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NSF publishes new report on the STEM labor force

June 27, 2024
By: SSTI Staff

Nearly one out of every four workers in the United States is now involved in a STEM occupation, and 41 percent of those STEM workers do not have an associate’s degree or higher, according to data presented in the latest NSF Science & Engineering Indicator report, The STEM Labor Force: Scientists, Engineers, and Skilled Technical Workers.  

The NSF S&E indicator report provides policy-relevant details about the representation of demographic groups in STEM, the STEM labor market's earnings, occupations, and industries, the geographic distribution of the STEM workforce, the degree attainment and training of workers in STEM, and foreign-born workers.

The statistics may warrant some federal, state, and regional workforce-related TBED initiatives—and their resident innovation-driven companies—to revamp and broaden their approaches to training, job descriptions, employee recruitment, and hiring. STEM education and recruitment into STEM fields, particularly for underrepresented populations should increase for no other reason than the salary difference between STEM and non-STEM occupations presents an opportunity for upward mobility. For evidence, the new Indicators finds median earnings for full-time, year-round STEM workers were $69,000 in 2021, while median earnings for non-STEM workers was only $49,900.

The STEM workforce now translates to 36.8 million people across the country, and the Department of Labor projects growth in STEM occupations through 2032 will outpace non-STEM positions by annual rates of 7% and 2% respectively.

Those STEM workers in the U.S. with college degrees at the bachelor’s level and higher overwhelmingly (90%) work in occupations related to or within science and engineering (S&E).

Demographically, while 24% of the workforce may be in STEM, the NSF indicators report reveals men are still more likely to be in the field. Only 18% of female workers held a STEM occupation—three-fifths the rate of male workers (30%).

BIPOC participation in STEM has seen improvement but still has considerable room to expand. The report reveals Black or African American workers comprised 8% of workers in STEM occupations in 2021; their percentage of the total workforce was 11%. Meanwhile the percentage of STEM workers who were Hispanic was 15%, compared with 18% of all workers. Ten percent of Asian workers were present in STEM occupations, while 6% of Asians were present among all occupations.

Census data revealed 19% of STEM workers were foreign, and 26% of foreign-born workers employed in the United States worked in STEM occupations.

nsf, stem