There is no denying that jobs in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are the future of the economy. More than one million new STEM jobs are estimated to be created by 2022 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are ample opportunities for various levels of higher educational, ranging from two-year associates degrees to doctoral degrees requiring seven years of total higher education. STEM jobs are known to provide job security, increased job satisfaction, and improved quality of life.
The demand for STEM jobs is unparalleled in the U.S. today. College graduates with degrees in STEM disciplines commonly have multiple job offers with signing bonuses, relocation packages, and health, vacation and retirement benefits. Also proven is that the higher the level of education the higher the salary and the lower the unemployment rate. STEM covers a lot of territory and there are some fields more popular and faster growing than others. It is wise to explore fully any path or career for practical day-to-day functions relative to all other factors.
James Brown, the executive director of the STEM Education Coalition in Washington, D.C. states, “That’s where the jobs of tomorrow will be.”
What Are The Different STEM components?
Occupational Outlook Quarterly provided a brief definition of each of the STEM components (summarized below), data supporting STEM occupation growth and salaries, rewards and challenges of STEM work and how to prepare for a career in a STEM field.
Science jobs study the world through experimentation and observation. The work involves research, writing academic papers and presenting findings. Much of the work involves using the scientific method to objectively test hypothesis and theories. Many of the different disciplines are earth sciences, space sciences, life sciences, chemistry and physics. The different disciplines are then broken down into more specialized areas. Life sciences study the living world, such as plants or the human body in areas such as pathology, nutrition, neuroscience, ecology, and genetics.
Technology jobs use science and engineering to create and maintain computer and information systems. Workers build software applications used on mobile, tablet, and desktop platforms – as well as database systems and networks that those applications rely on. Technology connects people and coworkers together which makes the cost of business much less than past decades allowing for geographically diverse workplaces.
Engineering jobs use science, math, and technology to solve real-world problems. The output of these jobs involves developing systems, structures, products, or materials.
“Engineering makes things better and cheaper for everyone,” says Patrick Holm, a project civil engineer in Olympia, Washington. “Without it, we couldn’t live in the kind of society we know–with bridges, clean water, and cars.”
Engineering disciplines are typically divided into industries like aerospace, petroleum or textiles. Major disciplines include civil, mechanical, industrial, electrical, and materials engineering.
Math jobs use numerical, spatial, and logical relationships to study and solve problems. Mathematics is the technical foundation for science, engineering, and technology. The work involves finding patterns in data to draw conclusions about the data, test mathematical relationships, and model the real world. Disciplines include algebra, statistics, calculus, game theory, and geometry.
Isn’t STEM For Nerds?
Often times, students in high school are not interested in computer science, programming and higher math or science classes. Those classes are considered difficult, nerdy and uncool. But what if integrated STEM learning would begin much earlier such as elementary and middle school?
The reality is that these classes and the path they lead to should make students think twice before taking a pass. There is nothing nerdy about getting a high demand job and riding the wave of an economic STEM boom. Considering that more than one million international students attend college in the United States with many targeting these high demand majors and degrees.
STEM classes should be in high demand for any students with interests or aptitudes in these areas, regardless of cool factor. In fact, some argue, that all students should be taught to program regardless of whether they go onto obtain STEM majors or careers. Below are many of the different STEM careers for your evaluation:
STEM Offers Opportunities That Should Be Considered
A STEM career, such as computer programming, can be rewarding and offer pay of over $100,000 annually after a few years of experience. There is no doubt that students should take STEM consideration seriously when determining career options. Based on demand alone, this path should be more readily accepted by students in both high school and college as we go forward. Below is a table of many STEM occupations and projected employment by occupation in 2022.
As demonstrated above, there is high demand created by job stability and growth. The rewards may be realized by way of collaborative work environment, great health, benefits, salary, and unique opportunities.
Start Earlier With STEM
Middle and high schools should start earlier making better opportunities for STEM and making a STEM more of an integrated part of required curriculum. The advantages would be students identify earlier strengths, interests, and aptitude toward STEM fields. Or not. It is also good to know who does not excel or does not have an aptitude toward STEM.
The government also appears to be making it more possible with funding for special projects and companies that focus on STEM fields.
In the classroom it has been reported in a video produced by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that an issue has been ongoing within the U.S. K-12 education for a long time. The core issue is the lack of training of all STEM disciplines, the separation of the disciplines when taught, and the lack of technology training in the classrooms.
The proposal is an integrated STEM experience that should be supported by the school systems. The skills developed will extend to life outside of the classroom and serve as a benefit to your foundation.
Within the classroom teachers can combine disciplines and modify their teaching approach, using problem based learning, and explicit integration of science, technology, math, and science.
The benefits described by Brecksville-Broadview Heights school district’s STEM Education overview video demonstrate that key skills are instilled into STEM students. The high engagement and problem solving that come with the STEM learning experience transforms students into curious learners able to achieve great things. Students learn to perform and core benefits include collaboration, communication, research, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. These skills are a benefit in any environment in the future whether it be in corporate America, medicine, or engineering.
Outside of the classrooms it was mentioned that competitions, internships, and more research is required.
With the many changes to supporting the STEM experience, schools should be organized to provide an integrated STEM experience and better prepare students for our future.
“Take kids to hands on science museums.” Rob Stephenson quoted during his Ted talk titled Developing 21st Century Problem Solvers. As of March 2014 eight states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards and he said that we can push our State Boards of Education to continue this trend and adopt these standards.
The STEM Race Is Underway
Stephenson said that, “if we work together we can preserve, protect, and foster children’s natural desire to discover and invent and for that next little Albert out there he will also learn how to persevere and innovate.”
One of the most important things Stephenson stated is that there is a global STEM race underway right now, and the whole world is the stage for STEM.
Our current standing as 17th in Science and 25th in Mathematics internationally demonstrates the need to push STEM harder and look for more integration of STEM into classrooms from elementary schools to high schools.
The US economy will benefit with an increase to wages that will fuel prosperity, greater spending and investing. Additionally, the innovations and advancements in areas such as technology and medicine will continue to make this world a better place.
Is STEM For Everyone?
Of course STEM is not the answer for everyone.
It is best to research and explore if any STEM occupations align to your interests. If you are uncertain and undecided on Major or Career then it is definitely worth evaluating very closely this list.
If you are already started down a path, it may still be worth a look to compare the STEM jobs and required paths. If you are working, for example, in a job that you do not enjoy then evaluate the occupations and the paths required to get there. It may just be worth it.
If everyone did STEM we would face a certain economics riddle of more supply than demand which has a way of forcing corrections. I do believe that many will continue to steer clear because they may not have the interest, aptitude, or intellect to pursue STEM careers. Innovation will continue to spur more research which will continue to spur job creation and growth in a positive cycle that should last several decades. We are still in the gold rush era of the internet as we move into the Internet of Things.
How Do I Move Into STEM Major Or Career?
You can start identifying strengths and interests in middle or high school. There are programming, math, engineering, and science courses available. Some have varying degrees of difficulty. If you have a high aptitude and interest level in any STEM courses you can dig in a bit further to understand its path.
Many STEM careers require at least a bachelors degree so you should plan on going to college. You should evaluate what colleges offer the most options for your interests. You will want to be sure you have developed strong thinking and communication skills.
One important point is to get experience before graduation. It will increase your value and improve your odds of gaining one or more favorable offers at graduation, whether it be undergraduate or graduate school. You do not want to go through and have NO experience. Look for projects, research opportunities, internships, and jobs. There are many options available through your school that need to be fully explored. It is key to network and build a bunch of relationships you can call on when needed in the future.