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Gen Z Adults Projected to Meet Future STEM Job Demand

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Story Highlights

  • More than a fourth of Generation Z adults express interest or currently work in STEM
  • An estimated 5.4 million Gen Z adults available for STEM jobs in 2032, exceeding demand

WASHINGTON, D.C. — About one in four adult members of Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2005, say they hope to have a future career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), according to the latest data from the Walton Family Foundation Voices of Gen Z survey.

The number of STEM jobs in the U.S. increased by just over 50% from 2012 to 2022, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). With the increased investment in STEM fields from policies such as the CHIPS and Science Act and the constant development of technology, the past growth of STEM jobs and demand for STEM workers will likely continue. But is Gen Z adults’ interest in STEM careers enough to keep pace with the growing number of STEM jobs throughout the next decade?

According to new Gallup estimates, around 5.0 million STEM jobs will need to be filled by Gen Z adults in 2032, and about 5.4 million Gen Z adults are projected to be in the STEM workforce, based on their stated future career intentions. Thus, Gen Z adults’ interest in STEM will likely meet, and possibly exceed, future demand for STEM workers.

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Gen Z Adults Need to Fill an Estimated 5.0 Million STEM Jobs in 2032

Gallup arrived at the estimated 5.0 million STEM jobs available in the next decade for Gen Z adults using employment data from the ACS. According to ACS trends, the total number of STEM jobs grew by 52% between 2012 and 2022, from 9.0 million to 13.8 million. In 2022, 3.3 million of those STEM jobs were held by 27- to 35-year-olds, the age that 18- to 26-year-old Gen Zers will be in 2032. Assuming the number of STEM jobs grows at the same rate over the next 10 years, the 3.3 million STEM jobs filled by 27- to 35-year-olds in 2022 will expand to 5.0 million STEM jobs in 2032. Gallup then determined whether a sufficient number of early-career adults would be available to fill these positions in 2032 by looking at population trends, current employment data and current students’ career interests.

How Many Gen Z Adults Will Work in 2032?

According to the ACS, the estimated 18- to 26-year-old Gen Z population is 39.9 million. Using the current labor force participation among U.S. adults who are the same age in 2022 that Gen Z will be in 2032 (those aged 27 to 35 in 2022), Gallup estimates the number of Gen Z adults likely to be in the workforce in 2032. Assuming the same 84% labor participation rate, around 33.6 million Gen Z adults will participate in the 2032 workforce.

What Portion of Gen Z Adults Are Interested in STEM?

Six percent of 18- to 26-year-old Gen Zers currently work in STEM, and an additional 22%, including those currently working toward a college degree, say they intend to work in a STEM career.

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While many adult Gen Z members are pursuing a STEM education in college, a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field does not guarantee that graduates will pursue a STEM career in the future. Moreover, graduates from non-STEM fields could potentially enter a STEM industry down the line.

Discounting for Slippage Between Interest in STEM and Pursuing a STEM Job

People’s career interests change, especially from the time they are in school. Gen Z adults who indicate that they intend to have a STEM job may not actually have a career in STEM in 2032. To estimate how many Gen Z adults will enter the STEM workforce, Gallup estimated the “STEM conversion rate” of Gen Z adults — the percentage of Gen Z adults who intend to work in STEM and who will actually be employed in STEM in 2032.

Gallup assumes that among the 6% of Gen Z adults currently working in STEM, all will continue to do so in 2032, a conversion rate of 100%. Among the 73% of Gen Z adults who do not intend to work in STEM, it is assumed that none of them will work in STEM in 2032, a conversion rate of 0%.

Among the three STEM “potential” categories defined by educational attainment (no bachelor’s degree, non-STEM bachelor’s degree, STEM bachelor’s degree), Gallup estimates the conversion rate at which each education group matriculates into a STEM job.

The ACS provides information on workers’ educational attainment and whether they held a STEM job in 2022. Gallup used these ACS education and employment data of adults 35 and younger in 2022 to calculate how many workers with a STEM degree, non-STEM degree or no bachelor’s degree currently work in STEM fields.

Assuming Gen Z adults from each of the three education groups will convert into STEM jobs at the same rates as current workers, Gallup estimates the following percentages of Gen Z adults will likely take a STEM job:

  • 63% of Gen Z adults who have or are pursuing a STEM degree and intend to work in STEM will enter the STEM workforce.
  • 80% of Gen Z adults who have or are pursuing a non-STEM degree but intend to work in STEM will enter the STEM workforce.
  • 9% of Gen Z adults who are not pursuing a postsecondary degree but intend to work in STEM will enter the STEM workforce.

To estimate the number of Gen Z adults expected to enter the STEM workforce, Gallup multiplies the estimated adult Gen Z workforce in each education category and interest in STEM by the conversion rate for each group.

For example, the estimated number of Gen Z adults who are pursuing a STEM degree, intend to work in STEM and will actually be employed in a STEM job in 2032 is:

33.6 million 27- to 35-year-old Gen Z workers * 13% of Gen Z adults who have or are pursuing a STEM degree and want to work in STEM * 63% conversion rate for STEM bachelor’s degree holders = 2.7 million

The chart below shows the flow of estimating the number of Gen Z adults who will enter the STEM labor force, starting with the adult Gen Z population, accounting for workforce participation, then STEM interest by education, and ending with the likelihood of five STEM “potential” categories entering the STEM workforce.

Custom graphic. Chart displaying the percentage of 18 to 26 year old Gen Z adults estimated to be in the workforce in 2032. 84% will be active in the workforce, with 5.4 million total adult Generation Z workers expected to be in the STEM field.

The combination of Gen Z adults currently working in STEM and those who intend to work in STEM across education groups generates around 5.4 million adult Gen Z STEM workers, slightly exceeding the estimated 5.0 million STEM jobs that Gen Z adults will need to fill in 2032.

Bottom Line

There is an appetite among Gen Z to work in STEM jobs, but for that to come to fruition, they need to be exposed to STEM concepts as students. Previous Gallup research shows that exposure to STEM in school is positively associated with majoring and working in STEM. Schooling at every level must introduce students to STEM curriculum and concepts and adapt as industries evolve — equipping students with the skills necessary to not only fill job openings but also to excel in those roles.

These workforce estimates assume that Gen Z adults’ ability to enter the workforce is the same as millennials’, but the STEM space is ever-changing with new technology and needs. With the recent introduction of AI, it is difficult to know how it will affect the number of jobs in STEM industries. AI will likely influence the STEM labor force in some way over the next decade, whether creating or eliminating jobs or doing both simultaneously. However, the STEM industry underwent rather significant changes from 2012 to 2022, and Gallup assumes that the roughly 50% increase in STEM jobs from the last era of significant technological developments will repeat over the next decade.

To help the next generation successfully meet workforce demands in STEM fields, U.S. academic systems and policymakers need to ensure Gen Z continues to have the education and training necessary to keep up with rapidly developing technologies.

To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on X @Gallup.

Learn more from the Gallup and Walton Family Foundation’s Voices of Gen Z survey.

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