Only half of science, technology, engineering and math jobs require a bachelor’s degree, according to a new Brookings Institution report. That should inform how the U.S. government invests in education, says the study author.
“One of the implications is that public policy makers should respect the role of community colleges and other sub-bachelor’s training more than they currently do,” said Jonathan Rothwell, an associate fellow with Brookings. He authored the report after determining that so-called STEM job definitions overlook many nonprofessional occupations that require specific skills.
Such jobs account for 20 percent of all positions in the U.S., far more than the 4 percent to 5 percent of jobs previously estimated, a release accompanying the report states.
And trying to boost STEM workforces further could be good policy — geographic areas where such work is concentrated boast better economies, according to the newly released The Hidden STEM Economy.
The report estimated that there were 59,670 STEM jobs in Akron in 2011, ranking the community 68th out of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.
STEM jobs made up 20.1 percent of all jobs, ranking Akron 47th.
The Cleveland metro area had the most STEM jobs in Ohio with 203,710 and was ranked 23rd nationwide.
Cincinnati was second with 194,510 (25th), followed by Columbus, 178,550 (28th); Dayton, 80,710 (56th); Toledo, 49,260 (79th); and Youngstown, 32,570 (94th).
Rothwell expanded his definition of STEM occupations to include positions in transportation, farming, forestry and other fields that require specialized knowledge. He analyzed U.S. Department of Labor survey data in which workers report the skills they need for their jobs, classifying all work above the 90th percentile of required science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge as a STEM occupation.
“There were so many jobs that score very highly in terms of the level of STEM knowledge they require that do not typically require a bachelor’s degree,” Rothwell said in an interview.
Workers earned more than counterparts in other fields, even without college degrees, according to Rothwell. Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher make an average salary of $88,000, compared with $66,000 for non-STEM workers with at least a bachelor’s. Those without a bachelor’s degree earned $53,000 compared with $33,000 for non-STEM, sub-bachelor occupations, according to the release accompanying the study.
In Akron, STEM jobs paid an average of $63,832 while non-STEM occupations paid $35,378.
“Entry-level occupations in factories no longer pay high wages,” Rothwell wrote in the study. “Occupations requiring education, experience, or training in STEM fields do, even for those requiring less than four years of postsecondary education.”
Beacon Journal staff writer Rick Armon contributed to this story.