The best and worst cities to live in if you're a STEM professional

A new study by WalletHub evaluated US cities to determine which are the best and worst to live in, based on criteria including job opportunities and quality of life.

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It may not be surprising to hear that Seattle ranks as the top city overall for anyone working in the Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) fields, but the top 20—chosen from the largest 100 US metro areas—offer a wide range of lifestyles, according to a new study from WalletHub.

And if you're wondering the worst, well, the study looked at that, too. And Cape Coral, Florida won the not-so-desirable crown. The study assessed three key dimensions: professional opportunities, STEM-friendliness and quality of life, and then evaluated 21 key metrics.

STEM employees, highly sought, and heavily recruited, can decide which of the dimensions and metrics are most important. For example, Boston, ranked second overall, is No. 1 in STEM friendliness, but 64th in quality of life. San Francisco, overall No. 6, is third in both professional opportunities and STEM friendliness, but 63rd in quality of life. 

SEE: Why IT pros need soft skills to advance their careers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)   

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Image: WalletHub

The importance of quality of life

Why are the differences so disparate? At the top of the quality of life dimension is housing affordability, followed by recreation friendliness, family friendliness and singles friendliness; the latter three were based on WalletHub's previous "Best & Worst" studies. San Francisco may be nearly ideal in the professional arena, but the cost of living, according to Kiplinger, is 96.3% above the US average, with a median home value of $927,400. (For the record, Boston is the country's 10th most expensive city, also according to Kiplinger.)

"When deciding which city is best for you as a STEM worker, you should look at both professional opportunities, and quality of life. Some of the most important things to look out for include the number of job openings for STEM professionals, the share of STEM workers, as well as STEM employment growth," said WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez. "You should also research the average earnings of STEM workers in that city. In terms of quality of life, affordability is a key issue." 

SEE: How system admins can stay relevant: 10 tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

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Image: WalletHub

The number of professional opportunities

Professional opportunities were determined by job openings for STEM grads per capita, share of job postings in tech, share of workforce in STEM, STEM employment growth, unemployment rate for adults with at least a bachelor's degree, annual median wage for STEM workers, average monthly earnings for new employees in STEM industries, and median wage growth for STEM workers.

STEM friendliness

STEM friendliness was determined by mathematics performance, number of top engineering schools, quality of engineering universities, disparity of women vs. men in STEM occupations, disparity of women vs. men in STEM degree fields, R&D spending and intensity, invention patents per capita, tech meetups per capita, presence of tech summer programs.

STEM jobs are expected to continue to be in-demand, fast-growing, and well-paid. Through 2028, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, estimates STEM jobs will grow 8.8%, with a median annual wage of $84,880, compared to 5% and $37,020 for non-STEM jobs.

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Seattle, Washington, is the top city for STEM jobs.

Image: iStockphoto/alisha5