A recent article from Wallet Hub ranked the best and worst metropolitan areas for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) professionals to work. The Houston, Woodlands, and Sugarland area in Texas took the coveted number one spot, while the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach area of Florida fell into last place.
Jobs in STEM fields usually require a great deal of education and training and not surprisingly these types of positions have greater than average salaries across the US, but not all metropolitan areas are created equal, as far as STEM opportunities that is. For instance according to Wallet Hub, Raleigh, NC has the highest STEM employment growth in the country. Whereas New York, NY has the highest annual median wage growth.
So where does New England fall into all of this? The Boston, Cambridge, Newton area is the top rated in New England, coming in at number 35. Massachusetts has by far the most locations in New England with four (Boston-Cambridge-Newton-35, Worcester-41, Warwick-66, and Springfield-73). Rhode Island and Connecticut both have one, Providence- 66 and Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk-61, respectively. But what is the point of this? These figures expand beyond where the best places to work or make more money are.
While the United States has always held a strong position internationally in technological innovation, competition is fiercer than ever, and for the US to stay competitive, about a million more jobs need to be created by 2018, a figure the federal government is committed to achieving. With such a dramatic increase in jobs, it is interesting that when Wallet Hub asked experts if STEM job shortages were a myth, they got very different answers from experts in different fields. On one hand, experts in the technology and engineering fields do not believe there is a shortage of STEM jobs. While on the other hand, experts in science fields believe there is a STEM shortage.
What can account for such disparaging views? While STEM is a convenient grouping for analysis, in reality these job markets are independent of each other. For example, the sciences might be seeing slower growth than other STEM fields because it relies more heavily on federal funding, such as grants given out by the NIH, which have been steadily decreasing since 2003 due to budget cuts, sequestration, and inflation. The sciences, particularly any kind of research, tend to be higher risk than other STEM fields because of the lower probability of success and higher cost, making them less likely to draw adequate private funding. Therefore, the growth of jobs in science is more heavily affected, keeping the job market very competitive.
Lower risk fields, such as engineering and mathematics, that do not rely on such funds are not experiencing restricted growth. Thus, the STEM job shortage is not experienced. Regardless of funding changes or job growth, the market remains competitive with more people than ever earning advanced degrees, and competition is even more pronounced in the top metropolitan areas.
For those wanting to enter or rise through the ranks in STEM fields, it is important to stand out to employers by not only having an impressive resume, but by focusing on more widely applicable skills. In a recent article, Forbes had employers rank skills they deemed most important. Technical skills in the field ranked seventh out of ten. Skills such as the ability to work as part of a team, critical thinking, and organizational skills were ranked the top three. By being both specifically trained in your field and maintaining a broad skill set, you can stand out even in the most competitive job markets.