Top Cities in the U.S. for Biopharma/STEM Jobs

United States map with dots showing population density

A recent study conducted by 24/7 Wall St. looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) databases for 2017 to identify the cities with the highest percentage of STEM-intensive jobs. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. They also used data from OES to calculate average wages and total employment for STEM jobs in those cities.

The list of cities in the top 15, ranking from 15 through 1, are: Denver, Colorado; Trenton, New Jersey; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Palm Bay, Florida; San Francisco, California; Boston, Massachusetts; Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Seattle, Washington; Washington, DC; Durham, North Carolina; Boulder, Colorado; Huntsville, Alabama; San Jose, California; and California-Lexington Park, Maryland.

For the purposes of this article, it’s important to note that many of these cities are very heavy on tech and engineering and math jobs—certainly San Jose, California, otherwise known as Silicon Valley, is known for those tech jobs.

With that in mind, let’s look at the cities more clearly linked with life science and biopharma jobs.

Trenton, New Jersey. Ranking #14 on the list, the most common STEM jobs in Trenton are chemists. The percentage of STEM workers is 9.3 percent. Average STEM median wage is $89,623 and total employment is 229,450. The report notes that Trenton, being close to New York and Philadelphia, has the advantage of less expensive land, rent and taxes than the bigger metropolitan cities, which draws in companies interested in being close to the NYC and Phillie industrial centers.

Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ranking #13, the most common STEM jobs in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, are life, physical, and social science technicians. The average STEM median wage is $75,339 and the total employment is 213,990. It is noted that over 54 percent of adults in Ann Arbor have a college degree, which is dramatically higher than the 32 percent rate nationwide.

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California. No real surprise here. Ranking #11, the most common STEM job is biological scientists, and percentage of workers in STEM fields is 10.2 percent. The average STEM median wage is $96,660 and total employment is 2,369,450. USA Today notes, “California’s Bay Area, home to Oakland, San Francisco, and the surrounding area, is one of just 11 major metro areas in the United States in which at least one in 10 workers are employed in STEM fields.” And it’s not far from Silicon Valley, but the Bay Area is dominant for the biopharma industry.

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts. Again, no surprise here. Boston and San Francisco are the largest biopharma clusters in the country. This trifecta ranked #10, with 10.4 percent of workers in STEM fields and the most common STEM jobs being biochemists and biophysicists. The average STEM median wage is $87,432 and total employment is 2,726,490. USA Today notes, “Venture capitalists have entered Boston’s healthtech industry and, according to a 2017 article in the Boston Business Journal, total invested capital in the field since 2013 has reached nearly $1 billion.”

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Raleigh, North Carolina. Ranked #8, Raleigh’s most common STEM jobs are agricultural sciences teachers and postsecondary teachers. Percentage of workers in STEM fields is 10.8 percent and the average STEM median wage is $76,278. Total employment is 606,510. The area is also noted for having a high number of contract research organizations (CROs), which do much of the dirty work for preclinical, clinical and regulatory biopharma research.

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington. Yes, Seattle, of course, is better known for aerospace (Boeing), coffee (Starbucks) and computers (Microsoft). And those are certainly the top STEM fields in that region. However, biopharma is a rapidly growing area. It has 11 percent of workers in STEM fields, with the most common being software developers. Average STEM median wage is $82,793 and total employment is 1,944,160. But, a recent CBRE Research report identified Seattle as the fastest-growing life science market in the U.S., with a greater than 17-percent growth.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, District of Columbia. Ranking #6, the DC area’s most common STEM job is astronomer, with 11.7 percent of employees being in STEM fields. The average STEM median wage is $93,481 and total employment is 3,103,530. USA Today points out, “The D.C. metro area is home to a thriving biotech industry, thanks to its research-heavy universities and major labs, including the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research.” And don't forget the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Ranking #5, this should almost be lumped in with Raleigh, above. The most common STEM jobs in the cities are natural sciences managers, with the percentage of workers in STEM fields hitting 12.3 percent. The average STEM median wage is $81,911 and total employment is 298,540. A large number of major universities are in the areas, as well as numerous CROs and research companies focused on life sciences, clean energy, and agriculture.

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