By David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News
February 26, 2017
San Antonio ranks high — No. 6 in the nation — in a new study that looks at how much STEM professional jobs pay and how fast the pay is rising. Pay for professionals in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is growing faster in San Antonio than in any city in Texas, according to the report from SmartAsset, which operates a financial advice internet site.
The average annual STEM professional compensation in the San Antonio-New Braunfels area was $68,233 in 2015, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“That’s lower than the national median and less than what their counterparts earn in the Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston metro areas. But between 2014 and 2015, STEM workers living near San Antonio saw their pay grow at a higher rate than in other places in Texas. In just one year, incomes grew by nearly 5 percent,” the SmartAsset study states. The national average pay for STEM professionals is $73,487, but the annual increase between 2014 and 2015 was 1.8 percent.
The average pay accounts for 80 percent of the ranking, while the annual pay increases are given 20 percent weight. San Antonio did not rank in the top 25 metropolitan areas in Smart- Asset’s 2016 study.
San Antonio’s average annual pay raise between 2014 and 2015 was 4.7 percent, more than double the national average and tied for the second-highest income growth in the study, along with Nassau, New York. Cleveland had the highest pay increase, with 6.4 percent; it was ranked No. 2 overall.
“These jobs are for a lifetime. Once you have a STEM job, you can grow into it. The wages are strong, and no one has to jump around to another field,” said Ramiro Cavazos, CEO and president of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which operates programs promoting STEM careers.
The West Coast still pays the most for STEM professionals. The San Jose, California, area is ranked No. 1 among 53 cities in the study, with average pay of $105,920 and a 3.5 percent annual pay raise. San Francisco is No. 3, with a $101,083 average and a pay-increase rate of 3.4 percent.
San Antonio’s high ranking is above Chicago at No. 9 and Washington, D.C., at No. 10, even though those areas have higher average pay levels.
The SmartAsset study lists notable San Antonio STEM employers as Tesoro Corp., Boeing Co., Valero Energy Corp., Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas and Southwest Research Institute, with Google Fiber arriving in the city.
In San Antonio, the top-paying STEM median annual incomes are for physicists at $131,700, computer network architects at $116,590 and chemical engineers at $116,310, according to the study. Physicists and computer network architects also earned the highest paychecks on a national basis.
The STEM profession that saw the highest rise in demand in the U.S. between 2005 and 2015 was aerospace engineer, which went up 53 percent. New jobs for biologists and computer programmers, meanwhile, fell in the period
Also, the study found that the larger the STEM workforce, the higher the pay was. In every metro area where STEM workers make up more than 12 percent of the workforce, the average pay is higher than $80,000. STEM workers account for only 4.89 percent, or nearly 50,000 positions, of the San Antonio area’s workforce of about 1 million.
That is why the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber tries to interest middle school students, about 5,000 a year from five inner-city school districts, with its annual Core4Stem event every November, Cavazos said. The event has been held for seven years. The event also encourages more women and minorities to enter the STEM field, he said. “Another way we can add more STEM workers is to support the existing STEM-related companies, (including) DPT Labs and Mission Pharmacal. Toyota hires many engineers and struggles to find them,” Cavazos said.
City institutions also can draw more people into STEM jobs with more National Institutes of Health grants, he said.
“We are fast catching up. We need to focus more on education,” Cavazos said.