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Optical Design & Engineering

STEM jobs: higher wages, lower unemployment

SPIE Newsroom
15 July 2011

The U.S. Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) released a new report on 14 July that profiles U.S. employment in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. "STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future" offers an inside look at workers who are driving the nation's innovation and competitiveness with new ideas, new companies and new industries.

In 2010, 7.6 million people or 5.5 percent of the labor force worked in STEM occupations. Key findings from the new report show that over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs, and STEM jobs are expected to continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs in the coming decade. Meanwhile, STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness.

"This report profiles the fast-growing, productive STEM workforce and illustrates how we can win the future by encouraging the pursuit of 21st century jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. "STEM jobs are essential to a competitive, innovative and technologically advanced U.S. economy."

Further findings show STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. STEM degree holders also enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations. Likewise, college graduates - no matter what their major - enjoy an earnings premium for having a STEM job.

Executive summary of report from the Department of Commerce (PDF)