Defining STEM Occupations For Canada

Published on Jun 27, 2013

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

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Many, if not most, discussions about the skills gap in the United States tend to focus on the role of and future of the so-called STEM occupations in the economy. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) has been the center of an ongoing discussion over how to fuel economic development, and where educational resources should be allocated. As a result, we’ve talked more than a few times about the growth of STEM jobs in the US — here, here, and here, for example. We’ve also occasionally talked about their role in the Canadian economy. Unfortunately, while the occupations that count as STEM fields are well-defined in the US, there is no consensus as to what Canadian occupations should be included in the discussion.

To keep our own discussion from being inconsistent, we’ve taken a closer look at the US and Canadian economies to create our own Canadian STEM set. This is not a one-to-one correlation. Since the US and Canada use differing classification systems for occupations, we couldn’t simply transfer the US STEM fields into Canada.

We’ve also had to take into account what would be useful for the discussions we have on the EMSI blog and in our research. The US data which EMSI works with is significantly more detailed than the occupation data we generate for Canada. As a result, the STEM set for the US contained many more occupations, at a more granular detail level, than a Canadian equivalent would contain.

Our attempts to create a corollary for Canada, however, were helped by the superior organization of Canada’s NOC-S occupation classification system. In the US system, STEM fields are scattered across a number of high-level classifications. In Canada, however, nearly all equivalent occupations are concentrated in a single high-level classification: C, natural and applied sciences and related occupations. There are few STEM occupations in E (occupations in social science, education, government science, and religion), but for the most part we were able to focus on a single sector of the NOC-S system.

The C category, however, contained a number of non-STEM occupations, which we removed from our set. These included, primarily, inspector occupations and transportation occupations, which have no equivalents in the US STEM fields.

The differences between NOC-S and US STEM occupations highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the NOC-S system. On the positive side, NOC-S has far more classifications for engineers at the 4-digit level than the US has at the same level. On the negative side, however, NOC-S is very lacking in closely defined occupations in computer and technology fields. This is likely a significant part of the reason for the steady increase in “unclassified” industries and occupations that Canadian data users have seen over the last several years, and presents a real, but not insurmountable, barrier to analyzing the growth of the high-tech economy in Canada.

In the end, however, our set of 4-digit-level STEM occupations contained 52 occupations. This is reassuringly similar to the 54 4-digit-level STEM occupations in the US set. Going forward, references to STEM jobs in Canada in EMSI materials will be based on this set. For reference, a table of all 52 occupations, along with 2013 employment totals, is below:

NOC-SDescription2009 Jobs2013 JobsChange% Change2012 Avg. Hourly EarningsC011Physicists and astronomers2,4362,137(299)(12%)$35.90C012Chemists13,75115,0131,2629%$31.01C013Geologists, geochemists and geophysicists8,73411,1172,38327%$42.57C014Meteorologists1,7141,120(594)(35%)$19.30C015Other professional occupations in physical sciences3,0912,205(886)(29%)$29.20C021Biologists and related scientists14,62217,7473,12521%$31.22C022Forestry professionals4,9064,353(553)(11%)$30.28C023Agricultural representatives, consultants and specialists2,8683,42555719%$25.05C031Civil engineers38,72452,92714,20337%$38.64C032Mechanical engineers30,01542,04412,02940%$37.58C033Electrical and electronics engineers37,26034,089(3,171)(9%)$38.17C034Chemical engineers7,0469,9092,86341%$36.66C041Industrial and manufacturing engineers16,33613,705(2,631)(16%)$33.89C042Metallurgical and materials engineers1,5641,562(2)0%$27.34C043Mining engineers2,9473,59164422%$38.12C044Geological engineers2,1852,3751909%$32.45C045Petroleum engineers13,37212,936(436)(3%)$49.88C046Aerospace engineers7,6089,2851,67722%$37.42C047Computer engineers (except software engineers)18,92820,1171,1896%$37.10C048Other professional engineers, n.e.c.12,93114,9962,06516%$41.73C051Architects10,11115,4835,37253%$32.99C053Urban and land use planners7,8118,3245137%$34.19C054Land surveyors8,9697,639(1,330)(15%)$28.17C061Mathematicians, statisticians and actuaries9,4509,9204705%$39.13C071Information systems analysts and consultants112,100138,91226,81224%$35.71C072Database analysts and data administrators19,53926,2316,69234%$32.11C073Software engineers and designers30,02540,52010,49535%$40.06C074Computer programmers and interactive media developers114,275118,1983,9233%$32.88C075Web designers and developers18,47321,9193,44619%$26.29C111Chemical technologists and technicians20,71319,897(816)(4%)$25.78C112Geological and mineral technologists and technicians12,32912,7834544%$28.90C113Meteorological technicians323661338105%$19.35C121Biological technologists and technicians12,15010,687(1,463)(12%)$23.60C122Agricultural and fish products inspectors3,9154,9371,02226%$25.90C123Forestry technologists and technicians6,1716,6634928%$24.17C131Civil engineering technologists and technicians24,84121,996(2,845)(11%)$28.16C132Mechanical engineering technologists and technicians12,80317,4434,64036%$29.03C133Industrial engineering and manufacturing technologists and technicians12,90719,0386,13148%$27.06C141Electrical and electronics engineering technologists and technicians28,70628,71260%$27.74C151Architectural technologists and technicians5,6985,225(473)(8%)$22.25C152Industrial designers6,7048,5631,85928%$26.02C153Drafting technologists and technicians30,84627,389(3,457)(11%)$26.59C154Land survey technologists and technicians4,5656,4261,86141%$22.06C155Mapping and related technologists and technicians6,1406,3672274%$29.29C181Computer network technicians50,61662,50011,88423%$28.52C182User support technicians81,73372,501(9,232)(11%)$26.01C183Systems testing technicians11,51211,583711%$29.70E021Psychologists10,99011,2933033%$36.63E031Natural and applied science policy researchers, consultants and program officers18,59522,1333,53819%$35.93E032Economists and economic policy researchers and analysts17,54515,003(2,542)(14%)$35.33E034Social policy researchers, consultants and program officers31,54134,3472,8069%$31.48E038Other professional occupations in social science, n.e.c.3,6135,2341,62145%$31.93Total986,7501,093,177106,42711%$32.73Source: Employees - EMSI 2013.1

Data for this post came from Analyst, EMSI’s online labour market data tool. To see a sample of STEM data for your region, contact Fraser Martens. Follow EMSI on Twitter @DesktopEcon.