Does majoring in STEM lead to a STEM job after graduation?
Majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) does not guarantee a job in a STEM occupation but it typically means a bump in pay.
Among the 50 million employed college graduates ages 25 to 64 in 2019, 37% reported a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering but only 14% worked in a STEM occupation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 1-year estimates.
This translates into less than a third (28%) of STEM-educated workers actually working in a STEM job.
STEM jobs include computer occupations, mathematicians and statisticians, engineers, life scientists, and physical and social scientists. About half of the STEM jobs were in computer occupations and another 29% in engineering in 2019.
STEM workers who majored in a STEM field in college typically made higher salaries than those who did not: on average, $101,100 vs. $87,600.
The vast majority (62%) of college-educated workers who majored in a STEM field were employed in non-STEM fields such as non-STEM management, law, education, social work, accounting or counseling. In addition, 10% of STEM college graduates worked in STEM-related occupations such as health care.
The path to STEM jobs for non-STEM majors was narrow. Only a few STEM-related majors (7%) and non-STEM majors (6%) ultimately ended up in STEM occupations.
STEM Job Opportunities Differ by Field
About half of workers who majored in engineering (52%) or computer, mathematics, and statistics majors (51%) worked in STEM.
The difference between those who majored in engineering and computer, mathematics, and statistics majors was not statistically significant.
That means that about as many people with a computer or engineering background were just as likely to be employed in non-STEM occupations. Some may have worked in STEM initially but transitioned later to a non-STEM occupation such as management.
Workers who studied other types of STEM majors found employment in STEM occupations at much lower rates.
Just over a quarter of physical science majors (28%), for example, were employed in STEM. The percentages were even lower for STEM majors in biology, environmental, and agricultural science (16%), psychology (10%) and social science (9%).
In addition, STEM jobs attracted more workers with advanced degrees. About 40% of college-educated STEM workers had a graduate degree.
Click here to learn more about:
- STEM job opportunities differ by field
- Different paths for foreign- and native-born workers
- Majoring in STEM pays off
- From college to jobs
|Women Making Gains in STEM Occupations But Still Underrepresented: While women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, they are only 27% of STEM workers, up from 8% in 1970. Learn More|
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