Best, Worst Metro Areas for STEM Pros Change Dramatically in Two Years

    Two years ago, I wrote about a study on the best metro areas for STEM professionals that found that Omaha and Oklahoma City were more attractive job-search locations for STEM pros than anywhere in Silicon Valley. If you read that and packed your bags for one of those two cities, I apologize. Apparently, in the span of just two years, things have kind of tanked out there.

    That 2015 study was conducted by WalletHub, an online personal finance resource based in Washington. I recently reviewed WalletHub’s 2017 study, and was floored by how much things have changed. The findings are based on 17 factors that include job openings for STEM graduates per capita, share of the work force in STEM professions, projected demand for STEM jobs by 2020, and annual median wage for STEM workers.

    Omaha fell from No. 5 in 2015 to No. 64 in 2017, and Oklahoma City fell from No. 7 to No. 75. Houston, meanwhile, fell from No. 1 to No. 26, and Raleigh fell from No. 3 to No. 25. Houston’s plunge was hardly a shock, given the woes of the oil industry, but Raleigh’s drop surprised me. I live in Greenville, about 85 miles east of the Raleigh metro area, home of the famed Research Triangle and such software heavyweights as SAS Institute and Red Hat. Locals I’ve spoken with were equally surprised, and really didn’t know what to make of WalletHub’s findings.

    In any case, here’s WalletHub’s list of the 10 best metro areas for STEM professionals in 2017:

    1. Seattle
    2. San Jose
    3. San Francisco
    4. Boston
    5. Springfield, Mass.
    6. Austin
    7. Minneapolis
    8. Atlanta
    9. Washington
    10. Pittsburgh

    And here are the 10 worst in 2017:

    1. Birmingham, Ala.
    2. Lakeland, Fla.
    3. Bridgeport, Conn.
    4. North Port, Fla.
    5. Honolulu
    6. Cape Coral, Fla.
    7. Memphis
    8. Deltona, Fla.
    9. McAllen, Texas
    10. Jackson, Miss.

    I couldn’t help but notice that in both 2015 and 2017, four of the 10 worst metro areas for STEM pros were in Florida. So at least some things are consistent.

    Here are some of the factoids that WalletHub found worthy of note:

    • Atlanta has the most per-capita job openings for STEM graduates (108), which is 54 times more than in Deltona, Fla., the metro area with the fewest (2).
    • San Jose has the highest percentage of workers in STEM occupations (22.2 percent), which is 13.1 times higher than in McAllen, Texas, the metro area with the lowest (1.7 percent).
    • Washington has the highest projected number of STEM jobs per capita needed by 2020 (14.86 percent), which is 13.8 times higher than in Las Vegas, the metro area with the lowest (1.08 percent).
    • Riverside, Calif., has the highest unemployment rate for residents with at least a bachelor’s degree (6.1 percent), which is 3.2 times greater than in Des Moines, the metro area with the lowest (1.9 percent).
    • Houston has the highest annual median wage for STEM workers, adjusted by cost of living ($94,110), which is 2.3 times higher than in Honolulu, the metro area with the lowest ($40,223).
    • Dayton, Ohio, has the highest housing-affordability index for STEM professionals (103.26), which is 2.1 times higher than in Honolulu, the metro area with the lowest (48.25).


    A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.

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