Where the Jobs Are Today and in the Future: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

By Beth Dumbauld

STEMAs you consider returning to college, there is, most likely, a list of concerns running through your mind. A couple of these may include: How will you fit college into your already busy life? Will there be a job in your field when you graduate? In fact, one of the leading challenges for an adult going back to college is choosing a course of study that will expand their job opportunities upon graduation. As an adult learner, you may be looking to switch career paths, or just accelerate the one you are currently on. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could look into a crystal ball and see what academic background and skills the jobs of tomorrow, when you graduate, require that you acquire today.

The Case for College Courses in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

There are compelling financial and career related reasons to study math and science while attending college as an adult learner. The United States Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration has shown that the growth of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs has been 3-times greater than that of non-STEM jobs over the last 10 years. And throughout the next decade, STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17 percent, compared to a 9.8% growth for other occupations.1

What exactly is considered a science, technology, engineering, and math job? These occupations fall under 4 major categories: Computers and math, engineering and surveying, physical and life sciences, and STEM managerial positions (which include computer and information systems, engineering, and natural science managers).2

Not only is there an expectation of faster job growth in science, technology, engineering and math jobs in the upcoming years, but also those with the skills and academic background to be employed in a STEM occupation have enjoyed significantly lower unemployment in the current recession. In fact, in 2010, at the height of the recession, STEM workers had an unemployment rate of 5.3% versus almost 10% for non-STEM workers.3

One more point in the case for studying science and math revolves around the basic law of supply and demand. Many U.S. businesses are concerned about the supply and availability of STEM workers. In 2010, there were 7.6 million STEM workers in the United States, representing about 1 in 18 workers.4 Companies operating on the forefront of technological innovation need more of them. For example, according to ManpowerGroup’s 2011 Talent Shortage Survey, 52% of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations, up from 14 percent in 2010, because potential employees lack the technical skills and experience required.5 Even with Tuition Assistance Programs incentivizing employees to further their education and expand their skill set, employers are desperate for skilled workers. You don’t have to be left behind. As you go back to college, you can select math and science courses now, which can rapidly put you on the path for an in-demand field in the future.6


1 Economics & Statistics Administration, STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future, 7/14/2011
http://www.esa.doc.gov/Reports/stem-good-jobs-now-and-future

2 Economics & Statistics Administration, STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future, 7/2011, p.6
http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/reports/documents/stemfinalyjuly14_1.pdf

3 Economics & Statistics Administration, STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future, 7/2011, p.5
http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/reports/documents/stemfinalyjuly14_1.pdf

4 Economics & Statistics Administration, STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future, 7/14/2011
http://www.esa.doc.gov/Reports/stem-good-jobs-now-and-future

5 ManpowerGroup, ManpowerGroup Annual Survey Shows More than Half of U.S. Employers Cannot Find the Right Talent for Open Positions, 2011.
http://press.manpower.com/press/2011/manpowergroup-annual-survey-shows-more-than-half-of-u-s-employers-cannot-find-the-right-talent-for-open-positions/

6 The White House Blog, STEM Jobs Help America Win the Future, 7/14/2011
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/07/14/stem-jobs-help-america-win-future