Metro Areas with the Best STEM Job Opportunities May Surprise You

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    According to a recent study, Omaha and Oklahoma City are more attractive job-search locations for STEM professionals than anywhere in Silicon Valley.

    That counterintuitive conclusion was drawn by WalletHub, an online personal finance resource based in Washington, in its report, “2015’s Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals.” Some of the metrics WalletHub used to formulate its ranking of 100 metropolitan areas in the United States include job openings per capita for STEM graduates; projected number of STEM jobs needed in 2018; and annual median wage and wage growth for STEM workers, adjusted for cost of living.

    I had the opportunity to discuss all of this with Richie Bernardo, a financial writer at WalletHub, who explained that what prompted the study was WalletHub’s recognition that the Department of Commerce estimates that STEM professions will have expanded 1.7 times faster than non-STEM occupations between 2008 and 2018. As for that counterintuitive finding that the San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara metropolitan area ranked a distant No. 49, compared to Omaha and Oklahoma City, which were in the Top 10, Bernardo explained the reasons.

    In comparison with San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, both Omaha and Oklahoma City have a very low unemployment rate for bachelor degree holders, he said, adding that they’re “registering a good increase in the median wage for STEM workers.” In addition, Bernardo said, Omaha and Oklahoma City are more affordable, when comparing the medium income adjusted for cost of living.

    I found it interesting that Houston took the number one spot in the ranking, so I asked Bernardo if he had any sense of whether the recent drastic drop in oil prices might have dislodged Houston from the top spot since the study was conducted.

    “We could not say that for sure for this year’s rankings, but obviously the drop in oil prices will negatively impact Houston’s economy,” Bernardo said. “The extent to which it will be influenced is directly linked with the period in which low oil prices will be registered. Another factor that could have an equally negative impact is the way the housing bubble that exists at this point in Houston will burst, as Texas is considered the state with the most overrated housing market in the nation.”


    Here are the Top 10 best metro areas for STEM professionals, according to the WalletHub study:

    1. Houston
    2. Austin
    3. Raleigh
    4. Denver
    5. Omaha
    6. Seattle
    7. Oklahoma City
    8. Salt Lake City
    9. Columbus, Ohio
    10. Cincinnati

    And here are the 10 worst:

    91. Lakeland, Fla.
    92. El Paso (tied)
    92. Stockton, Calif. (tied)
    94. Cape Coral, Fla.
    95. Deltona, Fla.
    96. Oxnard, Calif.
    97. Fresno
    98. North Point, Fla.
    99. Riverside, Calif.
    100. Miami

    WalletHub sees the following as other noteworthy statistics that came out of the study:

    • Job openings per capita for STEM graduates are 12 times higher in San Jose than in North Port, Fla.
    • The percentage of all workers in STEM occupations is five times higher in San Jose than in McAllen, Texas.
    • The projected number of STEM jobs needed in 2018 per capita is 13 times higher in Washington than in Baton Rouge.
    • The unemployment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher is four times higher in Riverside, Calif., than in Ogden, Utah.
    • The annual median wage for STEM workers (adjusted for cost of living) is two times higher in Houston than in Honolulu.
    • Housing affordability for STEM professionals is two times higher in Winston-Salem, N.C., than in Honolulu.

    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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