A Guide to STEM Careers
What Is STEM?
STEM is an acronym that was introduced in 2001 by The National Science Foundation as a way of explaining and combining the four key skills that they believe will be the most valuable when it comes to students entering careers in the future.
The acronym stands for:
Current estimates indicate that up to 80% of jobs in the future will require skills that are found within STEM education.
As a result, over recent years STEM has been embraced by educators wanting to prepare their pupils for careers in the modern world.
What Is STEM Education?
The principle of educating within a STEM framework is to create a blended approach to teaching in the four key areas: science, technology, engineering and math.
Rather than teaching the subjects individually, STEM works to combine them in real-world scenarios in a cohesive manner.
What Are the Benefits of a STEM Education?
STEM not only prepares students for entering the workplace as adults through teaching technical knowledge, but also ensures that pupils gain a number of key social and developmental skills that are useful in everyday life.
Social Emotional Learning
By learning how to solve problems, work as part of a team and manage disappointment when things don’t go the way that they want, STEM teaches pupils a wide range of social emotional learning skills.
These skills help to develop students’ personal identities, as well as enabling them to manage their emotions and build empathic and supportive relationships with others.
Many of the tasks that are covered by the STEM curriculum will involve pupils solving problems and discovering solutions by themselves and as part of a team.
This helps to build cognitive, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking is a way of describing skills such as analysis, interpretation, evaluation and self-reflection.
These skills are found in abundance in a STEM system as it teaches children to not only think for themselves, but also solve problems, predict outcomes and explain how they find solutions.
These skills are key in many of the industries that students will be working in if they follow STEM teaching into the workplace.
Communication skills are valuable in every aspect of life, not just in employment.
By teaching students how to appropriately communicate with one another as well as teaching students how to communicate their ideas and solutions, they will be better able to work for themselves or as part of a team while also being able to communicate their needs in an appropriate way.
More and more careers require individuals to have a basic knowledge of technology.
STEM education ensures that children will have the skills they need to be able to engage in the modern workplace.
By exposing children to some of the equipment and technology that they may encounter in their adult lives, it means that they will have some understanding of technology and how it can be used to their advantage.
Learning in a STEM setting teaches children that not everything can be achieved at the first attempt; it is okay to try things and fail at them.
Many of the principles of STEM focus on ideas of experimenting and discovering for themselves how things work.
This approach helps to build feelings of confidence and resilience, which are vital skills needed by adults in the workplace.
Teamwork is vital in many aspects of life, not just in employment.
STEM teaches students to work together and communicate with one another in a way that is respectful and helps to achieve a desired outcome.
It not only teaches individuals how to contribute as part of a team, but also how to make the most of each person's individual skills in a way that benefits the team as a whole.
The ability to build good teamwork skills will then follow pupils into any choice of career as well as the friendships, relationships and social situations that they will experience in everyday life.
Ingenuity, invention and creativity are cornerstones within STEM. Without these skills, new developments and discoveries would not be possible.
For pupils learning within a STEM framework, the ability to create and invent solutions to problems will give them skills that can be used in any area of their lives.
What Does a STEM Education Look Like?
The way that STEM is taught through a child's education will vary depending on their age and level of understanding.
When taught correctly, pupils will be engaged and gradually build on their knowledge throughout their years at school.
Creators of the STEM curriculum have also worked to make it wholly inclusive, putting emphasis on making sure that it includes those from socially deprived backgrounds and making it appealing to areas of the population who wouldn’t traditionally be likely to enter these industries.
Female students are particularly targeted as they are statistically less likely to pursue a college degree or career within the STEM industries, with areas such as engineering considered to be male-dominated.
At this level of education, the main focus is to create an interest in STEM amongst pupils.
Teachers will introduce each of the subjects and create awareness of the occupations that are available to those working in areas which specialize in STEM.
This could be through generalized question and answer type sessions or more hands-on, practical experiences where children learn how STEM can be used in everyday life.
The aim is for students to become interested in STEM naturally and foster an understanding of what job roles are usually taken by those with STEM qualifications, leading to them choosing to pursue courses in those areas later in education.
During middle school, courses will become more challenging and involved, building on the foundations which were taught in elementary school.
As well as continuing to discuss positions that can be obtained with STEM qualifications, teachers will begin to focus on the academic requirements students will need.
It is often at this age that students will begin to look into career pathways for themselves.
High school students will find that their STEM learning is much more focused at this stage of their education.
It is during high school that students are allowed to choose to focus on subjects that will enable them to follow their chosen career pathways.
Teachers will work to create understanding within their pupils of the link between the subjects that they study through education and where this can lead in their adult life.
What Are the Benefits of Working in a STEM Career?
STEM careers are innovating and shaping our futures. Working within these industries means that you would be creating new skills, technologies and approaches to how we live.
The world is constantly changing and, as a result, there will always be new technologies to create and innovate.
When it comes to opportunities within STEM industries, the sky really is the limit.
The advantage of working within an industry which is constantly changing and evolving is that there will always be the opportunity for growth, development and learning; both on a professional and personal level.
Many of the skills developed within STEM are also transferable over different career paths. So, if you decided that you wanted a complete change of work, there are options available that would still make use of STEM skills, while offering the opportunity to do something entirely different.
Careers within STEM consistently offer higher-than-average salaries to those who choose to pursue a career within one of the many industries.
The average annual salary for someone working in a STEM industry is almost $89,000, which is more than double the average income for a non-STEM job.
The demand for individuals with STEM skills has grown over recent years and is likely to continue growing in the future.
As mentioned at the start of this article, current predictions are that 80% of jobs in the future will be STEM based. This means that there is a very high level of job security for those who pursue a career in these areas.
What STEM Careers Are in High Demand?
When considering a career within STEM, you may be wondering which route to take and which qualifications to pursue.
The good news is that the choice of career paths and job roles is almost limitless, with almost every area of industry valuing those with STEM skills.
There are, however, some roles which are consistently in more demand and this is likely to only increase over time.
Automation and robotics professionals – Designing, developing, building and testing automated and robotics technologies for use across a broad spectrum of industries.
Software development – Creating and developing computer software, smartphone apps and other software technologies.
Data science and data analysts – Work to understand large amounts of data information and explain it in easy-to-understand formats.
Electrical and electronics engineers – Design, develop and test new types of electrical equipment, as well as working to improve existing products.
Information security analysts – Creating solutions to protect data from cyber attacks, ensuring that sensitive information is kept secure and maintaining the integrity of a computer network
Physicists – This is a blanket term used to describe any individual who works within the umbrella of physics. Includes: astrophysicists, atomic and molecular physicists, astronomers and medical physicists
Computer and information systems managers – Ensure organizations’ computer and technological needs are sufficiently met and manage installing and maintaining software and hardware
Petroleum engineers – Design and develop methods for oil extraction and gas production
What Are the Skill Gaps in STEM?
The term ‘skill gap’ is used to describe the shortage of skilled individuals within industries where STEM skills are required.
There is a shortage of skilled workers in all areas of STEM, which is likely to carry on growing unless it is addressed.
Current estimates state that by 2025 there could be up to two million STEM roles that are unfilled.
There are a variety of factors which contribute to the skills gap:
Skills – The number of STEM jobs is continuously increasing; however, the number of skilled students and adults is not growing to meet demand.
Geography – When compared to the number of STEM graduates in other countries, the US ranks third. In fact, there are nine times more STEM graduates in China than there are in the US. A large reason for this is geographic factors. STEM jobs tend to be concentrated in areas where there are not enough skilled workers to fulfill them, meaning that employers need to attract workers from other areas.
Education – The majority of STEM jobs require individuals to have achieved university or college education. A lack of sufficient education of STEM subjects within high schools has led to a shortage of individuals choosing to undertake further education within these subjects.
Women in STEM
One of the largest areas of staff shortage within STEM is due to gender. It is widely known that STEM careers are largely male-dominated, with estimates stating that just 13% of the STEM workforce are female.
There has been a shift towards encouraging women into STEM roles over recent years. However, recent statistics show that female graduates are still a minority in STEM subjects.
Many women are put off from applying for STEM roles because of the lack of female representation within these businesses. They have also voiced concerns about whether they may face negative attitudes for being female in a traditionally male sector.
However, businesses are inclusive and supportive of having a broad spectrum of employees. If you are a women wanting to get into a STEM-based industry, there is often support available to help you achieve your goals.
STEM is an area which is likely to grow in the future, so it is important to fully understand the value that pursuing an education with a STEM subject can have.
Those looking for a secure and rewarding career path should seriously consider whether one of the many STEM careers could be what they are searching for.