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What Is STEM Education? (The Right Career Path for You?)

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: February 28, 2022

You’ve probably heard how vital STEM is and that it opens the doors to many high-earning careers.

But, many people don’t know what STEM is. STEM education encompasses four disciplines, and children should be exposed to it from an early age.

During my decade-old tutoring career, I’ve helped thousands of students pass a range of exams, as well as STEM classes.

Today, I’ll explain what you should know about STEM education.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. 
  • STEM is an interdisciplinary program, and students need to show knowledge and progress in all four subjects.
  • There’s a high demand for STEM graduates, and high starting salaries are offered.

What is STEM?

math teacher and a student inside a science lab

Acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

STEM integrates all four of these disciplines into one cross-disciplinary program.

Another goal is to teach STEM fields in the real world, not the academic world.

Teachers should use real-world teaching methods, and students are encouraged to develop problem-solving skills on their own, as well as evidence-based explanations of phenomena.

“An interdisciplinary approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, and math, STEM instruction integrates key concepts between two or more STEM disciplines as students apply the practices of science and engineering to real-world problems.” National Science Teachers Association

For example, if a student takes a math class, it doesn’t mean they are doing a STEM program, even though math education is a part of STEM. All four disciplines have to be integrated for students to learn STEM.

STEM education is focused on project-based learning that revolves around modern technology to show practical applications of science in the future.

Students use STEM education in a way that helps them see the link between the classroom and the real world.

However, STEM education isn’t limited to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM students are encouraged to take other subjects, such as art, social studies, language arts, and more.

Together with the four basic STEM fields, these help students develop critical thinking skills and improve their learning and research abilities.

How Is It Different From Traditional Learning?

students and a male teacher looking at a laptop screen

STEM is one program that integrates four disciplines, and the students use knowledge of all four subjects to solve problems.

This makes it different from the traditional learning style, such as memorization and repetition of information.

The students are rarely given the solution to the problem but are asked to use their knowledge to find the answer by using creativity and flexible thinking.

Essentially, students have to learn to think for themselves and aren’t told what to think, as is the case in traditional learning.

Of course, students aren’t expected to know everything at once. STEM teachers help them build knowledge of all four subjects over time.

Once it’s time for problem-solving, students have to apply STEM literacy and not show they have memorized a ton of data.

STEM education begins at students’ early age:

  • Elementary school — STEM teachers want to interest the students in STEM education and connect in-school and out-of-school learning.
  • Middle school — STEM programs become more rigorous at this stage, and students start to explore STEM careers.
  • High school — STEM fields, such as computer science, are even more rigorous. Students are prepared for post-secondary education and to become STEM professionals.

Also, compared to traditional learning, STEM education gives students fewer opportunities to take classes for fun.

Quality STEM education requires mastery of various subjects, so the students don’t have as much control over the courses they take and what order they take them.

STEM students don’t have much time or opportunities to take classes outside of STEM requirements.

Also, students have to progress in all four disciplines simultaneously, so there isn’t much time to take classes outside of STEM programs.

Is STEM Difficult?

male student holding up books and his school bag

Yes, STEM education is difficult. It relies heavily on science and math, especially because technology and engineering depend on them.

Mastering these two subjects is crucial for getting STEM degrees and having a STEM career.

This is why STEM education is especially challenging for students who don’t do well in math and science classes.

However, STEM can help them understand these subjects better, as they are taught in a practical way.

Another thing STEM students find challenging is the amount of homework they have to do after each class.

STEM programs are known for their heavy workloads, which means hours of work outside of the classroom.

Apart from the heavy workload, STEM requires a lot of concentration.

For example, if a software developer makes one mistake, it can cost the company thousands of dollars.

One small mistake can tank the whole project, so students are expected to show the highest quality of work.

Despite needing a lot of hard work, STEM can be fun as well.

The core of the STEM field is a real-world application, so students combine classroom instruction with research programs.

For example, this means students aren’t just learning how to build robots; they are building the robots themselves.

Careers

teen in engineer and working costume

People with STEM skills have a range of options to choose from when it comes to careers. As technology advances, the need for people with technical education increases.

College and high school students who went through a STEM program have valuable skills for employers, and the demand for STEM professionals is very high.

People with STEM jobs also have some of the most generous starting salaries that graduates get.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 71% of STEM-related jobs are in computing [1].

This means software developers, computer systems analysts, and statisticians are among the most sought after.

As our lives are becoming more dependent on computers, the need for computing jobs rises.

Engineering and Physical Science are next according to demand. This includes biochemists, civil engineers, orthodontists, petroleum engineers, and more.

Finally, life sciences and mathematics are the third most sought-after STEM jobs.

These are more theoretical and involve jobs such as an Economist.

The Demand for STEM Education

a man pointing fingers at three virtual audience members

It’s estimated that 8.65 million STEM workforce is needed in different jobs [2]. The highest percentage of this goes to computing and the lowest to mathematics.

Note: Not all STEM careers require a four-year degree from a college.

In fact, it’s estimated that less than half of STEM jobs need BA degrees.

However, while a college degree isn’t a determining factor in getting a STEM job, higher education can help you get a higher salary.

How in-demand people with STEM education are, shows that for every non-STEM job posting, there are 2.5 job postings for a job in a STEM field.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy says that the US future depends on educational technology.

They want to provide professional growth and get more people interested in STEM occupations, and this is another good indicator that STEM is in high demand [3].

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FAQs

What Is the Difference Between a STEM School and a Regular School?

STEM school wants to inspire students, limit redundancy, and get students to find solutions to real-world problems on their own.

A regular school has a more structured education and more rules to follow.

Are STEM Schools Free?

No, STEM schools aren’t free. However, there are scholarships students can apply for.

Should You Get a STEM Degree?

While STEM education is challenging and gives less freedom to choose classes than traditional learning, there’s a high demand for it.

Each new generation of STEM students has new ideas and knows how to apply scientific methods to everyday life. Finally, there’s a high demand for STEM jobs, and they have among the highest-paid starting salaries.

To make a decision whether this is the career path for you, consider how good you are in STEM subjects and what kind of employment you want to have.


References:

  1. https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/stem-employment.htm
  2. https://www.stemconnector.com/category/stem-jobs/
  3. https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/news-updates/2021/10/1

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