Careers in the STEM fields — jobs that emphasize science, technology, engineering or math — have been some of the fastest growing and best paid jobs in the U.S. for decades, and, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that trend is likely to accelerate as more people spend more time living and working online.
Some STEM jobs, however, offer more lucrative salaries than others, according to new research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS highlighted the highest and lowest-paying careers in STEM as part of its annual Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) report, which was released last week.
Overall, STEM occupations saw an annual mean wage of $100,900, compared with $55,260 for non-STEM occupations. The OEWS report is based on payroll information from about 1.1 million U.S. businesses.
Computer and information systems manager is the highest paid job on the list with an annual mean wage of $162,930, followed by architectural and engineering managers and natural science managers.
"STEM occupations offer, at all levels, competitive wages and clear opportunities for career advancement," BLS Division Chief Michael Wolf tells CNBC Make It.
Some of these jobs, such as physicists and petroleum engineers, pay more because they employ a small number of people and require advanced technical skills, he adds. The demands of the job can be grueling, too: Petroleum engineers, for example, often work in rotations of 84 hours on and 84 hours off while at drill sites.
Technicians make up the lower-paid jobs in STEM as most of these jobs – including the five on this list – do not require a bachelor's degree and assist scientists, engineers and other STEM professionals on larger projects.
Still, the number of Americans working in STEM is small: As of 2021, about 9 million Americans worked in STEM jobs, representing nearly 7% of total employment. The six largest STEM occupations were related to computers, such as software developers and computer user support specialists.
The ongoing pandemic has accelerated certain changes to the workforce, namely by exposing weaknesses within companies' information technology operations in addition to accelerating the transition to remote work and e-commerce, increasing the demand for STEM jobs.
Software developers will play a more central role at companies, Wolf told CNBC Make It in September, as the number of software platforms and applications people have to use on a regular basis "continues to dramatically increase." "Companies need software engineers to develop and maintain all of that functionality," he says.