LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers are expected to grow 10.5% between 2020 and 2030, but not all cities offer the same opportunities for workers.

The metro area consisting of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Conway came up short for these kinds of opportunities in a just-released study, ranking as the fourth worst metro area for STEM professionals.

The study by the personal finance website WalletHub, compared cities across three key dimensions including professional opportunities, STEM-friendliness and quality of life to determine the best and worst cities for STEM professionals.

Each category was ranked by different metrics like the amount of job openings for STEM graduates per capita, the STEM unemployment growth and the annual median wage for STEM workers, WalletHub reported.

According to the findings, the top five best cities for STEM workers are Seattle, Austin, Boston and Madison. The five worst cities are Jackson, Deltona, Cape Coral, Little Rock and Memphis.

The Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway metro ranked extremely low in metrics like math performance, STEM employment growth, percent of workforce in STEM careers and quality of engineering universities, the study shows.

Experts say local government and leaders can help attract and retain STEM professionals by ensuring a smooth transition from education to real-world experience.

“The placement of students into internships to gain real-world experience can have a significant impact on the production of STEM graduates and produces a well-prepared workforce,” Donna Pattison, a professor at the University of Houston, said. “However, internships need to be paid opportunities and not just free labor.”

Read more about the study by WalletHub at