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Articles

Science, tech jobs pay more, lead in growth

USA TODAY - 07.14.2011

By: Paul Davidson, USA TODAY

Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields pay an average 26% more than other occupations and grew three times faster the past decade, according to a Commerce Department study to be released today.

The Obama administration is citing the report partly to put numbers behind its push to invest more to increase jobs in so-called STEM fields. Many employers lament a dire shortage of highly skilled workers despite 9.2% unemployment.

From 2000 to 2010, STEM jobs grew 7.9% to 7.6 million, three times the rate of other fields, the study by Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration says.

They're expected to swell 17% from 2008 to 2018, vs. 9.8% for other jobs.

The study is partly an effort to bolster the case for federal investments in training for these occupations even as Republicans in Congress seek big spending cuts to pare the massive U.S. deficit. Commerce officials say STEM skills also are vital for the U.S. to compete in a global marketplace that places a growing premium on innovation.

"Folks that have these skills are going to prosper -- they're going to be creating the jobs and opportunities of the future," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview.

STEM jobs include computer programmers, statisticians, civil and nuclear engineers, chemists and lab technicians, Commerce says. While such jobs have grown more rapidly and paid better for decades, the wage premium has increased to 26% from about 18% in 1994. The earnings disparity between STEM and non-STEM workers is even greater for the less educated. STEM workers with a high school diploma or less earned $24.82 an hour last year, vs. $15.55 for other employees.

ESA chief economist Mark Doms blames the worker shortage on limited training programs at community colleges, which are largely funded by budget-strapped state governments. Julian Alssid, head of the non-profit Workforce Strategy Center, says many colleges are unaware of employers' needs.

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