Census officials say STEM jobs lucrative but stressful

U.S. Census officials report that computer engineers and technicians are the highest-paid workers in STEM-related occupations in America (Photo courtesy pf priog.org)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s recent university graduates who chose to pursue STEM-related degrees will find plenty of challenging job opportunities awaiting them.

But statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that few of those graduates will stay in STEM jobs throughout their careers.

STEM jobs include computer occupations, mathematicians, statisticians, engineers and scientists, according to Anthony Martinez of the Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division of the Census Bureau.

The latest data from the Census indicates that, of 18.5 million U.S. college graduates ages 25 to 64 with degrees in STEM disciplines, less than a third are actually working in jobs related to their fields of study.

Here in Utah, STEM-related jobs in the statewide workforce of 1.6 million topped 101,000 in 2018 and that number has continued to climb since. Both state officials and university administrators are actively engaged in efforts to promote study in STEM-related fields, especially for females students who are under-represented in those degree programs.

While majoring in science, technology engineering or math may not guarantee that a graduate will secure a STEM job in the marketplace, Census officials agree that it certainly helps. Only about 13 percent of U.S. STEM jobs are held by workers who do not have a STEM-related degree.

Moreover, STEM majors in college typically make higher salaries than their colleagues who pursued degrees in other fields. The average salary for a STEM major in the marketplace was $101,100 in 2019, compared to $87,600 for a non-STEM major.

Despite those incentives, the latest Census data indicated that 62 percent of college-educated workers who majored in STEM-related fields are now employed in management, law, education, social work, accounting or counseling. An additional 10 percent of STEM majors are working in health care occupations.

Employment experts suggest that those statistics are indicative of stress levels and high burn-out rates in STEM jobs.

A deeper dive into Census statistics shows a higher margin of success in pursuing STEM employment for graduates in certain fields of study.

For example, about 50 percent of recent graduates with degrees in engineering, computer technology, mathematics or statistics are now employed in STEM jobs. But only about a quarter of physical science majors have found employment in STEM occupations. Graduates with degrees in biologic, environmental or agricultural science hold only about 16 percent of STEM jobs in the United States.

STEM-educated workers in computer occupations also had the highest median annual earnings at $105,300,” Martinez added. “Engineers ran a close second in earning at $102,200. But life scientists earned the least, with a median income of only $66,540.”

Recent data on STEM-related occupations in the United States was compiled by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

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