- STEM jobs account for 10.8% of all jobs in the Austin MSA in 2017, making Austin the 6th most concentrated in STEM jobs among large U.S. metros.
- Austin’s two largest STEM occupations are applications software developers (13,680 jobs) and sales representatives for technical and scientific products (10,190).
- Over a quarter of all jobs in the Austin MSA are in occupations with a bachelor’s degree as the typical entry-level education requirement.
- The median salary of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree is twice that of a job requiring a high school diploma, both nationally and in Austin.
New data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on March 30th provides estimates of 2017 employment and salaries by occupation. Estimates from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program are available for the nation as a whole and for over 500 other areas. Over 800 occupations are covered in the survey, with over 600 of those available for the Austin MSA. The OES survey is sent to hundreds of Austin-area employers every May and November and is vital as the foundational data needed to quantify pay and employment for occupations.
Last year, with the release of 2016 data, this Central Texas Economy article treated relative salary levels in Austin across a range of occupation groups and detailed occupations. BLS also produces supplementary sets of OES data treating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations and occupations by the typical entry-level educational requirement. Those tabulations are what we’ll look at this time.
BLS classifies 100 occupations as STEM, including computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering, and life and physical science occupations, as well as managerial and postsecondary teaching occupations related to these functional areas, and sales occupations requiring scientific or technical knowledge at the postsecondary level.
In 2017 there were nearly 108,000 STEM jobs in the Austin metro, representing 10.8% of total employment. Nationally, STEM jobs account for 6.2% of employment. Among the 50 largest metros, Austin ranks sixth for percentage of jobs in STEM occupations. San Jose tops the major metros ranking with 20.5% in STEM. Las Vegas and Riverside have the lowest employment shares, both under 3.0%.
Texas has a slightly higher rate of STEM employment, 6.3%, than the nation. The range among the major Texas metros is wide. Dallas’ percentage is 7.9% (ranking 16th), Houston’s is 7.4% (22nd), while San Antonio (5.1%) and Fort Worth (4.7%) rank 42nd and 44th respectively.
In Austin, STEM occupations earn a median annual salary of $86,680 compared to $35,710 for non-STEM occupations. Nationally, STEM’s median salary is $83,110 compared to $36,060 for non-STEM. The median STEM salary in Austin is 243% of the non-STEM salary. Nationally, the median STEM salary is 230% of the non-STEM salary. STEM salaries are highest in San Jose, which has a median of $119,720, which is 255% of San Jose’s $46,790 non-STEM salary.
The two highest paid STEM occupations, nationally and in Austin, are architectural and engineering managers and computer and information systems managers. In Austin, both occupations have median salaries of about $152,500. These salaries are 10-11% above the national medians. However, compared to San Jose, where these two occupations are much more concentrated, Austin computer and IS managers earn a median salary 19% less, and architectural and engineering managers earn 13% less, than they do in San Jose.
Austin’s largest STEM occupation is applications software developers, which are estimated at 13,680 jobs. As the graph below indicates, this occupation has a location quotient (LQ) in Austin of 2.30.
Location quotients are a useful byproduct of the survey’s employment estimates. The location quotient (LQ) represents the ratio of an occupation’s share of employment in a given area to that occupation’s share of employment in the U.S. as a whole. In this case, application software developers make up 1.4% of employment in Austin compared with 0.6% of U.S. employment. Austin’s 1.4% rate is 2.30 times 0.6%, therefore Austin’s LQ for the occupation is 2.30.
The next largest STEM occupation in Austin is wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives for technical and scientific products. There are nearly 10,200 of these, the occupation has an LQ of 4.45, and no metro has a higher LC for this occupation. This occupation is one signal of some of the differences between Austin’s and San Jose’s tech sectors. This sales occupation is also in San Jose’s STEM top 10, but there are actually fewer in San Jose (7,340) than Austin, and the San Jose LQ is 2.94.
San Jose, in fact, has more jobs for computer hardware engineers (9,790) which has a remarkable LQ of 19.19. Electronics engineers, except computer, is also a top 10 occupation in San Jose (6,100 jobs and an LQ of 5.92). In Austin, electronics engineers, except computer (2,530 jobs) has an LQ of 2.68, and computer hardware engineers (500 jobs) has an LQ of only 1.06 (i.e., the occupation is just slightly more prevalent here than it is nationally).
Occupations by Education/Training
Each occupation in the OES survey is associated with a typical entry-level educational/training requirement, ranging from “no formal educational credential” to “doctoral or professional degree.”
In Austin 255,440 jobs, or 25.6%, require a bachelor’s degree. Nationally, 21.5% of jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Austin’s 25.6% rate ranks as the eighth highest among the 50 largest U.S. metro areas.
Occupations requiring a master’s, doctoral, or professional degree (36,470) are less concentrated in Austin (3.7%) than nationally (4.3%). Among large metros, Austin ranks 40th for the percent of jobs requiring a graduate degree. Jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher account for 29.3% and Austin ranks 14th for the combined group of jobs. The top ranked metros for jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree are San Jose and Washington. The metros are also the top two for jobs requiring a bachelor’s or graduate degree (both over 40%). Curiously, San Jose’s percentage of jobs requiring a graduate degree is also 3.7%. The top metros for graduate degree jobs are Philadelphia and Boston (both over 7%).
The median salary of a job requiring a bachelor’s degree is twice that of a job requiring a high school diploma, both nationally and in Austin.
In Austin, the highest paid 10% of workers (those at or above the 90th percentile) earned about 5 times as much as the lowest paid 10% (the 10th percentile). When jobs are grouped by educational requirement, the differential between the top 10% and the bottom 10% increases with education. The top 10% of jobs with no formal educational credential only pay about twice as much as the bottom 10%; among workers in jobs requiring a high school diploma, the highest paid 10% earn about three times the lowest paid 10%; and among workers in jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree, the highest paid 10% earn about four times the lowest paid 10%.
 It should be noted, when relying on employment estimates for individual occupations like these, that all estimates are subject to the survey’s sampling error and BLS publishes relative standard error (RSE) statistics for each employment estimate. The RSE is defined as the ratio of the standard error to the survey estimate. For example, a RSE of 10% implies that the standard error is one-tenth as large as the survey estimate. Austin’s total STEM employment estimate (nearly 108,000) has a relative standard error (RSE) of 3.1. Computer hardware engineers are estimated at 500 in 2017, but the RSE is 21.0.
 Note that occupations are associated with a typical entry-level educational requirement. In practice, a range of levels of educational attainment may be prevalent in an occupation. Workers in Austin with a bachelor’s degree or higher is greater than 29.3%. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 46.4% of employed workers between 25 and 64 years has a bachelor’s degree or higher. About 16% of the civilian employed are outside this age range, so the actual percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher isn’t estimated.
Vice President of Research, Beverly Kerr, joined the Chamber’s Economic Development Department in 2004, following 10 years in a similar role with the Kansas City Area Development Council. Beverly earned an M.A. in economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.