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STEM degrees can increase pay, but do not guarantee STEM employment after graduation

June 17, 2021
By: Connor LaVelle

Students who earn bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM) are more likely than not to see an increase in pay; however, it is far from guaranteed that their post-graduation employment will be within a STEM-related sector. The Census Bureau recently reported that of the 50 million employed college graduates aged 25 to 64 in 2019, 37 percent reported a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering but only 14 percent worked in a STEM occupation. Of all the STEM workers, those who majored in STEM fields typically earned higher salaries than those who did not ($101,100 vs $87,600 on average).

The Census Bureau also notes that STEM job opportunities differ from field to field. Roughly half of the students who majored in engineering, mathematics, computers, and statistics found STEM-related employment after graduation. Students who majored in other STEM-related areas were found to have lower levels of post-graduation STEM employment; only 28 percent of physical-science majors were employed in STEM sectors, and just 16 percent of biology, environmental, and agricultural science students found STEM employment.

The Census report also found that STEM jobs have a high percentage of workers with higher degrees-- 40 percent of the college-educated STEM workforce having received graduate degrees.

The full Census Bureau evaluation of the relationship between undergraduate STEM degrees and STEM employment, including an interactive breakdown of STEM education and workforce data by field, may be found here.