The fields of science, technology, education and mathematics—also known as STEM—have been on a steady upward swing for the last decade, both in popularity and career demand. Even more telling? STEM careers will grow to more than 9 million by 2022. This projected growth trajectory, combined with continual technology advancements in society, has put STEM training at the forefront of education.
For those students considering studying within the field of STEM, here are some things to know:
STEM workers earn a higher average salary
With high demand comes high pay, and STEM careers are no exception. The average starting salary for students coming from some of the nation’s top engineering colleges is trending at $65,000. And it increases significantly with experience; the salary for seasoned professionals in fields like big data analytics, logistics and computer science can reach upwards of $100,000 annually.
STEM professionals are needed…now
As businesses of all sizes continue to adapt to the Internet of Things (IoT)— and subsequently acquire massive amounts of data—they need trained professionals to design software programs and interpret the influx of information. Companies like eBay, IBM and Disney are looking for individuals with computer science degrees and deep, expert knowledge of the cloud. And this isn’t the only area that’s growing. STEM professionals are also needed for engineering, software applications and natural sciences. With firsthand experience gained from classroom teachings, research and internships, students will become better equipped to fill job vacancies like cloud architects and engineers.
STEM education teaches both hard and soft skills
Whether or not students choose to enter (or remain working in) a traditional STEM career after graduation, the skills learned during college are applicable in all industries. STEM degrees offer flexibility, and contrary to popular belief, don’t have rigid career paths. For example, a degree in the field of mathematics can lead to a career in architecture or city planning, as both fields are heavily focused on math.
In addition to technical skills, a STEM education produces innovative and curious critical-thinkers who can take their ambition in any direction. In fact, these “softer skills” are the backbone of the careers of many industry-leading professionals, like Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella.
STEM training helps students develop critical thinking skills
Curiosity and problem-solving are at the root of success in the professional world, not only in STEM, but in all industries. But particularly in STEM fields, where change is the only constant, students must learn to embrace a difficult challenge and devise a creative solution. This develops essential critical thinking skills that help in various parts of life, both professional and personal.
STEM workers contribute to tech revolution
If you’ve ever dreamed of creating the next Alexa, Siri or other life-changing tech gadget, then STEM training is your first step in that direction. Through hands-on challenges—such as product conceptualization, design and creation—students can bring new ideas to life, in the classroom and beyond. Product visionaries benefit from hands-on experience and the ability to experiment without fear of failure, because it helps them learn best practices for future creations. So who knows—maybe the next talking device will be named after you.
The advantages of studying STEM in college are perfectly aligned with the growing job demand. STEM curriculums offer an innovative educational approach and a strong focus on problem-solving, which serves a greater purpose throughout a student’s life. So go ahead; hop on the STEM education train for a profitable and fulfilling future.
By Scott Rhodes
Vice Provost of Enrollment
Florida Polytechnic University
With an 18-year background in higher education, Scott Rhodes leads enrollment and recruitment strategies for Florida Polytechnic University. His responsibilities encompass undergraduate admissions, graduate enrollment and enrollment marketing, financial aid, student records and registration and enrollment market research.