Career Advice

The Future of the STEM Workforce in America
Shane Laros posted on July 12, 2016 |

Carl Friesen
Looking at the 2016 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index, we can see that there is some good news, and some bad news. Then possibly some more good news, depending on where you’re sitting.

First, the good news – STEM graduate numbers and salaries are both increasing. There has been significant growth in STEM fields, compared to the national average for jobs – 28 percent growth since 2000, compared to 6 percent in other fields.

IT-related jobs are particularly strong, showing some of the highest salaries in STEM coming from Information Systems Managers, Computer Research Scientists and Computer Hardware Engineers.

The not-so-good news is that all this growth in STEM jobs is far outstripping the available graduates in the country. While there were an additional 30,835 graduates from 2014-2015, there were also 230,246 additional STEM jobs from the same time frame.

This holds true in the IT sector as well, where the need for cybersecurity talent alone is outpacing the number of graduates.

David Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, the company that provided support for the study, noted that, “While the STEM Index shows that computer science is a top STEM career choice, the need for cyber talent has never been greater. Protecting networks is a big concern for industry, government and the military, but as a country, we haven’t educated and trained enough people to protect these environments. Public and private interests need to do more to cultivate an interest and support development efforts in these career paths – our national security depends on it.”

Despite groups like the National Science Foundation and Siemen’s Foundation pushing for students to enter STEM fields, the demand for STEM professionals is still too high. Where will the future STEM workforce come from?

The most obvious answer is foreign workers.

Carl Friesen
Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News, had this to say on the results of the Index: “While our universities are producing more STEM graduates, many of these students are foreigners on temporary visas. Despite significant public and private investment, we are still not developing an American STEM workforce to fill the jobs of the future. It’s clear that we need to focus our efforts on getting more kids, particularly women and African-Americans, interested in pursuing STEM at a young age.”

The two groups Kelly noted show a large gap in efforts to push STEM subjects on students. The Index shows that females in both high school and post-secondary schooling have both less interest, and lower graduate numbers than males, with only 6 percent graduating with a degree in STEM, compared to 11 percent in males.

More startling is that while the number of white students earning STEM degrees grew 15 percent in the last five years, that number fell amongst black students by roughly the same margin. By contrast, Hispanic students showed a 13 percent increase in bachelor-level STEM degrees, and significant increases in both two-year and graduate degrees as well.

Also noted by the report was an overall decrease of interest in mathematics, seen across all demographic groups. This is despite an increased interest in technology, computers and engineering, particularly amongst males.

These problems create some interesting opportunities, by providing targets for groups that are investing in STEM or providing scholarships. With renewed focus, there could be some significant pushes to improve these floundering demographics.

Alternately, the massive dearth of STEM workers creates big incentives for skilled foreign engineers to enter the US either temporarily or permanently. This will draw the cream of the crop in STEM to the country where job growth and options are strongest.

The future for those currently in STEM education, interested in the field, or even already in the workforce and looking to climb the ladder, is both bright and full of options. Being in demand is definitely not a bad thing, as it provides leverage to improve one’s career or move to an area of interest with higher pay or more job satisfaction.

Keep up to date on the state of STEM via U.S. News STEM hub or the STEM Index page.

or the STEM Index page.

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