The Best (and Worst) Metro Areas for STEM Jobs

When considering jobs in a STEM field, location is just as important as other factors. A new study from WalletHub details where you should – and shouldn’t – look for work.

The study accounts for more than just income levels; it also appreciates for per-capita job openings (availability), as well as expert projections for what the job market in various metro areas will look like in 2020. All told, there are 17 metrics weighted in the survey.

Those 17 components provide an overall score, with WalletHub highlighting three key metrics: opportunity, ‘STEM friendliness,’ and ‘quality of life.’ In a nutshell, this tells you how available jobs are in an area, and whether or not you’ll be an outlier in your chosen metro (and how far your money will go).

Here are WalletHub’s ten best metro areas for STEM jobs:

  1. Seattle, Washington
  2. Boston, Massachusetts
  3. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  4. Austin, Texas
  5. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  6. Madison, Wisconsin
  7. Salt Lake City, Utah
  8. Springfield, Massachusetts
  9. Chicago, Illinois
  10. Atlanta, Georgia

Meanwhile, eight of the study’s bottom 10 cities are in southern states. Jackson, Mississippi ranks last (100th), with North Point, Florida just ahead of it in the 99th spot. Memphis, Tennessee is 98th; Cape Coral, Florida 97th; and Little Rock, Arkansas is in the 96th slot.

If we look at professional opportunities, Washington, D.C. (32nd overall) is tops. Seattle ranks second, while San Francisco is third (12th overall). Raleigh, North Carolina is the fourth-best metro area for job opportunities (22nd overall), while Atlanta ranks fifth.

Ranking ‘STEM friendliness,’ WalletHub found Boston to be the most scientific city. Springfield was second on this list, while Worchester, Massachusetts was third (18th overall – and good for you, Massachusetts). Seattle ranked fourth, just ahead of Los Angeles, California (35th overall).

‘Quality of life’ is where things get interesting. While we’ve advocated avoidance of Silicon Valley in the past, this study ratchets that sentiment up a notch. Dayton, Ohio ranks first in this metric (25th overall), with Youngstown, Ohio second (66th overall). Syracuse, New York is third (44th overall), with Scranton, Pennsylvania and Palm Bay, Florida rounding out the top five (70th and 72nd overall, respectively).

A driver for ‘quality of life’ was cost of housing. It’s no surprise that, in this study, both Dayton and Youngstown finished first in that metric, as well. Similarly, both Palm Bay and Syracuse ranked in the top five for highest-paying metro areas for STEM professionals.

There’s a lot of unmentioned context to this study. Seattle, for instance, is the headquarters of two major tech companies (Microsoft and Amazon), and home to a bevy of less-considered (but still great) tech firms, such as Zillow. That’s why it’s second for opportunity, fourth for ‘STEM friendliness’ – and 15th for quality of life (which leans heavily into the cost of housing, a metric the Pacific Northwest is struggling with).

Studies like this also can’t account for why a locale may be best for a particular discipline. The Boston area has many jobs in the medical field. Pittsburgh’s a burgeoning automation scene. Those jobs aren’t always transferable to just any metro area, so Boston’s low ranking (43rd) in ‘quality of life’ may not apply for someone who’s carved out a career in their chosen field.

But if you’re entertaining a move or thinking about a new job in-town, this is a great study to keep in your back pocket for later consideration.

Related

6 Responses to “The Best (and Worst) Metro Areas for STEM Jobs”

  1. Umm obviously no one involved in writing this article has traveled to Denver in the last 20 years. Denver has unemployment at 2% and STEM is extremely competitive… missed the mark on this one guys.