Aug 02, 2015


Plant Your Career in a STEM Field

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Latinas in STEM fields, New Latina, Careers

This October the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that U.S. economy added approximately 171,000 jobs to the market, contributing to a collective sigh of relief as the country continues to rebound from a long, hard recession.  However, 3.2 million STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field jobs remain available due to the fact that there are too few eligible applicants to fill the positions. With more Latinos pursuing post-secondary education than ever before, and the Latino community projected to account for up to 75% of the American population’s growth within the next decade, it is entirely possible that Latinos could be the nation’s hope to fill the millions of STEM field roles that continue to be available.

STEMs That Grow

STEM field jobs are projected to grow significantly over the next four years, with the fastest growing fields– engineering and computer programming–expected to add 171,000 jobs and 806,000 jobs, respectively, by 2016.  STEM field positions generally pay more than non-STEM field positions. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 63% of people with an associate’s degree in a STEM field earn more than people who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-STEM field.  Additionally, 47% of people with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field earn more than people with PhD’s in non-STEM fields.  There is also a smaller gender-wage gap between men and women in STEM fields than is evident in other occupational fields.

Getting Rooted In STEM: Education

Of the 3.2 million STEM jobs available in the U.S. right now, approximately 2 million require a bachelor’s degree or higher. The computer programming field, however, is growing rapidly and is more likely than other fields to hire applicants with an associates degree and a strong demonstrated history of computer programming experience.

Excelencia in Education, a public policy and advocacy group that supports the success of Latinos in higher education, published a report this Augusts that lists the top colleges and universities in the U.S. that awarded degrees and certificates to Latinos in STEM fields. The report revealed that Latinos earned only 8% of the STEM degrees or certificates awarded between 2010-2011.  Institutions in Puerto Rico were recognize for awarding the most bachelor’s and master’s degrees in STEM fields to Latinos; Stanford University, the University of Florida, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Arizona State University were recognized for awarding the most Doctorate’s degrees in STEM fields to Latinos.

Latinos in STEM

According to the American Association of Community College’s Community College Times, the United States must produce at least 1 million more STEM field professionals than are currently projected to graduate in the next decade in order to remain globally competitive. Excelencia in Education suggests,

“Given Hispanics are projected to account for 75 percent of the growth in the nation’s labor force between 2010 and 2020, Latinos completing certificates and degrees in STEM fields will be vital to meeting the national STEM college completion goal.”

Organizations such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers(SHPE) are dedicated to exposing Latinos to STEM field careers, and nurturing Latino students throughout their schooling. SHPE’s CEO, Pilar Montoya, shares,

“Although Latinos represent 12 percent of the total population, less than 3 percent of the engineers and scientists are Latino, we have to ensure that our young Latinas in K to 12 grades today see successful, talented Latinas succeeding in the STEM fields.”

SHPE offers Latino students summer camps, scholarships, educational programs, mentoring programs, and conferences to promote the engineering field. Last year SHPE partnered with celebrities to promote their For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) campaign to appeal to young Latinos.

Despite Latinos currently making up only 8% of STEM professionals, suggests that programs such as SHPE may contribute to a notable upwards shift in Latinos participating in STEM fields.

Notable Latinas who have made their mark in traditionally male STEM fields include Maria Antonieta Pacheco, Geologist at BeUSA Energy; Olga D. González-Sanabria, Director of Engineering at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Dr. Alicia Abella, Executive Director of the Innovative Services Research Department at AT&T Labs; and even one of our Latina Spotlight participants, Veronica Cedillos, Project Manager at GeoHazards International.

With the Latino community being eyed as the nation’s hope to fill STEM field jobs, more Latino and non-Latino organizations are focusing on providing Latino students with the resources necessary to curtail young Latinos’ historically demonstrated academic weaknesses in core STEM subjects, enhance Latinos’ ability to pay for higher education with Latino-targeted STEM scholarships, and attain the necessary certificates or degrees that will make Latinos competitive STEM professionals in growing and competitive STEM fields.

So, tell us, are you interested in a STEM field career? Share your thoughts and comments below!

To learn more about Latino-targeted STEM organizations visit or the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. For more information regarding STEM field scholarships for Latinos and students of color, please visit US News’s 12 Scholarships for Hispanic Students Interested in STEM.


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Tanisha Love Ramirez

Tanisha Love Ramirez

Tanisha is the Managing Editor at NEW LATINA, and a social commentary and pop-culture writer/blogger from New York City. She studied Sociology and Women's Studies at Bowdoin College, where she developed a strong interest women's issues and community advocacy. Tanisha has written for the Bowdoin Orient and has interned at BUST Magazine and

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  1. @julio_gonzalez says:

    Another great example of prominent Latinas in fields of science is Frances Colón, Deputy Science Advisor to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who we recently interviewed in the @aarpviva radio show

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