Searching for Commonality in STEM Occupation Definitions

The media often reports that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) jobs are in-demand.  They have been growing, are expected to continue growing, and generally pay a good wage. But when it comes to the occupations that should count as“STEM jobs,” there is far less agreement.

Forecasts and reports of STEM growth are often cited in the media, but different definitions make comparisons between studies extremely difficult, if not impossible. To explore this problem, we compared four often-used definitions of STEM occupations:

Among the different definitions, 314 unique occupation titles were identified as STEM. Those 314 titles represent over a third of the 840 detailed Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes.[1]

The Department of Commerce study had the narrowest definition, with 54 occupations. The SOC Policy Committee recommended 184 STEM occupation codes and was the only definition to include healthcare occupations (64 health occupations).

Common STEM Occupational Definitions Between Four Sources

Only 17 titles were included in all four definitions of STEM occupations. About half of these 17 occupations are engineers, while another 4 are related to computer science. Math is represented by mathematicians and statisticians, while science is limited to astronomers, atmospheric and space scientists, and natural sciences managers.

Based on the 4 STEM definitions reviewed here, the following 17 occupations should be included in any analysis of STEM jobs, though they are clearly not comprehensive (the complete list is shown in alphabetical order):

STEM Occupations Defined in All Four Sources
Aerospace Engineers Computer Programmers
Agricultural Engineers Database Administrators
Astronomers Environmental Engineers
Atmospheric and Space Scientists Mathematicians
Biomedical Engineers Mechanical Engineers
Chemical Engineers Natural Sciences Managers
Computer and Information Systems Managers Nuclear Engineers
Computer Hardware Engineers Petroleum Engineers
Source: Chmura Economics & Analytics

Similarly, 22 occupations were included in three definitions. Often in this category, the incongruence between sources is due to SOC code changes over time and/or degree of detail in the occupation code chosen (the full list is presented in the table below in alphabetical order):

STEM Occupations Defined in Three Sources
Biochemists and Biophysicists

Marine Engineers and Naval Architects

Biological Technicians

Materials Engineers

Chemical Technicians

Materials Scientists


Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers

Civil Engineers

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Operations Research Analysts

Computer Network Architects


Electrical Engineers

Sales Engineers

Electronics Engineers, Except Computer

Software Developers, Applications

Industrial Engineers

Software Developers, Systems Software

Information Security Analysts

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Source: Chmura Economics & Analytics

Although the definition of STEM is somewhat dependent on how the information is used, there is some common ground in defining STEM occupations. Thirty-nine detailed occupation codes match across at least three sources, and 64 of the 215 codes with only one source can be explained by their relation to healthcare—usually differentiated in STEM-H definitions.

As we read and conduct studies about STEM jobs, these common occupations should be kept in mind as the types of jobs typically considered “STEM.”

The full list of occupations and number of sources is show here: STEM Occupations.

Research support provided by Patrick Clapp.

[1] Some of the occupations are from older SOC definitions, cross two or more codes, or are otherwise not included in the standard detailed codes (hence much of the problem with pinning down a definition).

Tracking Liftoff: Liftoff!

In a highly anticipated move, the Federal Reserve finally raised the target range for the federal funds rate, hiking it by a quarter-percentage point. This was the first rate hike in nearly a decade and signals the central bank’s confidence in the U.S. economy. The course of interest rate normalization is expected to be gradual but will ultimately be determined by incoming economic data. Based on the Fed’s “dot plot,” which shows Federal Open Market Committee members’ expectations for interest rates in the future, officials are expecting the federal funds rate target to increase one percentage point by this time next year.

View the evolution of this decision in our interactive graphic below.

The Economic Impact of Richmond 2015 in Richmond MSA and Virginia

In September 2015, Richmond hosted the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Road Cycling Championships. Based on the number of spectators and spending in the region, the event was a success!

This international sporting event attracted an estimated 645,000 spectators from around the world.

In addition to the spectators, there were 5,284 credentialed participants at Richmond 2015, including athletes and their supporting staff, UCI and Richmond 2015 organizers, race officials and staff, and media representatives and journalists.

An intercept survey we performed during the event found that spending by visitors to Richmond 2015 generated an estimated $138.4 million in economic impact (direct, indirect, and induced) in the Richmond metropolitan statistical area (MSA), and $145.9 million in Virginia.

Combining event organization and visitor spending, the total economic impact of Richmond 2015 was estimated at $161.5 million (direct, indirect, and induced) in the Richmond MSA and $169.8 million in Virginia.

See the full economic impact and survey results here: The Economic Impact of Richmond 2015 in Richmond MSA and Virginia (PDF).

Economic Impact: Manufacturing sector is changing

The manufacturing sector often gets a bad rap.

After all, who wants to do physical work for a declining industry in a dirty factory for relatively low wages?

Each one of those impressions has a historical root of truth, but times, they are a-changin’.

The manufacturing sector is typically more cyclical than other industries, such as health care and professional business services. That is, it tends to lay off a larger percentage of its workforce during recessions because of reduced demands for goods produced.

This is especially true of industries that produce expensive durable goods, such as cars, refrigerators and furniture, that consumers delay purchasing during downturns for fear that they won’t be able to pay off the credit used to buy the items if they lose their jobs.

Long-term trends show manufacturing employment peaked in the nation at 19.5 million jobs in mid-1979 and hit a low of 11.5 million in early 2010 as the nation recovered from the last recession.

Since then, manufacturers have added 864,000 jobs. Looking to the next 10 years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conservatively estimates that at least 2.8 million positions will open up in manufacturing as workers retire or move on to new occupations.

In Virginia and the Richmond area, manufacturing employment has increased from its post-recession trough.

According to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, expansion announcements in 2014 and 2015 by manufacturing firms eventually will add 12,118 jobs to the state — 3,416 of those jobs are expected in the Richmond area.

Movies such as “Rocky” remind us of hard, labor-intensive work at factories, even though the dirty old factory is from a bygone era.

What was once made from brute labor is now created with programmable robotics and simulation models.

And if you still think factory floors are dirty, look at the images of the Rolls-Royce airplane engine plant in Prince George County. You’ll see clean and sheen flooring with suspended equipment, looking more like a laboratory than a factory floor.

Manufacturing jobs also pay very well.

In the nation, they average an annual $63,154 in the first quarter of 2015, compared with $51,656 for all industries in total. The wage for an average manufacturing job stood at $61,659 in the Richmond area during the same time period compared with $50,082 for all jobs in our region.

Turkey By the Numbers

As the most common main dish of Thanksgiving dinner, turkey prices have a large impact on the overall price of the holiday meal. The average price per pound of a frozen whole turkey rose 1.3% last month from September to $1.56 according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But turkey prices have been coming down over the past two years. From October 2014, the price was down 6.5% and was 14.3% lower than its September 2013 peak of $1.82 per pound.

Average Consumer Price, Frozen Whole TurkeysAverage Consumer Price, Frozen Whole Turkeys

For six straight years beginning in 2009, turkey prices have declined from October to November suggesting that the average price paid this month may actually be less than $1.56 per pound.

Turkey prices have risen faster than overall inflation over the past decade, increasing 37% compared with a 19% increase in overall consumer prices.

And where are all those turkeys produced around the nation?  Based on the number of people employed, Minnesota and North Carolina topped the list in the first quarter of 2015 with 890 and 870 employees, respectively.  Missouri (527 workers), California (513), Ohio (292), and Indiana (286) make up the other states that employ at least 200 people in turkey production.

Top 10 States by Employment, Turkey Production (NAICS 112330)Top 10 States by Employment, Turkey Production (NAICS 112330)