STEM is not a single field that you can pick and choose to major in. Rather, STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. The careers offered in STEM are often grounded in innovation, problem-solving, analytical thinking, and logical reasoning.
Every year, a large number of students are drawn toward STEM careers. One reason for this could be that STEM has become synonymous with lucrative, high-paying careers. But with this generation of students looking for passion and not just for pay, does STEM make sense? We’re here to tell you it sure does.
STEM is an ever-expanding field, with new knowledge and subsequent careers being added along the way. The STEM field entails some of the most interesting careers in a variety of fields that are not just math-heavy but also possess a touch of creativity to them.
In this guide, we’ll list some of the most popular professions and also let you in on some lesser-known options that are worth considering.
The four pillars of STEM stand for the following:
Science: It’s the systematic exploration of how the world around us works, involving experiments and measurements and creating general laws to explain phenomena.
Technology: This is all about using knowledge to create and use tools and gadgets that impact our lives, society, and the environment, drawing from various fields like engineering and science.
Engineering: It’s the clever use of scientific knowledge, like physics and chemistry, to build practical things like engines, bridges, and buildings. Engineering also has a large IT component; IT in engineering refers to building software and managing it.
Mathematics: Here, we delve into the world of numbers, shapes, and space, using a special language to study how they all fit together.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for the year 2020-21, the total number of degrees/certificates awarded to students in the STEM field is 790,752, which is higher than the degrees awarded in other fields
STEM involves the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The STEM curriculum is broad. In these fields, you can study a wide range of subjects, including biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, mathematics, and engineering. Studying these subjects prepares you for a variety of career paths, including computer programming, data analysis, civil engineering, medical research, environmental science, and more.
STEM careers are considered prestigious as they drive development and push for advancement through innovation. STEM education encourages innovation, pushing students to explore uncharted territories and improve existing technologies. It fosters creativity, emphasizing imagination and originality. Moreover, STEM excels at posing questions that stimulate critical thinking and problem-solving, an essential skill for both academic work and real-world applications. Most importantly, science and technology are all around us and impact every individual and industry, making it more and more necessary to skillfully navigate these fields. These are just some of the many reasons why STEM fields are so important.
When you’re asked to think of STEM and associated careers, you’re probably thinking of biologists, engineers, astronauts, and such careers. These are definitely some very major and well-known spaces within STEM, but there are many many more possible options that are not discussed so often. Here is a list of some popular STEM programs that you may or may not have heard of.
Note – This list is not exhaustive, but here is a source that lists almost all STEM programs.
The data for the fastest-growing occupations published by the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) records that most STEM careers are projected to grow between 2022-32, these careers include Nurse practitioners, Data Scientists, Statisticians, Information security analysts, and many more STEM careers.
- Engineering: Engineers are in demand across various fields, from civil and mechanical engineering to electrical and aerospace engineering, as they design, build, and maintain critical systems and structures that drive our modern world. Engineers can pursue a variety of career paths, including roles as civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, computer engineers, aerospace engineers, environmental engineers, and biomedical engineers.
- Computer Science: Covering software development, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and more, computer science is fundamental in the digital age. Computer science majors can explore a range of career opportunities, such as software developers, data scientists, web developers, network engineers, cybersecurity analysts, database administrators, and machine learning engineers.
- Biomedical Sciences: Focusing on healthcare and life sciences, this field encompasses research, pharmaceuticals, and medical device development. Biomedical sciences majors have diverse career options, including roles in pharmaceutical research, clinical laboratory technology, healthcare administration, epidemiology, medical writing, biotechnology, and medical sales.
- Data Science: Data scientists analyze and interpret data to make informed decisions across various industries. Data science majors have a wide range of career opportunities, including roles as data analysts, machine learning engineers, business intelligence analysts, data scientists, data engineers, quantitative analysts, and data consultants.
- Robotics: This field creates innovative robots for industries like manufacturing, healthcare, and space exploration. Robotics majors can pursue various career options, including roles as robotics engineers, automation specialists, robotics technicians, autonomous vehicle developers, robotics researchers, industrial automation experts, and robotics software developers.
- Chemistry: Chemists work on designing and optimizing processes for manufacturing chemicals and materials. Chemistry majors have a variety of career options, including roles as analytical chemists, pharmaceutical researchers, quality control analysts, chemical engineers, forensic scientists, environmental chemists, and materials scientists.
- Mathematics: Mathematics majors learn a wide range of mathematical concepts, including calculus, algebra, probability, statistics, and more. As a result, strong analytical and problem-solving skills are developed. Mathematics plays a vital role in almost all STEM fields. Mathematics majors can explore numerous career options, such as roles in applied math, actuarial science, data analysis, finance, cryptography, teaching, research, statistics, and software development.
- Aerospace and Aeronautical Sciences: Crucial for space exploration and aircraft development, these professionals contribute to cutting-edge technology. Aerospace and aeronautical sciences majors have various career options, such as aerospace engineers, aircraft maintenance technicians, avionics engineers, flight test engineers, aerospace project managers, propulsion engineers, and aerospace researchers.
- Biotechnology: Professionals in biotech develop products, therapies, and technologies that revolutionize healthcare and agriculture. Biotechnology majors have a wide range of career options, including roles as biotechnologists, pharmaceutical researchers, clinical laboratory scientists, genetic counselors, bioinformatics specialists, regulatory affairs specialists, and bioprocess engineers.
- Environmental Sciences: Experts in this field work on sustainable environmental practices, climate change, and resource management. Environmental sciences majors can pursue various career options, including roles as environmental consultants, environmental scientists, conservation biologists, environmental policy analysts, environmental educators, sustainability managers, and research scientists in areas related to environmental protection and conservation.
If you’re more on the creative end of the STEM spectrum, then consider the following programs/careers:
Note – These are just some of the many careers available. Here’s an almost exhaustive list of all STEM careers. What you may find interesting definitely depends on your own interests, passions, and goals. You do you.
Here are some creative careers that may spark your interest:
- Science Documentary Producer:
Science documentary producers use their scientific knowledge to create engaging and informative films or videos that explore various scientific topics. They blend their passion for science with storytelling and cinematography to make complex subjects accessible to a broad audience.
- Video Game Designer:
Video game designers conceptualize, design, and develop video games. They use their creativity and technical skills to create interactive and immersive gaming experiences, from storyline development to character design and gameplay mechanics.
STEM educators work in classrooms, museums, or other educational settings to teach and inspire students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. They play a crucial role in fostering the next generation of scientists and innovators.
- Front-End Developer:
Front-end developers are responsible for designing and coding the user interface of websites and web applications. They focus on creating visually appealing and user-friendly websites that effectively communicate information or provide services.
- Visual Effects Technician:
Visual effects technicians work in the film and entertainment industry, using technology and artistic skills to create stunning visual effects that enhance movies, TV shows, and other forms of media. They make the impossible look real on screen.
Astronomers study the universe, including galaxies, stars, planets, and cosmic phenomena. They use telescopes, computer simulations, and data analysis to uncover the mysteries of the cosmos, expanding our understanding of the universe.
Pediatricians are medical doctors who specialize in the care of children and adolescents. They diagnose and treat a wide range of medical conditions in young patients, ensuring their physical and emotional well-being.
Geoscientists study the Earth’s structure, composition, and processes, including geology, meteorology, and oceanography. They may explore the planet’s history, natural resources, or environmental issues to inform decision-making and research.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that in the academic year 2020-21, there were 87,382 associate degrees and certificates awarded to students in the STEM field. Which states that out of the total number of degrees and certificates (790,752) awarded in STEM in 2020-21, 11% were associate degrees.
If you’re looking for a quick and efficient way to join the STEM workforce, consider these job options that require only an associate degree to enter the profession. These entry-level jobs offer good wages and also have a good projected growth rate.
Getting into the list:
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers: Diagnostic Medical Sonographers use ultrasound technology to create images that aid in medical diagnoses. They work in hospitals, clinics, and imaging centers. In order to advance their careers, they can specialize in areas like vascular or cardiac sonography through higher education and experience. The 2022 median pay for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is $78,210.
- Respiratory Therapists: Respiratory Therapists assist patients with breathing difficulties by providing therapies and using specialized equipment. They are typically employed in hospitals, nursing homes, and home healthcare. Advancement in this field often involves pursuing advanced degrees or certifications, which can lead to roles like neonatal or critical care respiratory therapy. The 2022 median annual pay for this role is $70,540.
- Occupational Therapy Assistants: Occupational Therapy Assistants support occupational therapists in helping patients regain skills needed for daily life. They find employment in hospitals, schools, and rehabilitation centers. Advancement opportunities include pursuing higher education to become a licensed occupational therapist. The median annual pay recorded for this profession is $63,450
- Physical Therapist Assistants: Physical Therapist Assistants work alongside physical therapists to treat patients with mobility issues. They can be found in hospitals, private practices, and outpatient centers. Advancement often involves pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, which qualifies them to become physical therapists. In this role, the recorded annual median pay is $57,240.
- Veterinary Technologists and Technicians: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians assist veterinarians in providing healthcare to animals. They typically work in veterinary clinics, research labs, and zoos. Career advancement can be achieved through advanced certifications and specialization in specific areas of veterinary care. The median annual pay for this job is $38,240.
- Dental Hygienists: Dental Hygienists provide dental care services such as cleaning and patient education in dental offices and clinics. Advancement in this field often involves obtaining bachelor’s degrees, which can open doors to roles in education, research, or public health. The 2022 median annual pay for Dental Hygienists is $81,400.
- Computer Network Support Specialists: Computer Network Support Specialists are responsible for maintaining and troubleshooting computer networks in various settings, including tech companies, government agencies, and businesses. Advancement often comes through obtaining advanced certifications and gaining experience, which can lead to roles like network administrator or IT manager. The median annual wage for computer network support specialists in 2022 was recorded at $59,660.
- Radiologic Technologists and Technicians: Radiologic Technologists and Technicians perform diagnostic imaging procedures in hospitals, imaging centers, and physicians’ offices. Advancement in this field may require specialization in areas like MRI or CT scanning, often necessitating additional training. In this role, the recorded annual median pay is $67,180
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants: You will require an AS in Paralegal Studies to join this field. Paralegals and Legal Assistants assist lawyers with legal research, document preparation, and client communication in law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. Advancement in this field often involves obtaining advanced certifications or further education, which can lead to roles like legal researcher or compliance officer. The median annual wage recorded in 2022 for this role was $59,200.
As per data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the 2020-21 academic year, 437,302 bachelor’s degrees and certificates were conferred upon students in the STEM field. This indicates that out of the total number of degrees and certificates (790,752) awarded in STEM, 55% were bachelor’s degrees. Bachelor’s degrees are a popular choice for STEM students.
What is a Bachelor’s degree in STEM?
STEM is not a single field that you can pick and major in. STEM is an umbrella term that incorporates degrees within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The programs in this category generally emphasize problem-solving, critical thinking, and analysis. A STEM major can lead to a variety of solid careers.
How long does a STEM bachelor’s degree take
A bachelor’s degree in STEM generally spans four years. The duration can vary based on the mode of learning, whether online or offline. It can also depend on how much time you devote, whether full-time or part-time. Credit from college-level courses taken in high school or associate degree courses can also impact the duration of your degree.
Admission requirements for getting your bachelor’s degree in STEM
Admission requirements for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in STEM fields may vary by institution, but there are some common expectations. Earning a bachelor’s degree in STEM typically requires you to submit your high school diploma or equivalent, with good grades in math and science courses often preferred. Many institutions also consider standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT. However, the most important attribute is a genuine interest in STEM fields, a curiosity to explore, and a passion for solving complex problems.
What can you do with a Bachelor’s degree in STEM
With a bachelor’s degree in STEM, the possibilities are nearly endless. You can become a scientist, engineer, computer programmer, data analyst, teacher, or even venture into cutting-edge fields like artificial intelligence, renewable energy, or space exploration. STEM offers the opportunity to make significant and impactful contributions while exploring exciting avenues.
For those who prefer not to be confined to a lab or office, STEM offers numerous opportunities to get outdoors. Agriscience, forestry, and geology, among others, involve extensive fieldwork and outdoor settings. These STEM careers combine a love for nature and science, making them attractive to those who want to be close to the environment.
- Agriscience Professionals:
Agriscience professionals are focused on optimizing agricultural practices. Their work includes tasks like soil analysis, crop research, and livestock care, all aimed at ensuring efficient farming while minimizing the environmental impact. A bachelor’s degree in agronomy, agricultural science, or a related field is typically required, but higher-level positions may demand advanced degrees. The 2022 median pay for this role is $74,940.
- Forestry Experts:
Professionals in forestry are responsible for managing and preserving forests, promoting biodiversity, and preventing wildfires. This field encompasses various roles, including foresters, forest technicians, wildland firefighters, park rangers, and urban foresters. A bachelor’s degree in forestry or related fields is typically required for entry-level positions. More advanced roles may require master’s degrees. Earnings can vary depending on your chosen role. The 2022 median annual salary for forestry is $64,220.
Geologists play a crucial role in understanding Earth’s geological processes, assessing natural resources, and predicting geological hazards. They conduct geological surveys, analyze rock formations, and perform environmental impact assessments. A bachelor’s degree in geology or a related field is typically the minimum requirement, but advanced positions often demand master’s or doctoral degrees. The 2022 median annual wage for Geologists was $87,480
- Environmental Engineers:
Environmental engineers design and implement solutions for environmental challenges, such as pollution control and resource management. Their work involves site visits, impact assessments, project design, and construction oversight. While a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering is the typical requirement, more advanced positions may demand master’s degrees. The 2022 median salary recorded for this job is $96,530.
- Wildlife Biologists:
Wildlife biologists are dedicated to researching and conserving wildlife species. They study animal behavior, ecology, and populations, often in natural habitats. Roles in this field encompass ecologists, conservation biologists, and specialists such as herpetologists. A bachelor’s degree in biology, ecology, or related fields is often the minimum requirement for entry-level positions. The 2022 median pay for this role is $67,430.
These are just some of the careers; there are a lot more jobs that are focused on subjects that are related to the natural sphere and are not confined to cubicles and desks but allow you to be more creative and active.
Majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) can be a good choice owing to the high demand for STEM professionals. STEM offers excellent job opportunities, intellectual challenges, the chance to make a real-world impact, financial stability, and a wide range of career options, all while staying at the forefront of innovation and technology.
STEM can also be incorporated into different majors, such as combining engineering with environmental science to address sustainability challenges or integrating mathematics with economics for data-driven financial analysis. Psychology majors interested in brain and behavior can delve into neuropsychology, a field that combines psychology with neuroscience. This cross-disciplinary approach explores the relationship between brain structure and cognitive functions, requiring a solid foundation in biology and chemistry. The interdisciplinary aspect of STEM allows for a more versatile and holistic approach to problem-solving and innovation.
STEM fields offer a number of options for all types of students because of their broad scope. As we just discussed, STEM fields are constantly changing and evolving. There are new fields of knowledge and new jobs available within STEM.
In a rapidly changing world, STEM education is not just a set of subjects; it’s a gateway to a future filled with possibilities and the key to addressing the most pressing issues of our time. Embracing STEM means embracing the opportunity to explore, innovate, and shape a better, more sustainable future for all.
Yes, pursuing a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and career can be highly worth it. STEM fields offer numerous benefits, including strong earning potential, job stability, and the opportunity to work on cutting-edge innovations. Additionally, STEM professionals often play a crucial role in addressing global challenges such as climate change, healthcare, and technological advancements. However, the “value” of a STEM career can vary based on personal interests and goals. It’s essential to choose a STEM path that aligns with your passions and aspirations for a fulfilling and rewarding career.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the “best” STEM major depends on individual interests, career goals, and aptitudes. STEM encompasses a wide range of disciplines, each with its own unique opportunities and applications. Some popular STEM majors include computer science, biomedical engineering, data science, and environmental science. The best STEM major for you should align with your passions and career objectives. It’s essential to research different STEM fields, consider your interests, and evaluate the potential for growth and job opportunities in your chosen area. Ultimately, the best STEM major is the one that you are most passionate about and that suits your career aspirations.