STEM 2.8 STEM Knowledge and Skills

An additional concern for the STEM workforce is that many S&E workers are reaching traditional retirement age (26% were older than age 50 in 2006), while jobs requiring specialized training are growing at five times the rate of other occupations[1].

Therefore, in addition to openings from job growth, many openings will be created by the need to replace the highly skilled workers who will retire over the next two decades.

When we think about STEM, we may picture highly professional white-collar jobs that require copious amounts of education.

In reality, STEM jobs encompass much more than the stereotypes about this field, where opportunities exist for varying degrees of STEM knowledge. In fact, 7 out of 10 of the fastest growing occupations, requiring at least an associate degree, are in STEM fields[2].

When we look at all STEM jobs, half are available to workers without a 4-year degree, and these jobs pay $53,000 on average—a wage 10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements.

A portion of STEM jobs today are actually blue-collar jobs, which are also in demand.

If we continue to encourage only students who are high-achieving in math and science to consider a STEM career, we will most certainly sacrifice the potential talent needed to fill the entire gamut of STEM jobs on the horizon[3].

  1. National Science Board, Science and Engineering indicators 2010 (NSB 10-01), Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.

    American Association of University Women, 2010, Improve Girls’ and Women’s Opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, Washington, DC: American Association of University Women.

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, in

  3. Rothwell, J., 2013, The Hidden STEM Economy, Washington, DC: Brookings.