August 8, 2017

Should Your Student Jump on the STEM Train?

There has been a big focus on STEM careers over the past several years and this is likely to continue as more and more demand is placed on highly skilled workers.

Should you encourage your student to jump into the STEM arena? What kind of careers are available and do all STEM majors end in with the same outcome? Let’s dig into these questions and more.

No one should choose a college major simply because they think it will lead to a high-paying career.

Exploring the STEM Field

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The majors under the STEM label are often interconnected in various ways and often have similar foundations. For example, many STEM-related majors require advanced mathematics, logic and reasoning skills. Proficiency and interest in these core skills can lead students to be successful in nearly any STEM major.

STEM majors can fall under one of several fields of study:

  • Agriculture and Agriculture Operations
  • Architecture
  • Biology and Biomedical Sciences
  • Communications Technologies
  • Computer and Information Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Natural Resources and Conservation
  • Physical Sciences
  • Science Technologies

Should you steer towards STEM?

Is your child interested in any of the four STEM disciplines or the above fields of study? Do they have hobbies that they enjoy related to STEM?

If you answer no to these questions, don’t pressure them because of the potential career opportunities. One of the biggest reasons students drop out of college is because either the college or major is not a good fit. STEM is not a good fit for everyone and that’s okay!

On the other hand, if they love dabbling in any of these disciplines, encourage them to give one of these fields a closer look!

STEM majors are increasingly popular for a number of reasons, but the main reason is the high availability of jobs compared to qualified candidates, and the high pay in many of those positions.

As the current workforce continues to age, highly skilled workers will become more and more in demand. This creates ample opportunities for finding work in the STEM field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM-related occupations will grow by more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022.

Because the demand for these workers is so high, wages for STEM-related careers are often higher than non-STEM related careers. Again, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations paid on average $87,570 compared to $45,700 for non-STEM related positions. The average median wage for the top fifteen paying STEM-related careers is over $108k per year.

Not All STEM Majors Are Equal

However, not all STEM-related careers are created equal. There is a large difference in potential income depending on the STEM major your student chooses.

On the high end of the spectrum, petroleum engineers can see an average starting salary of nearly $90,000.

On the low end, students majoring in agricultural sciences will have much lower average starting salaries – in the mid $30s in this case.

In addition, many of the STEM majors require an advanced degree to really see career growth. For example, students who major in animal science often plan on continuing their education to become trained as a veterinarian.

As you can see, STEM majors can have wildly different outcomes – a major in a STEM-related discipline will not guarantee your student vast fortunes.

Another thing to be aware of is the demand for workers with certain STEM majors is higher than others. A lot of growth is expected in technology and engineering fields, while drafters and engineering technicians will see a general decrease.

Computer-related occupations are projected to grow 13% between 2014 and 2024 while drafters and engineering technicians will shrink by about 2%.

Talk to your student about their future and determine if a major in a STEM-related field is right for him or her.

Wondering what major is the right fit for your student? Have them take this free questionnaire.

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