Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Occupations: A Visual Essay

By Cover, Ben; Jones, John I. et al. | Monthly Labor Review, May 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Occupations: A Visual Essay

Cover, Ben, Jones, John I., Watson, Audrey, Monthly Labor Review

STEM occupations--technical jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--play an instrumental role in expanding scientific frontiers, developing new products, and generating technological progress. These occupations are concentrated in cuttingedge industries such as computer systems design, scientific research and development, and high-tech manufacturing industries. Although educational requirements vary, most of these occupations require a bachelor's degree or higher. Accordingly, STEM occupations are high-paying occupations, with most having mean wages significantly above the U.S. average. Using May 2009 data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, this visual essay takes a closer look at STEM occupations.

For the purposes of this essay, the STEM occupation group is defined as consisting of 97 specific occupations that made up about 6 percent of U.S. employment (1)--nearly 8 million jobs--in May 2009. These 97 occupations include those in computer and mathematical sciences, architecture and engineering, and life and physical sciences. Because managerial and postsecondary teaching occupations associated with these functional areas require similar skills and knowledge, these managerial and teaching occupations are included among the 97 occupations, as are two sales occupations that require scientific or technical education at the postsecondary level: sales engineers and wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives of technical and scientific products. This is only one possible definition of STEM occupations; other definitions exist that may be better suited for other uses. (2)

The first two charts in this visual essay present an overview of the largest STEM occupations as well as the highest- and lowest-paying STEM occupations. These charts are followed by information on the industries with especially large proportions of STEM occupations, and a more detailed look at one of these industries, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing. The remainder of the visual essay focuses on geographic differences in employment and wages for STEM occupations. Several charts in this last section rely on the concept of location quotients, which are ratios that compare an occupation's share of employment in an area to its share of U.S. employment. For example, an occupational group that makes up 10 percent of employment in a specific metropolitan area and 2 percent of U.S. employment would have a location quotient of 5 for that metropolitan area. A location quotient above 1 indicates a stronger-than-average local presence of STEM occupations.

The aggregate data for STEM occupations presented here are based on a special tabulation of Occupational Employment Statistics data created for this visual essay. OES estimates for individual STEM occupations, including national industry-specific data and cross-industry data for the Nation, States, and metropolitan/nonmetropolitan areas, are available from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics homepage at This visual essay was prepared by Ben Cover, John I. Jones, and Audrey Watson, economists in the OES program. For more information, contact the OES program at

1. Employment by occupation for the largest STEM occupations, May 2009


* Most of the largest STEM occupations were related to computers.

* The largest STEM occupations--computer support specialists; computer systems analysts; and computer software engineers, applications--each had employment of approximately 500,000. By comparison, the largest occupations overall, retail salespersons and cashiers, had employment of 4.2 and 3.4 million, respectively.

* The largest STEM occupation that is not specifically computer related was sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products, with employment of about 400,000.

2. Highest- and lowest-paying STEM occupations, May 2009


* Overall, STEM occupations were high-paying occupations.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Occupations: A Visual Essay


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?