Who works in STEM? 7 fast facts

STEM professions are among the hottest jobs of 2018, and it's not hard to see why. The jobs consistently receive high ratings for salary, worker satisfaction, and work-life balance.

A recent report from the Pew Research Center analyzes the state of the STEM workforce this year, including salary outcomes and levels of diversity. To create the report, researchers used the definition of STEM outlined in the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which classifies 74 occupations within the group. Within health care, practitioner and technician roles are classified as STEM but support positions such as nursing aides and medical assistants are not.

In a blog post about the report, Nikki Graf, Richard Fry, and Cary Funk identify seven key takeaways:

1: STEM workers do earn more money. Workers in STEM professions tend to make more than their peers with similar levels of education working in non-STEM jobs. The median annual salary for a bachelor's degree-holder working in STEM is $75,948, while bachelor's degree-holders working elsewhere earn a median salary of $55,695. The gap persists at all levels of education.

2: Not all STEM workers have bachelor's degrees. People working in STEM are about twice as likely as other workers (65% vs. 32%) to have earned a bachelor's degree. However, roughly 15% of STEM workers have associate degrees and another 14% attended college but did not receive a degree.

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3: STEM majors do not equal STEM jobs. About half of people who majored in a STEM field currently work in STEM, while roughly 17% of STEM majors work in management, business, or finance (especially engineering majors). Women are slightly more likely than men (56% vs. 49%) to work in STEM if they majored in STEM, largely because most health professions grads are women.

4: STEM majors earn more, even if they don't work in STEM. When looking across all industries, median earnings for STEM majors ($81,011) are higher than those who did not major in STEM ($60,828). The gap persists if you look at non-STEM majors specifically; in these fields, the median salary for STEM majors is roughly $10,000 higher than that of non-STEM majors.

5: Gender balance varies widely across STEM fields. Women are underrepresented in engineering (14%), computer science (25%), and physical science (39%) positions. But they're actually overrepresented in health professions, where they make up 75% of the workforce.

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6: Women's representation in computer science is declining. The share of women working in computer science is smaller today (25%) than it was in 1990 (32%). In health professions, math, and engineering jobs, the share of women has remained fairly stable over the same time period. However, women have made significant gains in life science (34% to 47%) and physical science (22% to 39%) in the past three decades.

7: Black workers and Hispanic workers are underrepresented. While black workers and Hispanic workers have made gains in certain job clusters, they are underrepresented across STEM fields broadly. Black workers make up 9% of the STEM workforce, compared with 11% of the workforce as a whole. Hispanic workers make up 7% of the STEM workforce, compared with 16% of the workforce as a whole (Graf, et al., Pew Research Center, 1/9; Funk/Parker, Pew Research Center, 1/9). 

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