The State of STEM Jobs

By George Lorenzo – Published May 19, 2020 in Workforce Monitor – Subscribe to the WFMonitor eNewsletter

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs are defined by the Pew Research Center as covering a very wide swath of “74 standard occupations in the life sciences, physical and Earth sciences, engineering and architecture, computer and math occupations as well as health-related occupations including healthcare providers and technicians.”

Recent Facts About Today’s STEM Jobs
In April 2021, Pew Research presented a set of facts about America’s STEM workforce. Due to COVID-19, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that we can expect strong job growth in “epidemiologists, medical scientists, biochemists and biophysicists, and biological technicians.” Other facts presented by Pew include 1) “Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in STEM jobs.” 2) “Blacks and Hispanic graduates are underrepresented among degree recipients in STEM fields.” 3) “The share of women is uneven across STEM job types.” 4) “Women have made significant gains in life science and physical science jobs, but other areas have seen few increases.” 5) “Women earn a large share of degrees in health-related and life sciences fields, far fewer in other STEM areas.” 6) “STEM workers typically earn more than those in other jobs, with the highest pay for Asian men and the lowest for Black and Hispanic women.”

Projections for STEM Jobs
A January 2021 BLS analysis added that STEM Jobs are expected to show exceptional growth, with projections showing an 8% increased by 2029 compared with a 3.7% increase for all other occupations. In particular, demands for computer jobs are said to be “largely behind” this progress, “projected to grow about 3 times as fast as the average between 2019 and 2029 at 11.5 percent.”

Jobs in the mathematical sciences (scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians) are forecasted to grow the fastest, but they only comprise 2% of all STEM jobs in 2019 and 7% by 2029. Computer jobs (meaning everything from information security analysts, software developers, and database administrators, to network specialists and web developers) represent 66% of all new STEM Jobs to be created by 2029.  

The Digital Economy as Primary Growth Driver
Our increasing dependence on all things online facilitates an expanding digital economy. An August 2020 Bureau of Economic (BEA) Analysis report asserts that the digital economy “was worth $1.8 trillion in current prices in 2018, representing 9.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).”  The BEA report also explains that from 2005 to 2018, “when compared with traditional U.S. industries or sectors, the digital economy ranked just below the manufacturing sector, which accounted for 11.3 percent ($2,321.2 billion) of current-dollar GDP, and just above finance and insurance, which accounted for 7.6 percent ($1,567.3 billion) of current-dollar GDP.” The BLS analysis adds that the digital economy grew “at an average rate of 6.8% from 2006 to 2018, compared with 1.7% for the total economy.” 

The Internet of Things & Ground-Up Builds
Behind all this growth is what’s referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), defined by Oracle as “the network of physical objects – ‘things’ – that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.” The IoT is expected to continue its already dramatic surge well into 2025 and beyond, generating more and more sensitive data. Of the utmost importance is the privacy and security of all this data.  

Computer technologists, information researchers, software developers, security analysts, and cybersecurity professionals will continue to play vital roles in the further growth of our digital economy.  According to an October 2020 report by Burning Glass Technologies, “The fastest-growing skill areas are associated with building secure digital infrastructure from the ground up. Application Development Security and Cloud Security are far and away the fastest-growing skill areas in cybersecurity, with projected 5-year growth of 164% and 115%, respectively.” All these jobs come with high salaries.

According to the BLS, “As consumers and businesses increasingly participate in the digital economy, connect devices to the internet, and store more sensitive data online, the demand for specialized computer occupations will increase notably.”  

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