Few STEM Grads Get STEM Jobs, Depending on What You Mean By That

Lab technician working with equipment: tweezers, microscope, test tubes filled with colored fluid, chemical flasks.
Lab technician working with equipment: tweezers, microscope, test tubes filled with colored fluid, chemical flasks. –File Photo

Only about 26 percent of STEM graduates wind up working in science, technology, engineering, and math-related jobs, according to data released Thursday by the US Census Bureau.

But the findings are a little messy, and they don’t mean those grads aren’t putting their degrees to use.

The 26 percent figure isn’t to say STEM graduates struggle to get jobs. STEM grads have consistently shown lower unemployment rate than non-STEM graduates.

“STEM graduates have relatively low unemployment, however these graduates are not necessarily employed in STEM occupations,’’ said a bureau spokesperson.

Even that sounds a little like an overstatement. What the bureau really found is that many STEM graduates don’t all wind up in the very most STEMmy of positions. The bureau counted computer workers, mathematicians and statisticians, engineers, and life, physical, and social scientists as STEM positions.


The data does not include business and financial positions, which attract a number of math, engineering, and social science grads. Nor does it include health care services, which draws heavily from biology students, or education positions. A bunch of STEM workers also wind up in presumably lucrative non-STEM management roles—with much of that cohort coming from the engineering and social science fields.

Plus, the data shows significant differences based on the worker’s field of study. Nearly half of engineering and math students wind up with STEM positions, compared to just 7.2 percent for social science students.

The bureau found that engineering grads make the most money compared to all other degrees at about $92,900 per year.

And unsurprisingly, men fill most technology and computer jobs, occupying about 86 percent and 74 percent of careers in those respective fields. That falls in line with recent revelations from tech companies showing men dominate their corporate ranks.

The data is based on 2012 census figures. It only included STEM degree holders aged 25-64. The workers’ education was based on their first listed bachelor’s degrees.

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