Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals
STEM workers are in fierce demand, and not just in the global epicenter of high tech known as Silicon Valley. According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — professions grew at over twice the rate that non-STEM jobs did between 2009 and 2015. Most types of STEM jobs will also expand faster than all other occupations until 2024.
Given their growing demand, STEM careers today provide some of the most lucrative employment opportunities. They pay higher salaries and boast far fewer threats of unemployment compared with other types of jobs. According to the latest BLS statistics, medical scientists can expect the most graduate-level job openings at around 12,100 per year. Biochemists and biophysicists enjoy the highest median wage, at $91,190.
To determine the best markets for STEM professionals, WalletHub compared the 100 largest metro areas across 20 key metrics. Our data set ranges from per-capita job openings for STEM graduates to annual median wage growth for STEM jobs to projected demand for STEM workers by 2020. Read on for our findings, additional insight from our panel of experts and a full description of our methodology.
Best Cities for STEM Jobs
'Professional Opportunities' Rank
‘Quality of Life’ Rank
|5||San Francisco, CA||64.49||3||5||60|
|8||Salt Lake City, UT||63.23||6||26||23|
|11||San Diego, CA||61.43||45||18||12|
|19||San Jose, CA||57.27||25||7||61|
|24||St. Louis, MO||54.91||11||52||37|
|28||Colorado Springs, CO||53.71||33||64||22|
|31||Los Angeles, CA||53.55||78||4||69|
|44||Des Moines, IA||49.19||21||87||30|
|51||Grand Rapids, MI||48.18||54||53||36|
|52||San Antonio, TX||48.09||60||50||48|
|55||New Haven, CT||47.73||86||8||78|
|56||Kansas City, MO||47.34||42||66||52|
|60||New York, NY||47.06||82||10||82|
|64||Oklahoma City, OK||45.33||58||81||38|
|71||Las Vegas, NV||41.20||63||95||44|
|74||Palm Bay, FL||40.78||44||91||9|
|75||Virginia Beach, VA||40.52||70||61||84|
|81||New Orleans, LA||38.44||90||85||57|
|83||El Paso, TX||37.38||96||71||64|
|88||Baton Rouge, LA||35.03||79||97||77|
|96||Little Rock, AR||31.14||83||99||75|
|99||North Port, FL||26.40||95||89||97|
|100||Cape Coral, FL||25.12||100||92||98|
*“Metro Area” is a simplified label for Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which was used for our sample.
Ask the Experts
Like all professions, STEM occupations pose challenges to graduates who wish to pursue such careers. For guidance, we asked a panel of experts to share their advice for both job seekers and local governments that stand to benefit from growth in the field. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- How do STEM graduates perform in the labor market relative to graduates from other fields?
- According to recent census figures, the majority of STEM graduates do not ultimately work in a STEM occupation. Why is that the case?
- How can the U.S. stay ahead of other countries in attracting and training the best STEM professionals?
- How can local authorities make their cities more appealing to STEM graduates and technology companies?
- How can government, employers and educators increase the number of women and minorities in STEM fields?
In order to determine the best job markets for STEM professionals, WalletHub compared the 100 most populated U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) — metro area, for short — across three key dimensions, “Professional Opportunities”, “STEM-Friendliness” and “Quality of Life.”
We evaluated those dimensions using 17 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for STEM professionals. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available only at the state level.
Finally, we determined each metro area’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Professional Opportunities – Total Points: 33.33
- Job Openings for STEM Graduates per Capita: Double Weight (~6.67 Points)
- Share of Workforce in STEM: Double Weight (~6.67 Points)
- Projected Demand for STEM Jobs by Year 2020*: Half Weight (~1.67 Points)
- STEM Employment Growth (2017 vs. 2015): Double Weight (~6.67 Points)
- Unemployment Rate for Adults with at Least a Bachelor’s Degree: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: “Adults” include the population aged 25 and older.
- Annual Median Wage for STEM Workers: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted by the cost of living.
- Average Monthly Earnings for New Employees in STEM Industries: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Annual Median Wage Growth for STEM Workers (2017 vs. 2015): Half Weight (~1.67 Points)
STEM-Friendliness – Total Points: 33.33
- Mathematics Performance*: Full Weight (~5.13 Points)
Note: This metric considers standardized math test scores of fourth and eighth graders.
- Share of Best Engineering Schools: Full Weight (~5.13 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of engineering universities in the top 105 of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Engineering Schools” ranking.
- Quality of Engineering Universities: Full Weight (~5.13 Points)
Note: This metric is based on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Engineering Schools” score.
- Disparity of Women vs. Men in STEM Occupations*: Full Weight (~5.13 Points)
- Research & Development (R&D) Spending & Intensity*: Full Weight (~5.13 Points)
- Utility Patents*: Half Weight (~2.56 Points)
Note: “Utility Patents” refers to state-granted invention patents as a percentage of the U.S. total.
- Number of Tech Meetups per Capita: Half Weight (~2.56 Points)
- Presence of Tech Summer Programs: Half Weight (~2.56 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of Tech Summer Programs in the cities.
Quality of Life – Total Points: 33.33
- Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Annual Median Wage for STEM Workers / Median Gross Rent.
- Recreation-Friendliness: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Recreation” ranking.
- Family-Friendliness: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Places to Raise a Family” ranking.
- Singles-Friendliness: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Singles” ranking.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Center on Education and the Workforce, United States Patent and Trademark Office, National Center for Education Statistics, National Science Foundation, Council for Community and Economic Research, Indeed, U.S. News & World Report, Salary.com, Institute for Women's Policy Research, Meetup, iD Tech and WalletHub research.
Image: Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com
Was this article helpful?