For Steady Work, Study STEM


By Gina Wynn

According to a recent survey, Americans still believe there is a shortage of workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in the U.S., despite nationwide efforts to steer students toward STEM careers throughout the past decade.

A Missouri-based technology and engineering company, Emerson, conducted the fourth annual STEM survey of 2,000 Americans. The results show that two out of five Americans say the STEM worker shortage in the U.S is at a crisis level. 

Emerson reports that even though students are now twice as likely as their parents to choose STEM fields, the number of jobs requiring STEM knowledge is growing at a rate higher than the number of people in the workforce.

Choose Your Industry

The skill gap spans a variety of industries. Representatives from Deloitte and the National Association of Manufacturing predict they will need to fill about 3.5 million manufacturing jobs by 2025. But up to 2 million could go unfilled if there aren’t enough qualified workers.

Large companies like Google, Apple, and Ernst and Young already consider applicants without college degrees for computer science and engineering jobs if they can demonstrate the necessary skills.

Survey results show people have been expecting these realities: 48 percent of respondents and 52 percent of the parents surveyed believe there will be more U.S. STEM jobs in the next 10 years.

Higher Salaries

If current trends continue, both job opportunities and wages in STEM fields will continue to grow. According to the article Short on STEM Talent, Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2000 to 2013 (adjusted for inflation) showed median salaries for the average U.S. worker were flat. But wages for computer and mathematical positions, healthcare practitioners, engineers, and other science occupations rose 8, 7, 6, and 5 percent, respectively.

The article’s author, Jonathan Rothwell, reported on information he obtained from the market analytics firm Burning Glass. He found that roughly 40,000 computer science majors receive their bachelor’s degrees each year, but nearly 4 million vacancies exist for people with computer expertise.

In short, unemployment is low for people with STEM degrees. And among workers with college degrees, STEM majors earn some of the highest salaries.

Opportunities for Women

The STEM worker crisis also means increased opportunities for women — the Emerson survey revealed that less than 50 percent of parents said they encourage their daughters to consider STEM careers.

"Women make up over 51 percent of the laborers in the U.S., but account for less than 24 percent of the technology employees, with less than 18 percent of women being software engineers," said Chief Marketing Officer for Chariot Solutions Tracey Welson-Rossman, as reported in the article STEM Worker Shortage at a Crisis, Survey Shows. Welson-Rossman also founded the nonprofit organization TechGirlz.

"With a predicted 1 million tech jobs open by 2020 and 2 million cybersecurity jobs open also by 2020 — not all software coding — the need for more women in tech is clear," she added.

Still Work to Be Done

For men and women alike, Emerson’s research shows room for improvement when it comes to developing STEM competency. Survey respondents said they don’t see enough opportunities for students in the U.S. to learn STEM skills. Roughly 70 percent indicated they do not feel teachers have adequate resources to educate students in STEM areas.

The data collected by Emerson shines a spotlight on the growing need for STEM education and awareness in the United States. Parents, school administrators, and teachers can all do more to encourage young people to pursue STEM careers and to provide them with the training they need to succeed.

Discussion Questions

  • If you had to choose any career in a STEM field, what would it be and why?
  • Why do you think there are so many new jobs being created in STEM areas?


  • Occupation
  • Unemployment
  • Manufacturing
  • Cybersecurity