. Asian men appear to have made significant progress in this regard and average roughly $13,000 more than equally qualified white men. All other minorities can expect to earn substantially less.
As with women, strides are being made to attempt to correct this imbalance, but biases remain a dominant hurdle toward career equality in STEM.
STEM Degrees Outpace Overall Degrees
Between 2010 and 2020, STEM degrees have seen the most growth overall. In just this span of time, undergraduate STEM degrees have increased by 62%, 80% in masters-level programs, and 32%-36% in doctorate-level degrees.
The number of computer science degrees alone awarded in this time more than doubled, with signs of continued growth through the next decade. Likewise, growth in health fields was an impressive 87% for the same timeframe.
Education Starts Early
Early education in STEM leads to a strong foundation for children entering K-12. Children possess a natural curiosity and will learn math and science with ease through free play. According to research, preschool-aged children engage in mathematical thinking roughly half of the time they are engaged in free play.
Since the spirit of cooperation is a crucial component of STEM, this learning and playing will help children develop the necessary social skills to thrive in life. It can give children of all types an effective means of communicating through the universal language of play.
STEM Education Statistics
The data about K-12 STEM education suggests that the United States has lagged behind many other countries for more than a decade. Out of the 37 nations which take part in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study, the United States ranks 25th.
Although this is only a small part of the overall picture, it is troubling. STEM careers form the bulk of what drives the United States economy toward innovation and fuels our ability to be a contender on the world stage. Without a serious investment in education and literacy in STEM fields, we risk losing a seat at the table.
The National Science Foundation has pulled out all of the stops in an attempt to improve where the United States stands as a STEM leader. Through programs like INCLUDES, the NSF hopes to broaden access to educational resources and increase the attendance of STEM-related classes nationwide for elementary to high school students.
Degrees Statistics in the United States
Students who receive a STEM-related degree are not necessarily guaranteed to land a job in a STEM field straight out of college. In fact, less than one-third of STEM-educated employees are working in a STEM position.
What a STEM degree will almost certainly guarantee is a bump in starting pay, regardless of field. Computer science majors can expect to see a median salary well above the national average, just around $107,000. Life sciences degrees will fetch slightly less but are still substantially higher than the national median average for all other careers.
Engineering degrees, in particular are attractive with the highest average starting salary, and corresponding mid-career salary raises to match. Some of the top-paying specialties are petroleum engineer, marine engineering, and nuclear engineering. In a list of over 50 majors, engineering degrees account for a large portion of it.
STEM Universities in the United States
Did you know that some of the most renowned universities in the United States also offer some of the finest STEM programs in the world? It’s true!
Among a list of 30 top STEM colleges, you’ll find names like Caltech, M.I.T., Rose-Hulman, and even Ivy League schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton. Each one of these schools has an outstanding percentage of STEM degrees issued when compared to all degrees issued.
The best of the best score highly with a balance in student-to-faculty ratios, tuition costs, and the percentage of STEM degrees conferred. Some of the top choices are associated with an education provided for military service. These schools have zero tuition and one of the highest chances for placement after a degree.
STEM Jobs Don’t Require a Degree
Although most of the careers in STEM fields are for those with a bachelor’s degree or better, there are plenty of jobs available for high school graduates or those who have obtained an associate’s degree. The demand for web developers, for instance, makes up one of the fastest-growing STEM occupations.
The computer-related fields are full of possibilities for anyone willing to put in the work to learn and obtain readily available certifications. This can provide terrific savings over the cost of getting a bachelor’s degree, and it means immediate work.
In addition to computer jobs, hands-on STEM jobs are still in high demand for technicians of all varieties. Electrical technicians can apprentice, dental hygienists can start with an associate’s, and registered nurses can start with a two-year degree and work their way up to a bachelor’s if they’d like. Every one of these positions offers a starting wage higher than the median average.
STEM Around the World
Statistics show that the United States has room for improvement as it routinely places itself somewhere in the middle of the pack for overall education. STEM is a global phenomenon, and there are outstanding performers from all around the planet.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the top-scoring countries are in Asia, an area of the world that has persistently produced some of the biggest innovations in history. China, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea all rank near the top of most metrics for STEM.
Europe is well represented by the fine people of Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. This area of the globe makes up a disproportionate section of the top educational performers. There are more than a dozen countries comfortably in the top 20 across the board.
STEM Goes Green
STEM careers are at the forefront of the global push for green alternative energy solutions. Jobs for geoscientists, environmental scientists, and conservation scientists will all see increased demand and higher-than-average median salary ranges ranging from $64,020 to $93,580.
The automobile industry is amid a shift toward all-electric vehicles, and STEM degree holders will have a distinct advantage in the changing transportation landscape. As the world recognizes the need to move away from fossil fuels in favor of more sustainable solutions, STEM takes center stage in the advancement to better things.
As solar power becomes increasingly relevant and accessible to a broader range of people, the need for trained professionals increases. In addition to solar panel installers, the world is seeing a demand for materials engineers, field service technicians, and solar site assessors. Many of the positions mentioned can even be landed without a degree.
As the statistics clearly indicate, STEM education and careers are growing and appear to show no sign of stopping any time soon. If your children attend schools with a strong STEM curriculum, they stand a better chance of going on to study relevant fields in undergraduate studies and beyond.
Although no educational or career path is guaranteed, STEM is one of the most promising options available. Ample job opportunities and high-paying positions await every discipline within STEM. The future innovations of the world will rely on the skilled hands and minds of these -educated professionals.