World-famous for its history, distinctive local culture, and sporting prowess, Boston is also a shining light in the U.S. STEM sector — making it an increasingly desirable destination for STEM professionals.
The city is fast becoming a world leader in biotech and the life sciences, and the Greater Boston region ranked second for number of life-science employees. It’s also the top market for attracting recent grads with life science degrees. And if that’s not all, the area is number one for funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Aside from offering well-paid jobs and countless opportunities for innovation and career progression, the unofficial capital of the New England region also provides a high quality of life. From summer picnics on Boston Common to cheering on the Red Sox at a packed-out Fenway Park, this city has it all.
With so much on offer, it’s little wonder that so many scientists and engineers from across the United States and beyond are moving to the city affectionately known as “The Athens of America.” Here are seven reasons why Boston is the place to be when it comes to STEM careers.
1) One of the best STEM hubs in the United States
Though often playing second-fiddle to better-known tech hubs such as Silicon Valley, San Diego, and Austin, Boston is increasingly making waves in the world of STEM — particularly in the fields of biotech and the life sciences.
Having first emerged in the mid-1970s, the biotech sector in Boston has grown from strength to strength. Greater Boston is home to almost 1,000 biotechnology companies, ranging from innovative SMEs to multi-billion-dollar pharma organizations.
Many of the STEM organizations located in the Boston region are concentrated around Kendall Square in nearby Cambridge. Cambridge itself is home to over 120 STEM companies and a competitive business environment. In the nearby Longwood Medical and Academic Area, a host of biomedical research companies can also be found.
According to a 2019 report from the nonprofit Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Fund, the local biotech industry is projected to add 12,000 more jobs by 2024 — bringing the total to around nearly 100,000. In all, more than 550 biotech and drug development companies can be found in the state of Massachusetts, with close to 1,400 drugs in development at any one given time.
Meanwhile, a prominent WalletHub report ranked Boston number 1 in the U.S. for “STEM-friendliness”, a score that incorporates the city’s standardized high school math test scores, the number and quality of engineering universities, male-female disparity in STEM occupations, R&D spending, patents, tech meetups and summer programs.
Dr RJ Tesi, the CEO/CMO of INmune Bio who moved to Boston from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2015, summarized the city’s upward trajectory to FiveThirtyEight: “the Bay Area is probably the cradle of biotech in the U.S., but [has] lost its mantle to Boston.” Take that, Silicon Valley.
2) Competitive salaries
Salaries in Boston are among the most competitive in the U.S and well above the national average. The average salary in Boston is $79,000. For scientists, average salaries range between $105,000 and $120.000.
Despite an abundance of well-paid work, the cost of living in Boston is 48% above the national average. That said, Boston stacks up well for overall cost of living when compared to the other major STEM hubs: consumer prices (including rent) in Boston are 43% cheaper than in San Francisco.
Real estate prices in Boston vary substantially. In the upmarket town of Belmont, the median house price is $813,200. In the popular northern neighborhoods of Chelsea, Everett, and Revere, the median house price is less than $400,000. No matter what your salary or budget, you’ll be able to find a neighborhood suited to your immediate and long-term needs.
According to a CBRE report, of the region’s 706,000 life science workers, 329,000 live in Boston-Cambridge, 239,000 live in mid-distance suburbs, and 138,000 live in the outer suburbs.
3) World-class universities
As the home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Boston metro area is the undisputed educational capital of the United States. More than 250,000 students — the population of a mid-sized city — attend college in Boston and Cambridge alone. In total, Massachusetts is home to 122 universities and colleges
Of the U.S. World & Report’s top-100 national universities, seven are located in the Greater Boston area. This gives the city a deep STEM talent pool and a renewable source of qualified labor. No wonder Boston-Cambridge-Newton is a longstanding hotbed of innovation.
For STEM professionals, the city’s top-tier academic institutions also provide plenty of employment opportunities. Indeed, prestigious universities like Harvard and MIT, along with local research hospitals, play an important role in the life science and biotech sectors. For those looking to expand their skills and horizons outside of work, Boston’s universities also offer a wide range of graduate schemes and learning and development courses.
4) Epic cultural landmarks
Founded in 1630, Boston is America’s most historic major city. With heritage and culture lurking around almost every corner, you’ll have a long list of things to do and places to see on your days off.
Faneuil Hall is undoubtedly the most popular tourist hotspot in the city. Opened in 1743, this meeting hall and marketplace played a central role in encouraging independence from Great Britain and is considered one of the most important buildings in the country. Nicknamed “The Cradle of Liberty,” the hall is now a shopping center and forms part of the city’s Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile path through downtown, stretches from the Bunker Hill Monument — the site of the first battle of the American War of Independence — to Boston Common. The Common is Boston’s equivalent to Central Park and offers verdant escapism from the urban buzz. Despite being a compact city, green spaces are never too far away.
Also offering some respite is the lavish Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which was based on a Venetian palace and is one of the main attractions in the city. Gardner founded the museum “for the education and enrichment of the public forever,” and it continues to occupy a central place in the hearts and minds of residents.
Other popular public buildings include the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the oldest art institutions in the country; the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library, which details the life and legacy of the famous Bostonian statesman; and Boston Library, with its gorgeous Renaissance Revival architecture.
In short, you won’t be bored of Boston in a hurry.
5) The food & drink scene
As a melting pot of cultures from across the globe, Boston serves up a veritable smorgasbord of cuisines to suit even the pickiest of palettes. From Haitian pumpkin soup to Irish stew and a pint of Guinness, the city known as “Beantown” has a vibrant, constantly evolving food and drink scene.
Without doubt, the primary culinary staple of Boston is its world-famous fresh seafood. Celebrated local seafood dishes include clam chowder, Boston lobster roll, clam and lobster bakes, fish and chips, and fried clams — all served year-round. Located on the Freedom Trail, Union Oyster House is a must-visit. This well-known seafood hang-out opened its doors in 1826 and is thought to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in America.
With a large Italian-American community, Boston also gives New York a run for its money when it comes to pizza, pasta, and parmesan. The North End of Boston, known as the city’s Little Italy, is packed with historic family eateries and bustling bistros — the perfect place to unwind after a long week in the lab. Some even serve another peculiar local delicacy: lobster pizza.
Aside from the many restaurants, Boston is also known for its fantastic range of bars. Whether it’s big-screen sports bars, quiet Sunday brunching, or a bite to eat at a Chinatown food stall, this city really delivers. You can even enjoy a beer and burger at the Bull and Finch Pub — AKA the Cheers bar, where exterior shots in the eponymous TV show were filmed.
6) The sports scene
No discussion about life in Boston can be complete without a nod to its illustrious sporting heritage. With some of the most fanatic fans around, the sports teams representing the "City of Champions" always attract a crowd — no matter the occasion.
Major-league teams in the city include the hugely successful Boston Celtics of the NBA (fun fact: the sport of basketball was invented in Massachusetts) and the historic Boston Red Sox of the MLB (when in town, don’t mention the Yankees!). In the NHL, the Boston Bruins fly the flag for the city.
Just up the road in Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium are six-time Super Bowl champions, the world-famous New England Patriots (despite losing Tom Brady, they remain the second-most supported football team in the nation). They groundshare with the New England Revolution, the state’s only professional soccer team and the joint-oldest club in the MLS.
7) Getting around
Serving the metro area’s 4 million inhabitants (690,000 of whom are in Boston proper), the effective Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority (MBTA) public transportation network represents an easy way to commute and a great way to explore the city.
With an approval rating of 69% among users — one of the highest nationwide — the Boston-Cambridge-Newton-MA-NH public transport system was ranked fifth in the U.S. by The Fabric Insurance Agency.
The city’s subway, which is known as the “T”, runs throughout Boston, into Cambridge, and also into the nearby suburbs — offering easy access to all the main attractions. A single basic fare for the T is called a Charlie Ticket and is priced at $2.75. With a Charlie Card (similar to NYC’s MetroCard or London’s Oyster card), the price for a single trip drops down to $2.25.
Aside from the T, regular buses service the harder-to-get-to parts of town, while the MBTA Commuter Rail provides links to 141 stations across Eastern Massachusetts and even parts of Rhode Island. By public transit, Boston Logan Airport is only 20 minutes away from downtown.
Taxis are also widely available and easy to flag down, while Boston proper’s compact size makes it fantastic for walking and cycling. By car, the popular suburbs of Medford, Winthrop, Revere, Somerville, and Everett all offer commutes of 30 minutes or less.
With its unmistakable identity, thriving civic culture, and an effortless blend of suburban serenity and urban vitality, Boston is undoubtedly one of the most attractive American cities for newcomers right now. And with a vibrant STEM sector that’s only set to grow, the talent pool is only going to widen.
If you’re thinking of making Boston your next home, search the latest STEM jobs in Boston by using the job search below.