Colorado Springs ranks 18th best for STEM professionals

Feb. 2, 2015

Eleanor Skelton
eskelton@uccs.edu

Students graduating in STEM disciplines often move out of the area, although the Front Range area was once the “little silicon valley” in the 80s. Last December, UCCS attempted to address this issue in a higher education conference, in part aimed at keeping STEM graduates local.

Colorado Springs ranked 18, with Houston/The Woodlands area number one and metro Denver fourth, according to an analysis published this month by WalletHub.com. The report included data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Commerce.

Houston ranked first for highest annual median wage when adjusted for cost of living. Colorado Springs was fifth. Gross annual median wage calculations placed New York City highest, Dallas second.

“I think it’s a secure field, the science field,” said Emily Danis, a freshman biomedical major, studying to become a physician’s assistant.

Danis said job security was a key factor in determining her major, in addition to personal interest.

“My career path will be as a professor and research physicist,” said Jewell Anne Hartman, graduate physics student and lab instructor. “I would also like to become involved with bionanotechnology business as well, handling things from an industry side, but simultaneously working in research and as a faculty professor.”

“I do believe that Colorado Springs is excellent in STEM resources because it has a large base for Department of Defense between three military bases and also all the companies such as Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, [and] ITT, that hire science-oriented jobs,” Hartman added.

Reactions from faculty to the report, based on their experiences living in the area, varied.

“All of the students in our graduating class last year who wanted to stay in industry in the area got a job,” said Janel Owens, assistant chemistry professor.

“Our students went to Pyxant, the coroner’s office, CPI. Another one went to NexGen Pharma.”

Previous graduating classes expressed more interest in attending graduate school rather than enter the workforce, said Owens. The 2014 class wanted work experience to help shape their specialization in graduate school.

Owens mentioned that the engineering and technology side of STEM plays a bigger role in Colorado Springs employment. She expressed hope that chemistry would continue to grow as the region expands.

Owens said graduating students seeking employment should gain experience through undergraduate research.
Other professors mentioned difficulties in finding STEM employment.

“The only thing I even saw as an opportunity was Orange Glo products out of Denver,” said Brett Mayer, crganic chemistry lab instructor. “There’s virtually nothing around here.”

Mayer worked in the chemical industry on the east coast before relocating to Colorado Springs several years ago.

“With a master’s degree in chemistry, the opportunities as a chemist are slim to none out here. There are some biotech startups [for student internships].”

Organic chemistry professor, Allen Schoffstall, has lived in Colorado Springs since 1967. He remembers Intel moving in, and then out of the area between 2000 and 2010.

Jenny Dorrington, director of the Math Center, believes engineering plays an important role in the ranking.

“Most of the people that tutor here and then major in engineering or math are getting jobs,” Dorrington said. “Most of the math jobs have been in teaching, although I do know one of our senior majors is now working out at Peterson, doing some computing work for them.”