FORTUNE – As Congress debates the future of the nation's immigration laws, lots of attention has been paid to highly skilled workers graduating from top U.S. universities. The biggest names in the tech industry have lobbied to make it easier for them live and work in America. They say many versed in science, technology, engineering, and math graduate from the nation's top universities only to live years in legal limbo waiting for green cards. By allowing more to stay, the U.S. economy would be more competitive than others.
That may be true, but a new report argues engineers, programmers, and the like aren't the only jobs that fall in STEM fields -- otherwise known as science, technology, engineering, and math. Think registered nurses, car mechanics, plumbers and electricians. Their jobs may not require a college degree, but they are nonetheless highly technical. And they help the economy grow.
By including such jobs, the nation has more STEM jobs than previously thought, according to a report released by Brookings Institution. In 2011, 20%, or 26 million, of all U.S. jobs require a "high level" of knowledge in any one STEM field. That compares with the 4% to 5% estimated by the National Science Foundation.
They may not be the inventors or innovators, but they are decently paid, says Jonathan Rothwell, associate fellow at Brookings who authored the report. On average, STEM jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree pay $53,000 a year -- more than an average of $33,000 a year paid for jobs that neither require a bachelor's degree nor fall in STEM fields. And unlike STEM jobs held by college grads, these positions aren't concentrated in familiar tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley. They're dotted around the country and are also concentrated in cities including Baton Rouge, La., Birmingham, Ala., and Wichita, Kan.
This isn't to say that immigration reform should overlook the most highly skilled math and science gurus -- a significant portion of whom come from outside the U.S. In 2010, nearly half, 45%, of master's and doctoral students in engineering were from abroad, according to the latest data from the National Science Foundation.
For more than a decade, students from abroad have increasingly pursued engineering, as well as science and health programs in the U.S. In 2010, approximately 632,700 graduate students were enrolled in science, engineering, and health programs, up 30% from about 493,300 students in 2000, according to the foundation. In particular, studies in biomedical engineering saw the most rapid growth, with enrollment during the same period rising by 165% to 8,500 graduate students.
But while people like Facebook (FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg are lobbying to get more college-educated foreigners to stay in the country, let's not forget about jobs that involve math and science but don't require a degree. Rothwell urges the government to adopt a broader definition of STEM jobs, so that such jobs get more funding for education and training. Of the $4.3 billion spent by the federal government on STEM education, only 20% goes toward education or training below the bachelor's degree level.
What's more, the proposed immigration bill would put more federal funds toward universities at the expense of vocational schools and the like.
The botched offering is sure to make other successful startups think twice before putting themselves at the mercy of the common markets.
FORTUNE --There are lots of lessons to be drawn from the Facebook IPO: Don't let your CFO scrounge for every last dime. Make sure your CEO pays wardrobe deference to Wall Street. Remove board members who are more loyal to their bank accounts than to the company. But those MOREDan Primack - Sep 21, 2012 5:00 AM ET
There will be a flood of shares hitting the market when employees and insiders sell, which could hurt the new shareholders the most.
FORTUNE -- Add taxes to the potential reasons the social network's stock didn't pop in its IPO. The issue is the $4 billion dollars that will be owed by Facebook's employees as part of their stock windfall in six months. That tax bill is almost certain to lead MOREStephen Gandel, senior editor - May 18, 2012 2:44 PM ET
Idle speculation, while waiting for Facebook to go public.
Mark Zuckerberg recently skipped a meeting of bankers and analysts at Facebook HQ, according to The Wall Street Journal. The report said that he "preferred to focus his time on developing the service," and that he "doesn't expect to play a hands-on role selling" the company's upcoming IPO.
Clearly this is a guy who still hasn't warmed up to the idea of his company MOREDan Primack - Mar 21, 2012 12:01 PM ET
Pay at the social media company makes Wall Street's fat cats look skinny.
Where's the Occupy Facebook movement?
Earlier this month, when the social media company filed for its initial public offering most of the attention was focused on the fact that Facebook could be worth as much as $100 billion. But what didn't get a lot of attention, or scrutiny, was what the company pays its top executives. It's a ton MOREStephen Gandel, senior editor - Feb 16, 2012 10:00 AM ET
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal got a huge amount of attention for reporting that Facebook is preparing to go public next year in an IPO that could value the company in excess of $100 billion. It became the top story on HuffingtonPost, and got prominent links/rewrites everywhere from Reuters to Drudge.
Huh? I've read the WSJ story several times, and can't find any information that hasn't been previously reported. The only MOREDan Primack - Nov 29, 2011 12:08 PM ET
Before you start scrambling to get a piece of the Facebook pie, it's worth looking at a few glaring risk factors.
Excuse me for raining on the Facebook parade, but yesterday's news about the $450 million investment by Goldman Sachs (GS) and $50 million from Russia's Digital Sky Technology didn't move me the way it seemed to move others. This despite the suggested $50 billion valuation, as big and beautiful a MOREDuff McDonald, Contributing Editor - Jan 4, 2011 12:13 PM ET
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