University & Degrees

What is STEM?

4 mins
February 4, 2022
Chances are we've all heard the acronym STEM; it's become a bit of a buzzword of late, but what does it actually mean? STEM stands for the subjects/fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

It seems like everyone is talking about STEM subjects now, but why? Well, STEM is a booming field. Loads of companies are realising how much they use STEM subjects, whether that's people who work in computer software or produce mathematical algorithms. The UK's STEM skills shortage is well-documented; it costs employers £1.5 billion a year in additional training costs, recruitment, temporary staffing and inflated salaries. All this means that now is a great time to study STEM: because of the skill shortage, there are loads of job opportunities and grants available to study a branch of STEM for free - in some cases, you can even earn while you learn.

What are STEM subjects?

We've mentioned what the STEM subjects are, but let's face it: they are all pretty broad fields. Let's deep dive into what career paths fall under the STEM umbrella. 

  • Science jobs: There are many branches of science, including biology, chemistry, medical science, physics, computer science, psychology and social sciences. Types of science job include:
    - Environmental Scientists
    - Biochemists
    - Psychologists
    - Anthropologists
    - Archaeologists
    - Medical Scientists.
    In a scientific career you'll use critical thinking, research skills and analytical skills to come to research-based conclusions and solve real-world problems. Look at our strands of sciences article to know more about what these jobs involve.

  • Technology jobs: Working in the technology field enables you to develop new systems and software or program existing systems. For a technology career, you will use scientific reasoning and data to develop strategies and solutions for solving a host of technological issues. Types of jobs in the technology field include:
    - Computer Programmers
    - Web Developers
    - Software Systems Developers
    - Computer Network Architects
    - Computer Systems Analysts
  • Engineering jobs: Engineers use their creativity and technical skills to solve problems. There are many different engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, electrical, chemical, civil and environmental engineering. Have a look at our all you need to know about engineering article to know more about what these jobs involve.

  • Maths jobs: Mathematics includes several disciplines, including accounting, calculus and economics. All of these disciplines use math skills for reasoning, deduction and problem-solving. Professionals working with maths, who might include economists, stockbrokers, engineers,  analyse data, create models, identify patterns and provide creative data-based solutions.

Reasons to work in STEM

Now we know what the STEM subjects are, why work in the STEM industries? 

Job availability - we've said it before, and we'll say it again, STEM is BOOMING. With more and more of us using and relying on technology as part of our daily lives, we need people that can help make it better. The number of STEM-related jobs is expected to grow, creating 142,000 jobs between now and 2023. With more focus being placed on consumer trends such as sustainable living, electric cars and the Internet of Things, the job demand in these sectors is set to increase for years to come. Global and national goals such as the ban of selling petrol and diesel cars by 2030 (helping the UK achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050) mean many STEM industries will continue to grow.

Job security - because of the enormous skills shortage in STEM industries, job security is better than ever; companies are fighting to attract and keep employees with STEM skills. You can future proof your career - the UK needs over 2 million new scientists, engineers and technicians by 2022, and STEM careers will continue to grow. Recent events like Brexit and the pandemic can cause a lot of uncertainty around jobs. With STEM, you can feel reasonably safe in the knowledge that you are likely to have a lot of job opportunities and security, allowing you that little bit more peace of mind than your non-STEM- studying peers.  

Solving real-world problems - STEM industries are for the problem-solvers and the critical thinkers. We've all seen examples of technology being used for the better, and that's down to STEM, whether it's coming up with new ways to save the planet or improve social mobility.  

Innovation - the best thing about STEM is that in one/two/three years, you could be in a job that doesn't exist right now! Innovation is at the heart of STEM; no matter what STEM industry you decide to go into, you're sure to use cutting-edge technology to improve the world around you. So if you're a tech-head with a kind heart, then a career in STEM sounds right for you. 

Basic skills last - It's true that technology is ever progressing, but the basics stay the same. The world will still need maths and research. If you have a basic knowledge of the scientific methods and the logical and practical thinking now, and you develop that knowledge over the years in a STEM career, you'll be valuable no matter how things innovate. Even if your studies become outdated, your abilities and methods of learning more will not.

Compensation - money is a huge motivator and is something you should consider when thinking about how you want your future to look. A global management consulting firm found that graduates in STEM-related subjects can earn nearly 20% more than their peers. The average salary for someone working in a STEM role is just over £26,000 in the UK. Some of the highest paid roles include engineers and computer scientists. As these billion-pound industries grow, the average salary within these sectors is set to increase too. 

Creative - many people think that STEM is simply about staring at formulas or spending all day on Excel, but there's loads of room for creativity and innovative solutions. You only need to look at some entreSTEMneurs to realise how creative STEM really is! 

How to get into STEM

Want to know more about each specific STEM industry and get started on your career path? Why not check out some of our STEM virtual work experiences programmes to see if you’ve got what it takes! Click below to browse opportunities. 

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