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What Is a STEM Degree? 

Mar 20, 2023

STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math.  Degrees in STEM disciplines include classes and programs related to these disciplines, and while students can’t major in STEM itself, the degrees in this category emphasize coursework that impact research, innovation, or the development of new technologies. 

 The number of STEM jobs is growing twice as fast as non-STEM careers with a projected 11.2 million positions available in 2030. Occupations within the area also earn substantially more with an average annual salary of $95,420 compared to $40,120 for non-STEM occupations. 

 In addition to a robust career outlook, there are many reasons to consider a STEM degree. This article will highlight what today’s careers offer and insight on how to get started in the dynamic world of STEM. 

STEM Degrees

As new technology began rapidly emerging in the 1970’s and 1980’s, so did interest in promoting greater access to academic STEM programs, especially for students entering college. Today, STEM education is cited among the most important economic drivers of our society, with technologies in the marketplace changing the way people work and live.

  • Students generally learn a wide range of foundational science, math, and computer coursework where critical thinking, data analysis, and complex problem-solving are key to STEM-related classwork.  
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that  computer occupations will continue to support strong STEM employment growth. This field is projected to grow at a rate of 11.5%, three times faster than average for all other careers between 2019 and 2029. 

Engineering careers are also expected to be in greatest demand with a 3.8% increase in jobs outlook in the same 10-year period. In a U.S. News report of the country’s 100 Best Jobs, civil engineers and mechanical engineers ranked #16 and #21, respectively, as the best STEM jobs based on criteria that included pay, career advancement opportunities, and a satisfying work-life balance. 

Reasons to Study a Degree In STEM 

STEM fields are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying in the U.S. and can offer job security, lucrative salaries, and an open job market for graduates. As technology and engineering industries grow and evolve, the demand for roles like AI specialist and data scientist continue to increase. Professionals in these roles are at the forefront of innovation, and can focus their skills and talent on bringing about new and interesting technology that can benefit societies now and in the future.

A degree in a STEM subject offers individuals lucrative and fascinating career possibilities as well as skills that can be used in a range of other industries. Students who pursue STEM related degrees take coursework that helps them solve real world problems with innovative solutions, as well as build or improve creative and analytical abilities.  

As emphasized throughout, careers in STEM fields open a wide range of possibilities for graduates interested in challenging work that is rewarding both financially and professionally. Recent data shows that the median salary for STEM occupations was $98,340 in 2020, with computer and information systems managers earning an average of $161,70 per year. 

As a result of the high demand for STEM graduates, there are a variety of scholarships available to help students pay for college. Online classes and certifications offer students a great way to get ahead in their education and can even help to sample a STEM course if they aren’t sure the career field is the right choice for them. Online options substantially lower the education costs for individuals serious about beginning or transitioning into the exciting field of STEM. 

Because there is a wide range of jobs with similar requirements, cross-marketability is an added incentive for students looking to complete a STEM degree. Professionals in these fields can transition from one job into a new career as part of their long-term career goals or strategies. 

STEM Career Outlook

While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted all sectors of the economy beginning in 2020, from tourism and hospitality to small business and manufacturing, STEM-fueled industries were able to recover more quickly because of the indispensable role they play across markets. The pandemic helped highlight the fact that the vast majority of economic activity in the U.S. is attributable to STEM fields. 

Individuals with highly analytical and strong problem-solving skills in areas such as math or science would do well to consider a STEM program with high-earning potential. Some of the highest-paying STEM-related jobs include:

  • Scientific Research Engineering Manager ($174,710) 
  • Cloud Solutions Architect ($126,423) 
  • Information Security Analyst ($103,590) 
  • Analytics Manager ($97,919) 
  • Statistician ($93,290) 

Become an Expert in STEM Fields

STEM careers can provide plenty of job availability and opportunities for continued job growth, as well as the potential to earn high salaries amid dynamic and evolving industries. 

WGU offers a variety of degree programs that can be used to apply for the STEM jobs of the future. Students and graduates of WGU can expect a flexible and convenient online learning experience with career-aligned bachelor’s and master’s degrees taught by industry experts. 

By using competency-based education, WGU students can progress in their courses as quickly as they master the material and become ready to excel in the STEM career of their choice. 

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