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stemcity1If you graduated with a science, tech, engineering or math degree — also known as “STEM” — and want to increase your chances of landing a gig, there are some areas of the U.S. that may serve you better than others.

new study from personal finance site Nerd Wallet ranked the best metro areas for STEM graduates using data based on three categories:

  • Career demand for STEM graduates (50 percent weighted)
  • Average income for STEM graduates (30 percent weighted)
  • Local economic landscape (20 percent weighted)

Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley came out on top with several big tech employers in the region. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area ranked ninth, and here’s what Nerd Wallet had to say about western Washington:

Seattle is known for its clean technology, life sciences and healthcare industries, all of which attract STEM workers.  The city educates its youth in STEM as well—the University of Washington runs Green Energy, a STEM camp for middle schoolers.  For networking and coordination between STEM groups, Washington STEM is a great resource for holistic STEM education, both in the classroom and outside.

Another Washington area cracked the top 11, as the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland region finished ahead of places like San Diego and Denver thanks to the budding agriculture and healthcare industries in eastern Washington.

But in terms of STEM-related education, Washington is actually doing quite poorly. While the state ranks fourth in the nation for tech-related companies — largely through import of talent from elsewhere — it comes in a disappointing 46th for participation in science and engineering graduate programs.

computersciencewashThe poor state of Washington’s education system was a theme that ran through the entire Technology Alliance luncheon last month, and was also the focus of short but stinging speech from Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.

“Our state is the ass end of the donkey in just about every aspect of education and in just about every aspect of preparing Washington’s kids for Washington’s jobs,” Lazowska said.

One promising step the state took recently was allowing Washington high schoolers to count computer science classes as a math or science requirement toward high school graduation, becoming the tenth state to do so.

In regard to the startup community, education is key when it comes to building out the ecosystem here and cultivating future entrepreneurs that work in the region after graduation. While the UW’s premier computer science school produces lots of high-quality graduates right in Seattle, the acceptance rate is low and hundreds of would-be programmers are turned away every year. The problem is that there aren’t many other places around the city to earn a degree in STEM-related fields.

startupseattleThat’s why education is a focus of Mayor Mike McGinn’s new startup initiative. Many here support the idea of a tech-focused private university to offer budding local engineers more opportunities to be educated. As part of his effort to transform New York into a “mid-Atlantic Silicon Valley,” NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg put huge resources behind Cornell, NYU, and Columbia to expand engineering programs in the city and so far, it’s certainly helping the startup scene there.

But Seattle does not have several established universities in the area like NYC and perhaps one thing that could really help the city is multiple second-tier schools. While Seattle has a premier institution in the UW, there’s not much else here churning out talented graduates. McGinn did cite Northeastern University’s move to Seattle as one example of a school realizing a market niche not being filled.

Other Nerd Wallet rankings: 

Previously on GeekWire: The state of education: Yes, we suck … Ballmer, Myhrvold make top 100 list recognizing CEOs impacting tech, science education

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