The state of STEM education told through 14 stats

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If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times—by the end of 2018, 2.4 million STEM jobs were projected to go unfilled. While we are still waiting on updated figures for 2020 and beyond, the statement is still powerful.

Even if you’ve heard it before, think about what it really means.

When something goes “unfilled” or is left vacant, why is that?

A winter flight to Fairbanks, Alaska might go unfilled—but that’s because there isn’t much interest in traveling to the coldest place in the country at the most frigid time of year.

With STEM jobs though, we are talking about, well, jobs. Money. A living. There is no shortage of people who need jobs to make money and earn their livings.

So maybe we just don’t need STEM?

No, that’s not it—you can imagine the impact of STEM on the economy just by looking at the companies and products revolutionizing our lives. Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and on and on. STEM powers all of them.

Perhaps there isn’t any interest in working in STEM?

The stats below will tell you that isn’t the case.

Plus, going back to the aforementioned companies, you don’t need stats to know that those are highly-coveted employers. Not to mention the sheer breadth of everything STEM touches. If you have an interest in something, anything, there is a STEM job counterpart.

Generally, this is an obvious issue of supply and demand, right?
 
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But the difference here is that demand is lacking not because there isn’t interest or understood importance of STEM, but because people just aren’t fit to fill such openings.

When you take that a level deeper, people aren’t suited with the skills required of STEM jobs because STEM education isn’t readily available for many. Nor is it something being ingrained or even presented early enough - or often enough - in the lives of today's children.

It’s an issue that affects all far and wide, but the problems in STEM education are especially profound for women and minorities.

Here is a list of STEM statistics that tell a story.

STEM education stats

Below is a quick look at a few of the more popular STEM statistics, with details below each.

1. STEM jobs are projected to grow 13%.

Between 2017 and 2027, the number of STEM jobs will grow 13 percent, compared to 9 percent for non-STEM jobs—with positions in computing, engineering, and advanced manufacturing leading the way. (Via the Education Commission of the States)  

2. Specifically, employment in computer and IT occupations is projected to grow 11%.

From 2019 to 2029, employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 11%. This is said to be "much faster" than the average for all occupations. (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

3. Employment in STEM occupations has grown 79% since 1990.

Overall, since 1990, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79%—increasing from 9.7 million to 17.3 million. (Via a 2018 article from Pew Research Center)

So, there IS an increasing demand for STEM jobs...

4. The average median hourly wage for STEM jobs is $38.85.

Compared to the median earnings for all other types of jobs in the US - $19.30 - STEM-related jobs pay exceptionally well. (Via the Education Commission of the States)

5. The median annual wage of STEM occupations in 2019 was $86,980.

This is well over double of that of non-STEM occupations, where the median annual wage came in at $38,160. (Via the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

And the above says STEM jobs seem to pay well...

6. The US placed 38th of 71 countries in math, and 24th in science.

This is according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)—which is regarded as one of the biggest cross-national tests of its kind. (Via the Pew Research Center; Pew also published these 7 facts about the STEM workforce on 1/9/18)

7. US universities are expected to produce only 29% of the required number of grads.

That is, to fill the 1.4 million computer specialist job openings projected to be available in 2020. (Projected by the US Department of Labor and referenced by the White House back in 2013. )

But this tells us the education system isn't producing candidates...

8. 74% of middle school girls express an interest in engineering, science, and math...

But only 0.4% choose computer science as a major when they get to college. (Reported by girlswhocode.org and mentioned by the National Girls Collaborative Project)

9. 2 out of 3 U.S. women say they were not encouraged to pursue a career in STEM.

In the 2019 STEM survey by Emerson, it was stated that 2 of 3 women said they weren't encouraged to pursue a STEM career. (From Emerson.com)

10. Women make up only about 18% of computer science undergrads.

It's stated that for the 2016-17 academic year women earned roughly 57% of all bachelor’s degrees. But when it comes to computer science specifically, in 2015, women earned only 18% of such degrees in the nation. 

11. 63% of middle school girls who know women in STEM feel powerful doing STEM.

In comparison, 46% of middle school girls who don't personally know women in STEM feel powerful doing STEM. Similarly, 73% of those girls who personally know women in STEM understand the relevancy of STEM, and 72% know how to pursue a STEM career. This is compared to 51% and 47% of those who don't personally know women in STEM, respectively. (via Microsoft and a study done in partnership with KRC research)

12. Moms who communicate on STEM leads to girls being +20 points more interested.

From the same study above, "Having an encouraging mom who communicates about STEM is associated with girls being an average +20 points more interested in all STEM subjects compared to those girls who do not." Having an encouraging teacher is associated with +21 points; having an encouraging dad is associated with +17 points. 

Thus, women are vastly underrepresented in STEM, and could benefit from mentors and encouragement...

13. 40% of black students switch out of STEM majors before earning a degree.

This is according to a study published in the journal, Education Researcher, and highlighted by the Education Advisory Board.

14. Black workers make up 11% of the U.S. workforce but represent 9% of STEM workers.

This is in addition to Hispanics, who make up 16% of the workforce, but only 7% of all STEM workers. And, of those employed adults who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, 7% are black workers and 6% are Hispanic workers of the STEM workforce." (via Pew Research Center)

And, many minorities are also underrepresented...

So where does that leave us?

First of all, there are hundreds of stats and related studies. Some are old, others newer. Overall, though, these themes hold true.



STEM is important. STEM is an economic driver. STEM presents opportunity. We need to prepare way more people to meet such opportunity.

The fix, of course, is not easy. I’m not the first to talk about it, nor will I be the last. There are many people talking about it, and others working to do something about it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the fact that we provide after-school STEM programs and camps; and relevant to today's world, online coding tutors—programs and opportunities that aren’t inexpensive at that, due to our world-class staff, live instruction, and premium tech tools.

And to better serve a wider breadth of families, we also provide these life-changing STEM experiences for underrepresented students through a number of social impact initiatives.

The bottom line is that STEM needs to be where the kids are. In school, after-school; during the summer, and in our local communities, introduced at a young age when they are most curious. Kids need STEM mentors and role models to look up to. They need more education about STEM degrees and related jobs so they can look forward to bright futures in these fields.

STEM needs to be the sport your child is playing, the show they are watching, and the hero they are emulating. It’s not that kids don’t have the time or capacity to “fit in” STEM, but rather that time needs to be reshaped to include STEM.

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Ryan manages blog content at iD Tech, starting with the company in 2008. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn!