United States of STEM Majors

Every child is a natural-born scientist. This idea was coined by Carl Sagan, who devoted his life to nurturing a curious mindset among the public. A raw appreciation of the natural world and a humble perspective of our position in it are two of the most powerful side effects of a scientific education. This does not mean that every person should be a scientist; only one in four college students who majored in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) work in a STEM-specific occupation in the U.S., as you can see below.

STEM-majors-occupations

1 in 4 STEM majors work in STEM. Source: U.S. Census Bureau. Click for full interactive.

One challenge affecting many students is the amount of pressure to get into “the right” college. The truth is that there is no one path to take you to your dream job. You do not need to get into one of the top 10 business schools in order to build a successful business, and having a technical background in creative problem solving—a STEM education—will afford you new opportunities for the kinds of businesses you can create. The good news is that there are an incredible amount of colleges around the U.S. that provide great STEM educations, and this article seeks to explore the unique strengths in each state.

A diamond in the rough

I gathered data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS Data Center on the number of graduates at all degree levels for 60 different STEM majors for 7,493 U.S. colleges. When I organized the data regionally, I found that every state does something great. Hover over each state in the interactive below to see what it ranked highly in.

The rankings for the above interactive are generated from the total number of graduates in each major. California ranked first for over half the majors because the state has the largest population, so I extended my selection to 10th place and included a color gradient to show the differences in rank. States ranked 11th had one of the highest per capita rankings in that major but were not in the top 10.

The most popular STEM majors

Psychology is the most popular STEM major for the vast majority of U.S. states, followed by biology. When we remove these two majors from the picture, we are left with a lot more variation.

IG1-Top-STEM-Majors

Sleeper STEM states

What proportion of college graduates majored in STEM for each state in the U.S.? I applied a per capita analysis as follows:

# of graduates in each major per state
# of graduates per state

Surprisingly, Montana produces the highest proportion of STEM graduates for six different majors, followed by Alaska and Wyoming at five majors.

IG2-Per-Capita

Conclusion

There are abundant opportunities to develop a passion for science. This is especially true for prospective college students starting to craft their futures. Every U.S. state has its unique strengths for providing a STEM education, and encouraging more students to pursue a STEM background will invigorate the workforce with curiosity and critical thinking.

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Greg Emmerich

Science Writer at Promega
I am a science writer at Promega striving to combine creativity with science. I live off adrenaline rushes from skiing and discovering new music. I received my B.S. Microbiology and M.S. Biotechnology degrees from UW Madison.

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