Occupational Employment & Salaries: STEM & Educational Qualifications

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Posted on 05/12/2020 by Beverly Kerr

  • STEM occupations account for over 11% of all jobs in the Austin MSA in 2019, making Austin the 6th most concentrated in STEM among large U.S. metros.
  • Austin’s two largest STEM occupations are software developers and software quality analysts/testers (23,410 jobs) and computer systems analysts (9,040).
  • Nearly 28% of all jobs in the Austin MSA are in occupations with a bachelor’s degree as the typical entry-level education requirement and another 4% require a graduate degree.
  • 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.

Data recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides estimates of 2019 employment and salaries for hundreds of unique occupations. Estimates from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program are available for the nation as a whole and for over 500 other areas.

Across all occupations, Austin’s average annual salary in 2019 is $55,190 and its median salary is $41,560. The average hourly wage is $26.53 and the median is $19.98 in the Austin metro. Austin’s average salary is 3.1% above the national average and the median is 4.4% above the national median. Salaries in Austin are about 1% to 2% higher than in Houston, 3% higher than in Dallas-Fort Worth, and 15% to 17% higher than in San Antonio.

Part of the differences in average wages and salaries between different areas is due to variation in the mix of occupations prevalent in each area. Over 800 occupations are covered in the OES survey, with nearly 600 of those estimated 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 by occupation.

Associated with the survey are a pair of supplementary sets of OES data treating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations and occupations by the typical entry-level educational requirement. The following focuses on insights from those two tabulations.


BLS classifies 102 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 2019, there were an estimated 119,700 STEM jobs in the Austin metro, representing 11.2% of total employment. Nationally, STEM jobs account for 6.4% 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 21.0% in STEM. Las Vegas and Riverside have the lowest employment shares, 3.0% and 2.9% respectively.

Texas has the same rate of STEM employment, 6.4%, as the nation. The rates among the major Texas metros ranges widely. Dallas-Fort Worth’s percentage is 7.4% (ranking 19th), Houston’s is 7.3% (20th), while San Antonio’s is 5.3% (ranking 44th).

Across major metros, higher shares of STEM employment are associated with higher average salaries overall.

In Austin, STEM occupations earn a median annual salary of $87,000 compared to $38,260 for non-STEM occupations. Nationally, STEM’s median salary is $86,980 compared to $38,160 for non-STEM. The median STEM salary in Austin is 227% of the non-STEM salary—similar to the national ratio of 228%. STEM salaries are highest in San Jose, which has a median of $129,770, which is 256% of San Jose’s $50,680 non-STEM salary. That difference is the largest among the top 50 metros.

The two highest paid STEM occupations, nationally and in Austin, are architectural and engineering managers and computer and information systems managers. In Austin, architectural and engineering managers have a median salary of $155,910, which is 7.7% above the national median of $144,830; and computer and IS managers have a median salary of $146,720, which is just 0.2% above the national median of $146,360. Compared to San Jose, where these two occupations are much more concentrated, Austin architectural and engineering managers earn a median salary that is 16.8% less, and computer and IS managers earn 26.0% less, than they do in San Jose.

Austin’s largest STEM occupation is software developers and quality assurance analysts and testers, which are estimated at 23,410 jobs. As the graph above indicates, this occupation has a location quotient (LQ) in Austin of 2.28.

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, software developers make up 2.2% of employment in Austin compared with 1.0% of U.S. employment. Austin’s 2.2% rate is 2.28 times 1.0%, therefore Austin’s LQ for the occupation is 2.28. The occupation is also San Jose’s largest STEM occupation, but San Jose’s LQ for software developers is 7.50.

Among Austin’s top 10 STEM occupations, the one with the highest LQ is sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products. There are 6,750 employed in the occupation, which has a LQ of 3.01. Austin ranks third—behind San Jose with 7,970 in this sales occupation and an LQ of 3.34 and Raleigh with 4,140 employed and an LQ of 3.04.

Electronics engineers, numbering 2,780, is also one of Austin’s top 10 STEM occupations, and the concentration is significant, at nearly three times the national concentration. In San Jose, however, extraordinary concentration in computer and electronics engineering, is evident in the location factors for the top 10 occupations including computer hardware engineers (16.43), electronics engineers (6.19), and electrical and electronic engineering technicians (5.46).

Houston’s very large LQ for petroleum engineers (15.06) does not come close to that of Midland, which, while the number employed (2,030) is one fifth that of Houston, has an LQ of 82.29. Nationally the occupation accounts for 0.02% of jobs, while in Houston the rate is 0.33% and in Midland it is 1.83%.

The larger class of all architecture and engineering occupations has an LQ of only 1.41 in Austin, compared to 2.55 in San Jose. Among large metros, Detroit has a greater LQ, 2.59.

For the class of all computer and mathematical occupations, Austin has an LQ of 2.01, while San Jose, Washington, Seattle, and San Francisco are more concentrated (LQs ranging from 2.14 in San Francisco to 4.09 in San Jose). [1]


Each occupation in the OES survey is associated with a typical entry-level educational or training requirement, ranging from “no formal educational credential” to “doctoral or professional degree.”

In Austin, 298,820 jobs, or 27.8%, require a bachelor’s degree. Nationally, 22.4% of jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Austin’s 27.8% rate ranks as the seventh highest among the 50 largest U.S. metro areas.

Occupations requiring a master’s, doctoral, or professional degree (41,680) are less concentrated in Austin (3.9%) than nationally (4.2%). Among large metros, Austin ranks 32nd for the percent of jobs requiring a graduate degree.

Jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher account for 31.7% [2] of jobs in Austin and Austin ranks 8th for the percent of jobs in occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree as the typical entry-level educational requirement.

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 90thpercentile) earned about five times as much as the lowest paid 10% (the 10thpercentile). When jobs are grouped by educational requirement, the differential between the top 10% and the bottom 10% generally 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 close to four times the lowest paid 10%.



  1. It should be noted, when relying on employment estimates for individual occupations like these, that estimates are subject to the survey’s sampling error. The 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 (119,700) has a relative standard error (RSE) of 2.4. Electronics engineers are estimated at 2,780 in 2019, but the RSE is 15.8. In some cases, survey data is of insufficient quality to meet publication standards and employment estimates (and/or salaries) are suppressed. This year, Austin employment (but not salary) estimates are suppressed for the two STEM management occupations and one of the sales occupations (sales engineers). All data above comes from the BLS release, except for Austin employment and LQ estimates for these occupations, which were obtained from Chmura’s JobsEQ (a vendor providing data modeled from the BLS survey, including estimates for suppressed data).
  2. A typical entry-level educational requirement is assigned to each occupation in the OES survey. In practice, a range of levels of educational attainment may be prevalent in an occupation. The share of workers in Austin with a bachelor’s degree or higher is greater than the 31.7% share of jobs requiring this level of education. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2018 for the Austin metro, 50.5% of employed workers between 25 and 64 years have a bachelor’s degree or higher. About 20% 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.

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