STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs aren’t in abundance just for Silicon Valley tech; they’re actually a major economic driver across the U.S. According to a new study from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, 20% of all jobs in the U.S. require a "high level of knowledge" in at least one STEM field--a far cry from the 4% to 5% estimated by the National Science Foundation. And while so many of those (often high-paying) STEM jobs are in Silicon Valley, there are clusters in places you might not think of, like Houston and Detroit.
The Brookings Institute has provided us with a handy infographic to break it all down.
As you can see, STEM jobs aren’t limited to workers with advanced degrees--50% don’t even require a bachelor’s degree. Many of the more blue-collar STEM jobs are in fields like construction, plant and system operation, and repair (telecommunications equipment, aircraft, computer, office machine, etc.).
The higher-paid STEM jobs, like biomedical engineering, nuclear engineering, and materials science, all require at least a bachelor’s degree. But even the lower-paying jobs that require less than an associate’s degree still pay relatively well.
Note that many of the jobs listed above may not be considered typical STEM careers--the ones associated with research institutions and tech companies. That’s because the Brookings Institute has a unique definition of "STEM career."
The Institute explains in a press release: "Previous studies classified workers as STEM only if they worked in a small number of professional occupations, but the Brookings definition classifies occupations according to the level of knowledge in STEM fields that workers need to perform their jobs. As a result, many nonprofessional jobs in manufacturing, health care, construction, and mining industries could be considered STEM jobs." Think about mechanics: they aren’t traditionally considered a part of the STEM economy, but they have a high level of knowledge in STEM-related subjects, so they’re included here.
Some of these STEM job hubs--San Jose and Washington, D.C.--are obvious. Others, like Detroit (cars), Houston (oil), Palm Bay, and Colorado Springs, are more unexpected.
But think about it: energy-heavy states (think fossil fuel extraction) like Texas, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, and Alaska, have high rates of computer and scientific knowledge. And some of the really out-of-the-blue STEM hubs can be explained by industry hubs. Palm Bay harbors 11% of all the aerospace engineering and operations technicians in the U.S. because of the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center; Colorado Springs is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
According to Brookings, metro areas with residents who have the highest rates of STEM knowledge also have stronger overall economies and less income inequality. From the report:
There is no significant correlation between a metro area’s STEM score and household income inequality. As economists have found, more educated metro areas have higher inequality, and STEM scores are correlated with education. However, controlling for the average years of education in a metro area, a higher STEM score (or larger share of workers in STEM occupations) is strongly associated with less inequality. And metro areas with larger shares of workers in sub-bachelor’s STEM jobs experience significantly less inequality than other metro areas.
All of these findings mean that it makes more sense than ever for the government and other institutions to invest in STEM education, especially for workers without advanced degrees. As income inequality in the U.S. continues to skyrocket, it’s worth thinking about the solutions we can implement sooner rather than later.