In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out an ambitious goal to train 2 million workers with the necessary skills to land a job. What are those skills in a 21st century economy? As we have written previously in this blog, the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) play a critical role in America’s global economic leadership and are vital to securing the highest quality jobs of the future, to decreasing the gender wage gap, and to ensuring America retains global economic leadership through innovation and technology.
STEM & Employment
In 2010, 7.6 million people or 1 in 18 workers held STEM jobs. (Watch this space for an update as 2011 data become available.) Although STEM employment makes up a small fraction of total employment, STEM employment grew rapidly from 2000 to 2010, increasing 7.9 percent while employment in non-STEM jobs grew just 2.6 percent over this period. (See Figure 1.) The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that STEM jobs will continue growing at a fast clip relative to other occupations: 17.0 percent between 2008-2018 (BLS’ most recent projection), compared to just 9.8 percent for non-STEM jobs.
STEM & Education
One of the more striking characteristics of STEM workers is their educational attainment. More than two-thirds (68 percent) have a college degree or more, compared to just under one-third (31 percent) of other workers age 16 and over. Nearly one quarter (23 percent) have completed an associate’s degree or at least some college. Just 9 percent have a high school diploma or less. Thus the majority of STEM workers tend to be college educated, but opportunities also exist for STEM workers with fewer years of study.