Calendar year 2023

Supply of skills for jobs in science and technology

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This release follows the publication of the Department for Science and Innovation and Technology's UK Science and Technology Framework (opens in a new tab). It brings together a number of sources to assess the supply and demand for skills in science and technology up to 2030.  This covers Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) occupations and occupations of most relevance to each of the five UK critical technologies defined in the Science and Technology Framework and digital and computing to explore past trends and future projections for employment and education pathways into these roles.

A jobs and skills dashboard has been developed by the Unit for Future Skills (opens in a new tab) to allow analysis of the data alongside further data on skills shortages. The dashboard can be accessed at:

Jobs and skills dashboard (opens in a new tab)

This publication and the dashboard makes use of new definitions of STEM and occupations relevant to critical technologies and digital and computing, and two new datasets:

  • The ASHE-LEO data: a new data resource which brings together the information in the Longitudinal Education Outcomes study (LEO) with the information on employment and earnings in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) survey. 
  • The Skills Imperative 2035 data: the most recent update of projections of the types of jobs in the UK labour market, and the skills workers will need, up to 2035.

Headline facts and figures - 2023

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Additional supporting files

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Defining STEM

Science and technology industries need a wide range of occupations, some requiring high levels of skills and others more administrative. There is not a singular definition of the occupations most important to all science and technology industries though it is widely accepted that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs are critical to the sector.  

To assess the supply of skills in science and technology, we use definitions of STEM occupations (from the Royal Society) and the occupations most relevant to digital and computing and five critical technologies:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Engineering Biology 
  • Quantum Technologies
  • Future Telecommunications
  • Semiconductors.

More information on the process to define these occupations can be found in the methodology section.  Additionally, the full occupation classification can be downloaded from supporting files section above.

The 2023 STEM workforce

There were 9.4 million STEM workers in the UK in 2023, around a third of the total UK workforce. This included 2.6 million workers in the occupations most relevant to the critical technologies.

This publication assesses STEM workers across the whole economy, accepting the relevance of STEM jobs both in science and technology industries and in non-science and technology industries. Half (50%) of STEM workers are in STEM industries (opens in a new tab). The remaining half of STEM workers are in not STEM or Medicine and Health industries. There are also occupations defined as not STEM that sit across all industries and will support the growth of Science and Technology, largely the 3.6 million not STEM workers in STEM industries.

STEM workforce growth

UK employment in STEM occupations has increased at a faster rate than not STEM occupations over the last decade. Between 2013 and 2023, total UK employment levels grew 11%. Employment in STEM occupations over the same period increased from 7.7m in 2013 to 9.4m in 2023, growth of 22%, compared with a 7% increase in not STEM occupations. 

Female representation in the current STEM workforce

Women are under-represented in the STEM workforce, making up just one quarter (25%) of the total STEM workforce in 2023. Of the 2.6 million people working in occupations most relevant to the critical technologies, just 23% are female, though this ranges considerably by occupation. For the 10 largest occupations relevant to the critical technologies:

  • 8% of engineering technicians are female.
  • 15% of programmers and software development professionals are female out of a total workforce of 584,500 - the largest occupation relevant to the critical technologies.
  • 46% of actuaries, economists and statisticians are female.

Employment projections to 2035

To account for the uncertainty in projecting occupation growth this release includes four plausible scenarios for the growth of the total UK economy and the STEM sector. These scenarios use a combination of published employment projections, ONS population projections and international comparisons. 

Our baseline growth scenario, under which STEM employment will grow by 4% between 2023 and 2030, comes from the Skills Imperative 2035 employment projections led by the National Foundation for Education Research. This scenario varies growth by occupation by anticipating a continuation of past trends in industry and occupation growth alongside modest population growth and total employment growth. 

The second technological growth scenario, also from the Skills Imperative 2035 employment projections, has STEM employment growing by 6% between 2023 and 2030. As in the baseline growth scenario, growth rates vary by occupation. This scenario accounts for faster technological change and adoption of automation technologies. It assumes new jobs around improved management of technologies, the transition to a low-carbon economy, and the provision of better-quality education, health and care services.

The third population growth scenario assumes that STEM employment will grow at the same rate as the population and the proportion of the workforce in STEM occupations will remain at its current level. Under this scenario, the STEM workforce will grow by 2% between 2023 and 2030 in each occupation. Note that the growth in population is driven by migration forecasts from the ONS which are inherently uncertain, and the UK working age population is otherwise expected to fall between 2023 and 2030 as a higher proportion of the population is in retirement.

The high growth scenario assumes STEM employment will increase by 10% in each occupation between 2023 and 2030. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics project employment in STEM occupations (opens in a new tab) to increase by 10.8% between 2022 and 2032, though whilst similar there will be some differences in the definition of STEM, notably in the US teaching is included. 

Education pathways

This analysis of education pathways is based on data for 23 to 30 year olds in the labour market in 2019. All qualifications are those achieved up until 2019, so do not reflect more recent qualifications including newer apprenticeship standards. It captures only publicly funded pathways in England. 

Using the jobs and skills dashboard (opens in a new tab), it is possible to look at the education pathways for STEM workers, for the group of occupations most relevant to the critical technologies and for each of the sub-critical technology groups and digital and computing. The table below shows the pathways for early-career workers in occupations most relevant to the critical technologies. 

For early-career workers in occupations most relevant to the critical technologies:

  • 61% completed their highest level of education in a STEM subject
  • 61% completed their education through a higher education pathway
  • 10% have their highest level of education as GCSEs or AS/A-Levels
  • 10% completed their highest level of education as a STEM apprenticeship.

Importance of not STEM and SHAPE

Not STEM and SHAPE (social sciences, humanities and the arts for people and the economy) skills are key to STEM and occupations most relevant to critical technologies pathways. 

  • Nearly half (48%) of STEM workers have their highest qualification in a not STEM subject.
  • 39% of workers in occupations most relevant to critical technologies have their highest qualification in a not STEM subject.

Progression into STEM roles

For workers who achieved their highest level of qualification in a STEM subject, the likelihood of progression into STEM occupations varies by gender and level.

  • Workers who achieved a STEM qualification at levels 3-5 and 7+ are more likely to work in STEM occupations than workers who achieved a STEM qualification at level 6 or below level 3.
  • Nearly half (49%) of men were working in a STEM occupation following a STEM qualification pathway, compared to 20% of women.

A Levels held by STEM employees

Early-career employees occupations most relevant to critical technologies are more likely to have an A Level (61%) compared to all STEM workers (50%) and not STEM workers (39%).

The most common A Level held by early-career employees in occupations most relevant to the critical technologies  is Mathematics (27%). The next three most popular A Level choices for workers in occupations most relevant to the critical technologies are Physics (17%), Chemistry (16%) and Biology (13%).

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Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

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Ad hoc official statistics are one off publications that have been produced as far as possible in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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If you have a specific enquiry about Supply of skills for jobs in science and technology statistics and data:

Unit for Future Skills

Contact name: Kitty McCarthy

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