STEM careers: Where are all the jobs?

2014-03-01T14:30:00Z STEM careers: Where are all the jobs?Barbara Christiansen - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 01, 2014 2:30 pm  • 

PROVO -- Software developers, medical health service managers, electrical engineers, radiologists, physical therapists, pharmacists, accountants, auditors, petroleum engineers to name a few. Those are some of the top 50 hottest jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

That's according to the Utah Technology Council, which recently unveiled the list of the top positions. The annual wages for the positions range up to $186,900.

Sound good?

Then make plans now to start a career in one of those fields.

The technology council is helping educators and counselors assist students prepare for future jobs by providing the information. That can help those who are interested in the fields see what options are available and start on the path to the ones they find the most compelling.

They ranked the STEM jobs in three areas short term projected growth rate, current job opening and compensation. Students and counselors can include that information as they prepare for the future.

"The dedicated counselors of our educational system are extremely overworked," said Richard R. Nelson, president and CEO of the UTC. "This list provides them with 50 very specific jobs that will enable them to more easily place students on a STEM education track, unlike the vague, nebulous job lists they've had access to in the past. If we don't provide the necessary information to our educators, we are doing our children and our state a tremendous disservice. We need to do better especially with thousands of job openings annually."

If Utah students are not trained for those positions, companies could have to import workers, or companies looking to relocate may choose a different state to find a trained workforce, he said.

"It's vital that tech companies opening operations in Utah have access to an existing talent pool," he said. "If they don't have this talent in Utah, they'll end up going someplace where they do have access to the appropriate talent. It's that simple."

UTC executive committee member Keyvan Esfarjani said Utah was one of the nation's technology leaders.

"With leadership comes responsibility," he said. "Today we must prepare the leaders of tomorrow by teaching them how to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. STEM education is essential to the future of our children and the future of our state."

Overall, software developers and applications, ranked highest of the 50 on the list. However, the compensation was not at the top. At an average of $79,440, the field ranked significantly behind family and general practitioners ($186,980), pediatricians ($185,020), nurse anesthetists ($157,670), pharmacists ($117,760), architectural and engineering managers ($111,220) and computer and information systems managers ($107,430).

Looking at the list of the top-paying fields, it is easy to realize that people don't quickly jump into them.

"Individuals don't just fall into a STEM career," Nelson said. "Education for a STEM career needs to start in kindergarten and be reinforced throughout a student's education. We can't expect students to start down one of these career paths at the university or applied technology level. And teachers at some of those younger grades are singing a slightly different chorus of the same song."

Rachel Gonzalez, a career and technology education teacher at Lakeridge Junior High School in Orem, participated in a recent CTE conference and came back with even more enthusiasm than she brought.

"We are the fifth largest CTE teachers association in the national organization, which is a nice thing," she said. "We have some incredible teachers in the state of Utah.

"These junior high students are still a ways away from the $100,000-plus salary jobs, but their teachers can see bright future for them," she said.

CTE is different from STEM in that CTE used to be called vocational education. It includes preparation for occupations including cosmetology, auto mechanics and photography, along with those in technology, which is covered in STEM SEmD science, technology, engineering and math.

Gonzalez said the CTE subjects were the practical application of education.

"CTE is the part of education that makes it whole for a student," she said. "It used to be called vocational, but we are in a day and age that is so different."

She said that was reflected in Gov. Gary Herbert's goal of having about 60 percent of Utahns with a college degree or certification. That certification could be in the CTE fields.

Even without a college degree, they can be lucrative.

"They can be high paying," she said. "As far as careers, there are many areas out there. STEM and CTE are where it is at.

-- Barbara Christiansen covers news in American Fork government, schools, residents, business and more. You can connect with Barbara by emailing her at

Read more from Barbara Christiansen here.

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