NC State

STEM Education Initiative

Science & Engineering Indicators

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Probably the best source for information about how the US is doing in the STEM fields is this document published annually by the National Science Board.

According to this report, STEM workers have higher earnings than other comparable workers. Half of the workers in these occupations earned $81,000 or more in 2014, which is more than double the median salaries ($36,000) of the total workforce. Employed college graduates with a STEM highest degree earn more than those with non-STEM degrees (median salaries in 2013 were $65,000 and $52,000, respectively). For the most part, the earnings premium associated with an S&E degree is present across early, mid, and later career stages.

The STEM labor force is less likely than others to experience unemployment. In February 2013, about 3.8% of scientists and engineers in the labor force were unemployed, about half the official unemployment rate for the entire U.S. labor force (8.1%) at that time.

Are We Ready for Job Growth?

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The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts substantial increases in the number of jobs opening up in the STEM fields. Job postings in these occupations outnumber unemployed people by a factor of 1.9 to one. Yet, our incoming college students are ill-prepared for the demands of the STEM disciplines.

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Do STEM Programs Work?

So can the NC State STEM Education Initiative do anything to help the situation? Consider the following comments from page 22 of Jonathan Rothwell's The Hidden STEM Economy, (June 2013) of the Brookings Institution and decide for yourself!

"Despite the somewhat abstract nature of many STEM interventions, a surprising amount is known about their efficacy, according to the NSTC study and a survey of the research.1 More to the point, many programs to boost STEM education work even when replicated in different regions or universities.2 These research findings align with encouraging research on coaching, mentoring, and even low-cost financial advice in advancing STEM education.3"

"K-12 STEM interventions may be some of the hardest to evaluate given the often long duration between outcomes (a successful career in a STEM field) and the intervention itself. Still, results from STEM focused schools are suggestive.4"

1. Federal Committee on STEM Education, “The Federal STEM Portfolio.”

2. Kenneth I. Maton and others, “Enhancing the Number of African Americans Who Pursue STEM PhDs: Meyerhoff Scholarship Program Outcomes, Processes, and Individual Predictors,” Journal of Women Minorities in Science and Engineering 15(1) (2009): 15–37; Kathy Stolle-McAllister, Mariano R.S. Domingo, and Amy Carrillo, “The Meyerhoff Way: How the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program Helps Black Students Succeed in the Sciences,” Journal of Science Education and Technology 20(1) (2011): 5-16; Becky Wai-Ling Packard, “Effective Outreach, Recruitment, and Mentoring into STEM Pathways: Strengthening Partnerships with Community Colleges.” Prepared for National Academy of Science meeting, “Realizing the Potential of Community Colleges for STEM Attainment,” 2011.

3. Eric Bettinger and Rachel Baker, “The Effects of Student Coaching in College: An Evaluation of a Randomized Experiment in Student Mentoring.” Working paper 16881 (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2011), available at:; Eric Bettinger and Bridget Long, “Addressing the Needs of Under-Prepared Students in Higher Education: Does College Remediation Work?” Journal of Human Resources 44(3) (2009): 736-771; Becky Wai-Ling Packard, “Effective Outreach”; National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering, Community Colleges in the Evolving STEM Education Landscape: Summary of a Summit. (Washington: National Academies Press, 2012); Eric Bettinger, Bridget Long, Phillip Oreopoulos, and Lisa Sanbonmatsu, “The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment.” Working paper 15361 (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2012); Cinda- Sue Davis and others, “Making Academic Progress: The University of Michigan STEM Academy.” Working paper The University of Michigan, 2010), available at view/58555; BEST, “A Bridge for All: Higher Education Design Principles to Broaden Participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” (2004).

4. Perhaps the most promising approach is the creation of STEM-focused schools or course content within traditional schools. Research on STEM schools is just beginning to emerge, but initial evidence looks promising. An independent evaluation of the T-STEM schools in Texas finds that ninth and tenth grade students in these schools perform better on math and science than comparable students. A nonexperimental study shows that students enrolled in STEM high schools are twice as likely to pursue a STEM degree in college as their peers in traditional high schools. Many of these STEM schools are similar to “career academies,” which are high schools that offer course work and experience focused on specific occupations. Here the evidence of labor market benefits—from a major experimental evaluation—is extremely encouraging; National Research Council, Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Washington: National Academies Press, 2011); SRI International, “Evaluation of the Texas High School Project: Third Comprehensive Annual Report” (2011); M. Suzanne Franco, Nimisha Patent, and Jill Lindsay “Are STEM High School Students Entering the STEM Pipeline?” NCSSSMT Journal 1(2012): 14-23; James J. Kemple and Cynthia J. Willner, “Career Academies: Long-Term Impacts on Labor Market Outcomes, Educational Attainment, and Transitions to Adulthood,” (New York: MRDC, 2008).