Industry Market Trends

STEM Among Fastest Growing Occupations by 2020, With Highest Demand for Education

Jul 10, 2013

While the nation will gain 55 million new job openings by 2020, most of the fastest growing occupations - including those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields -will require more than just a high school diploma. However, at the current college graduation rate, U.S. employers will face some serious staffing challenges ahead; the country will fall short by 5 million workers with post-secondary education by 2020, according to a recent report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

The projected 55 million new job openings will come from a combination of baby boomer positions left open by retirees (31 million openings) and newly created jobs (24 million openings), according to the report findings. The fastest growing occupations, which include those in STEM, will require post-secondary degrees.

Growth in STEM occupations will accelerate significantly - by 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, with 2.6 million job vacancies. Almost all STEM occupations  have the highest demand (95 percent) for post-secondary education and training. Nationwide, 65 percent of all job vacancies will require at least some post-secondary education and training. Since the recession, the highest job-growth rate has been for individuals with a bachelor's degree or higher.

The fastest growing industries will be in the private education services, which will expand by 28 percent, from 2010 to 2020, and healthcare services, which will create more than 4 million new jobs during that time period. Manufacturing, however, will see the slowest growth rate during that time - with just 420,000 new jobs, created at a 4 percent increase.

What Post-Secondary Education Will Job Hopefuls Need?    

The Georgetown University report reflects a significant change in educational requirements over the past several decades. Whereas 28 percent of all jobs required a post-secondary education in 1973, 65 percent of all jobs will require it by 2020. The educational requirements for jobs will vary from some college experience to a master's degree or higher.

A closer look at the breakdown of degrees shows that of the 164 million people to be employed by 2020, 24 percent will require a bachelor's degree (compared to 21 percent in 2010), and 11 percent will require a master's degree or better.

Here are the report's findings on education required for jobs in 2020:

  • 6.6 million (or 12 percent of all jobs) will need less than high school education

  • 13.2 million (24 percent) will need only a high school diploma

  • 9.8 million (18 percent) will need some college experience (no degree)

  • 6.6 million (12 percent) will require an associate degree

  • 13.2 million (24 percent) will require a bachelor's degree

  • 6.0 million, (11 percent) will require a master's degree or better.

Tracking the Education Requirements for Workers in the U.S.

Employers will have better luck finding workers with post-secondary education in the Northeast, with the highest proportion of bachelor's degree and graduated jobs situated there, according to the Georgetown University report. The District of Columbia, for example, will have the highest concentration of people with post-secondary education by 2020.

To that end, however, the job outlook in the southern U.S. will be different from the northern states by 2020. Jobs for high school graduates or high school dropouts will be situated mostly throughout the southern states, with Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas predicted to have higher levels of jobs that require lower levels of education compared with the rest of the nation.

For the comprehensive report, click here.