2018’s 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 a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — professions grew at over twice the rate as non-STEM workers did between 2009 and 2015. And most types of STEM jobs will expand faster than all occupations until 2024.
Given their growing demand, STEM careers today comprise some of the most lucrative employment, paying higher salaries and boasting far fewer threats of unemployment compared with other types of jobs. STEM workers in 2015 earned an average annual wage of $87,570, nearly double the national average of $45,700 for all non-STEM jobs, according to the most recent figures from the BLS.
To determine the best markets for STEM professionals, WalletHub compared the 100 largest metro areas across 17 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
|7||Salt Lake City, UT||62.96||9||14||18|
|12||San Francisco, CA||60.50||3||7||67|
|15||San Diego, CA||57.39||59||23||16|
|17||Colorado Springs, CO||57.00||17||54||20|
|20||San Jose, CA||55.79||18||18||53|
|23||St. Louis, MO||54.44||11||43||45|
|26||Grand Rapids, MI||53.27||14||44||34|
|35||Los Angeles, CA||51.06||83||5||69|
|42||New York, NY||49.83||48||9||76|
|51||New Haven, CT||46.83||80||19||51|
|52||San Antonio, TX||46.75||55||51||53|
|53||Des Moines, IA||46.62||56||79||22|
|57||Kansas City, MO||45.86||34||80||50|
|58||Virginia Beach, VA||45.78||60||40||70|
|63||Oklahoma City, OK||43.89||73||77||39|
|72||Palm Bay, FL||40.59||39||87||5|
|75||El Paso, TX||39.53||96||51||68|
|81||New Orleans, LA||36.40||85||96||60|
|84||Las Vegas, NV||35.12||75||99||59|
|86||Baton Rouge, LA||34.84||81||92||77|
|96||Little Rock, AR||29.26||67||98||91|
|97||Cape Coral, FL||28.06||97||87||93|
|99||North Port, FL||26.34||92||87||96|
*“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?
- In evaluating the best cities for STEM professionals, what are the top five indicators?
- 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 total 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 (2016 vs. 2014): 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 (2016 vs. 2014): Half Weight (~1.67 Points)
STEM-Friendliness – Total Points: 33.33
- Mathematics Performance*: Full Weight (~6.67 Points)
Note: This metric considers standardized math test scores of fourth and eighth graders.
- Share of Best Engineering Schools: Full Weight (~6.67 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of engineering universities in the top 100 of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Engineering Schools” ranking.
- Quality of Engineering Universities: Full Weight (~6.67 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 (~6.67 Points)
- Research & Development (R&D) Spending & Intensity*: Full Weight (~6.67 Points)
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, 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 and WalletHub research.
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