STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

students working with machines

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Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers help drive innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas and technologies, and inspiring the development of new companies - and even new careers and market segments.  Consider, for example, how the development of the Apple iPhone led to today's global economy driven by mobile 'phone technology, mobile telephone apps, and the coders and designers that make all that possible: technologies, careers, and market segments nearly none existent just ten short years ago. It si not surprising, therefore, that individuals employed in STEM - and STEM-related - fields are more likely to apply for, receive, and monetize patents.  At the same time, the acquisition of STEM knowledge can also be successfully transferred to a wide variety of professions - such as management, where CEOs of the future will need STEM knowledge to assess and understand technical innovation - while also developing and later applying the critical thinking and technical skills that are inherent in STEM fields.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM Jobs: 2017 Update, presents a number of key findings related to the importance of STEM education including the following:

  • In 2015, there were 9.0 million STEM workers in the United States. About 6.1 percent of all workers, in fact, are in STEM occupations, up from 5.5 percent just five years earlier.
  • Employment in STEM occupations grew much faster than U.S. employment in non-STEM occupations over the last decade (24.4 percent versus 4.0 percent, respectively), and STEM occupations are projected to grow by 8.9 percent from 2014 to 2024, compared to 6.4 percent growth for non-STEM occupations.
  • STEM workers command higher wages, earning 29 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts in 2015. This pay premium has increased since our previous report, which found a STEM wage advantage of 26 percent in 2010.
  • Nearly three-quarters of STEM workers have at least a college degree, compared to just over one-third of non-STEM workers.
  • STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings - whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations. A STEM degree holder can expect an earnings premium of 12 percent over non-STEM degree holders, holding all other factors constant.