For most Tulsa STEM jobs, associate’s degree sufficient

Going back to school is daunting. Many times it’s easier to attempt educational feats one goal at a time – for instance, planning toward an associate’s degree before a bachelor’s degree.

For the majority, education and training is key to succeeding in a long-term career and according to a recent report by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, many of the Tulsa area STEM jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree.

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Many of the Tulsa-area’s STEM jobs  –  those that require knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math  –  are blue collar jobs that require an associate’s degree or less, according to a report released Monday by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.

In 2011, the Tulsa metro had 80,820 STEM Jobs and ranked 55th out of 100 U.S. metros, according to the report.

When ranked based on the percentage of jobs that require an associate’s degree or less, Tulsa was 14th out of 100. About 60 percent of the metro’s STEM jobs require an associate’s degree or less, while nearly 40 percent require a bachelor’s degree or more.

All engineers in Tulsa, for example, require a bachelor’s degree. Also, nearly 95 percent of financial specialists require a bachelor’s degree as do 84 percent of computer occupations in the metro area.

The average wage of a STEM job in Tulsa is $57,772. The average for a STEM worker with a bachelor’s degree is $77,231 compared to $44,851 for a STEM job requiring an associate’s degree or less, according to the report.

The major surprise is that there are so many jobs in blue collar occupations or occupations that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, but yet could be considered highly skilled STEM jobs, said Jonathan Rothwell, associate fellow and author of the report.

Nearly one-third of the STEM jobs in the United States are filled by craft professionals or other blue collar workers, according to the report.
In 2011, 26 million U.S. jobs, or 20 percent of all jobs, required a high level of knowledge in any STEM field, according to Brookings. This compares to previous estimates of 4 percent to 5 percent from the National Science Foundation and others, according to the report.

“The STEM economy is much broader and more diverse than previously understood,” Rothwell said.

Previous studies classified workers as STEM only if they worked in a small number of professional occupations.

The Brookings definition, by contrast, classifies occupations according to the level of knowledge in STEM fields that workers need to perform their jobs. As a result, many nonprofessional jobs in manufacturing, health care, construction and mining industries are considered STEM jobs, according to the report.

Tulsa has a mix of industries, including many energy-related jobs, that provide a lot of job opportunities for highly skilled workers, but workers who don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree or a Ph.D., Rothwell said. Many STEM jobs are in the manufacturing sector.

The largest STEM occupation in the Tulsa metro is made up of health diagnosing and treating practitioners at 12,990 jobs, and 38.5 percent of those require a bachelor’s degree.

But many local STEM jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree, including aircraft mechanics, service technicians, welders, production supervisors and machinists, he added.

“Community colleges, in particular, are an important source of STEM knowledge, and state and local governments as well as the federal government should recognize that in making their funding decisions. As it currently stands, community colleges get considerably less money per pupil than research universities, and yet they are turning out a large percentage of the national STEM workforce,” Rothwell said.

Top 10 STEM  occupations  in Tulsa metro in 2011

1. Health diagnosing and treating practitioners 12,990
2. Metal workers and plastic workers 7,520
3. Construction  trade workers 7,440
4. Computer  occupations 7,110
5. Financial specialists 6,170
6. Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers and repairers 5,080
7. Engineers 4,630
8. Health technologists and technicians 3,650
9. Other installation  maintenance and repair occupations 3,150
10. Drafters, engineering technicians and mapping technicians 2,540

Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466

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