Demand for workers with skills in higher paying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known as the STEM subjects, is expected to continue to outpace demand for non-STEM workers over the next decade, based on a new 10-year projection from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As of the third quarter of 2015, there were 9.2 million workers in STEM occupations in the United States – making up 6.1 percent of the nation’s employees – as defined by the Standard Occupation Classification Policy Committee’s recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget. For the purposes of this column, health occupations are excluded from this definition.
From the third quarter of 2005 to the third quarter of 2015, STEM employment increased 9.8 percent – compared to the 4.5 percent increase experienced in non-STEM employment during that time. Employment in STEM occupations is projected to increase 10.1 percent from the third quarter of 2015 through the third quarter of 2025, while non-STEM employment is forecast to rise 6.5 percent.
Similarly, in Virginia, STEM employment increased at a higher percentage than non-STEM employment over the last decade based on forecasts from Chmura Economics & Analytics; STEM employment, which makes up 8.3 percent of total employment in the state, climbed 9.5 percent over this period while employment in non-STEM occupations increased only 2.5 percent.
In the Richmond metro area, however, STEM employment – which makes up 5.9 percent of employment in the region – increased a modest 3.1 percent from the third quarter of 2005 to the third quarter of 2015 compared to 3.9 percent growth in non-STEM employment.
Employment in STEM occupations in both the Richmond metro area and Virginia is expected to increase at a higher percentage than non-STEM employment from the third quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2025.
In the Richmond metro area, STEM employment is forecast to expand 9.3 percent over this period compared with 7 percent growth for employment in non-STEM occupations. In the state, STEM employment is projected to climb 14 percent over the next decade compared with a 6.8 percent increase for non-STEM employment.
All STEM jobs are not expected to grow equally across the nation.
At the major occupation group level, projected employment growth for STEM occupations over the next decade ranges from 14.3 percent for computer and mathematical occupations down to 4.0 percent for architecture and engineering occupations (below the average expected growth in Non-STEM jobs).
Within major occupation groups, projected employment growth for STEM occupations also varies by detailed occupation. In the computer and mathematical occupations group, for example, employment for mathematical technicians is expected to grow at a 0.3 percent annual average rate compared with 2.5 percent projected growth for web developers.
On average, STEM jobs pay a large premium over non-STEM jobs. Based on 2014 wages, STEM occupations paid an average of $85,200 compared with $45,100 for non-STEM occupations. The same is true in the Richmond metro area, where STEM occupations paid an average of $80,500 compared with $44,900 for non-STEM occupations.
Part of this wage gap is due to differences in educational attainment — 81 percent of those employed in STEM occupations in the nation hold at least a bachelor’s degree compared with 25 percent of those employed in non-STEM occupations.
(This column first ran in the Richmond Times Dispatch on March 7, 2016)