Whether you’re already thinking about earning your STEM degree or have no clue what you want to be when you grow up, you should know there are some awesome career opportunities available for STEM degree holders. Here is everything you need to know about what STEM is, what you can do with a STEM degree, and which careers are the most lucrative paths to take right now.
What is a Stem Degree?
STEM degrees are college or university degree programs in the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields. There are many different paths you can take to earn a STEM degree and the jobs are quite promising. If you major in one of these in-demand fields, you will have many career opportunities.
From earning a bachelor’s degree in geology physics to become a geoscientist to getting a degree in math to land a job as a rocket scientist, STEM degree holders find ample positions in the workforce. They play an important role in society, and many people who earn STEM degrees become experts in more than one subject.
These four categories encompass a range of jobs that are vital to the United State’s economy. They are the careers and professionals at the forefront of discovery and innovation. Those in these roles glimpse the future before the masses but earning your degree won’t be easy.
Why are Stem Degrees in High Demand?
Educators have known that trends in STEM subjects point to rapid decline. Less and fewer college students are earning degrees in this field, which means more STEM-related job opportunities are left unfilled. The good news is that with a STEM degree, you should find plenty of jobs available and the severe problem has led to legal support.
The America Competes Act
In 2007, the America COMPETES Act went into place to support the demand for STEM subjects in both educational and workforce development initiatives. These careers are considered the backbone of the American economy, and this act works to reestablish the fields and work toward academic promise.
This also means there are more private and public scholarships for good students and the requirements for each scholarship will vary drastically from one to the next. Your degree subject may also play a role in what scholarship opportunities are available for you, as each will have specific degree subject requirements and other characteristics that vary.
However, most STEM scholarships will require university entry-level coursework to be successfully completed. High schools are boosting the STEM curriculum in order to build students’ skills in these subjects to better prepare them for their continuing education as well. Serious candidates also often offer to tutor their peers or participate in school workshops during summer break.
What Can I Do with a STEM Degree?
Depending on the field you choose, you may have multiple career options. Those with degrees in mathematics, for example, often pursue numerical career paths. But these jobs can include careers in the finance sector, which is a popular choice, or become an accountant. Math could lead to a role in cryptology, financial advising, or even rocket science.
Engineering degrees, on the other hand, often lead to the careers that pay the highest starting wages. These programs offer a fantastic return on investment as well because your lifetime earning potential as an engineering degree holder are much higher than the cost of your degree. Often a bachelor’s degree is all you need to get started in the field, but you can earn a master’s or doctorate degree to conduct advanced research in your field.
Science careers tend to lean toward research and teaching, with roles as a chemist, microbiologist, or geoscientist as popular options with a bachelor’s degree. You could also choose to become a patent lawyer or find a role as a physician’s assistant.
Technology offers a wide range of career paths, from creating and developing computers and the applications we use to make them work properly to roles in information technology or information security. This sector needs people that can build the tools of the future, find new ways to keep them running smoothly now and lock down secure information to prevent exposure.
Many people choose which degree is right for them based on their interests, but you can also choose a career path that is in high demand at the moment to ensure you will find a job after graduation. You should always pursue a major that interests you, but if your interests span more than one field, the industry is growing, and another may pay better.
What STEM Careers are Most In Demand?
All STEM degrees are challenging to earn, but some career opportunities are more widely available in some fields than others as well. Computer networking and system analysis, for example, are perhaps the most in demand. In 2018, there is also a high need for software engineers and those with majors in the following subjects:
- Computer science
- Management information systems
- Software engineering
Majors include mathematics, natural sciences, life sciences, and physics are in demand still as well. However, the majority of people who earn degrees in these fields wind up as academic researchers or professors. Research jobs are highly competitive, and not as much in supply as careers in the technology sector may be though.
Degrees in technology pay very well overall, and span from roles as a computer systems analyst, IT manager, or ethical hacker to computer architects, cloud architects, and web or app developers. Technology is huge in today’s world, and this fact isn’t likely to change any time soon.
Engineering offers a high return on your investment, and the specializations that may pay the highest starting wages include the following, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Computer Engineer
- Chemical Engineer
- Aerospace Engineer
- Electrical and Electronics Engineer
- Environmental Engineer
- Civil Engineer
- Biomedical Engineer
- Industrial Engineer
- Agricultural Engineer
During the Obama administration, STEM graduates grow rapidly and added 14 new industries to the list. This not only means more jobs in these subjects, but also the growth of similar industries and transformation of many others.
Because innovation has led to new technology, some fields now need new skill sets. The following fields were most heavily affected, and thus need more highly trained job candidates:
- Advanced manufacturing
- Financial services
- Geospatial technology
- Homeland security
- Information technology
Some of these jobs don’t require a college degree at all. However, there are many, especially in science, that start with good wages for those who hold bachelor’s degrees. Often, you don’t even need to consider earning a graduate degree unless you want to become a professor at the university level or become a top-level researcher at the best-rated universities.
Research technicians, for example, are in high demand and only require a bachelor’s degree. They keep a log of all experiments with detailed notes and help maintain the lab equipment. It’s not a glamorous job, but they can find roles in various industries of interest and work up to other research-related careers like a research scientist who advises junior technicians.
Which STEM Degrees are the Most Lucrative?
The degrees that pay the highest wages or have the highest need for qualified applicants can vary depending on the state and area you live in. Your salary will also vary depending on the type of degree you hold, whether you have a graduate degree or bachelor’s, and even how much experience you have in the field.
In Minnesota, for example, the top STEM careers that are in high demand right now include the following jobs along with their typical education requirement:
- Applications Software Developers – bachelors
- Market Research Analysts – bachelors
- Civil Engineer – Bachelors
- Computer User Support Specialist – some college, sometimes no degree
- Electrical Engineer – Bachelors
- Mechanical Engineer – Bachelors
- Computer Programmer – Bachelors
- Family and General Practitioner – Doctoral or professional degree
- Industrial Engineering Technician – Associates
Women and STEM Careers
STEM is a mostly male-dominated career path, however, some occupations like health-related jobs and accounting often high more females. Women are becoming more widely recruited into STEM fields, especially in recent years.
If you are a female looking into a STEM career though, you may find added scholarship opportunities. Just be sure to look for jobs with companies who actively work to diversify the workforce. You can also check out Women in STEM for specific information and advice.
Should I Get a STEM degree?
Overall, STEM degrees lead to lucrative and widely available careers in a variety of fields. There is a lot of public and private support right now for STEM degrees as well, which means you will have more success in earning scholarships and landing a great career path. While many students find the coursework is extremely difficult, a completed degree program opens opportunities around the world.