Choosing a Science, Technology, Engineering, Math or STEM Career

Written by

John Ingram


September 9, 2017


The demand for workers with degrees in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is increasing everyday. This is good news for graduates in these fields, but stressful for employers trying to fill positions. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) STEM Occupations: Past, Present, and Future Report (January 2017), there were 8.6 million jobs listed for 2015 with projected growth of 18.7 percent over the period of 2010-2020.

So what does it take to land one of these in-demand jobs? It all starts with training and education and for most, it means obtaining a college degree. For many STEM-related careers, the education is consistent across the country; however, the salary range for any given career will differ according to the local economies for each state or major city. For example, regions may be identified as Northeast, North Central, Southeast, Mountain, South Central, and Pacific.

What do employers need and what do they expect of new hires? A 2016 Business Roundtable Talent Survey reported, “More than three-fourths of responding CEOs say that fundamental math, reading, and writing skills are important with around half reporting that their companies have difficulty finding qualified applicants who possess these skills. In addition, CEOs reported problems finding applicants who possess general applied knowledge skills like communication (71 percent of respondents) and teamwork (55 percent of respondents).”

A STEM career includes many diverse and technical specialties and some careers are evolving or beginning out of necessity as technology changes. For many STEM careers, a college degree is the minimum requirement and continual learning on the job as well as personal enrichment are necessary to obtain leadership positions of expertise. Here is a sampling of some of the most sought after STEM careers:

Science Career

MicrobiologistMicrobiologists study microorganisms such as algae, bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, and may include deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) as it relates to breast cancer or tropical diseases. This type of scientist tries to understand how these living organisms behave, grow, and interact with their environments. The work environment is typically located in laboratories and offices where scientific experiments, hypothesis, and analysis are conducted.

Education Requirements – At a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, biotechnology, or related field is a starting point for an entry-level job. Typically, students will seek to gain an advantage by participating in co-ops or internships during their summers where they can get hands-on experience. Ultimately, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is required to lead independent research at universities and in industry.

Salary – According to the, the median annual salary is $44,644 (2017) and the range is between $39,676 and $50,835. The salary depends upon many factors including location, experience, and level of education.

Technology Career

Computer systems analystsComputer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and design information systems solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the necessities and limitations of both.

Education Requirements – A Bachelors degree in a computer or information science field is common, although not always a requirement. Some firms hire analysis with business or liberal arts degrees that have skills in IT or computer programming.

Salary – The average annual wage for computer systems analysts in May 2016 was $87,220. The lowest amount received was less than $53,110. The highest amount received was more than $137,690.

Engineering Career

Engineers – This career field is broad unto itself with specialties in electrical power, embedded software development, hardware design, systems engineering, laser and optical design, and testing to name a few. An engineer must embrace math formulas, equations, software tools including R, MATLAB, LabVIEW, C++, Python, and various circuit simulators and hardware definition languages (i.e., Verilog, VHDL, UML, etc.).

Education Requirements – For most employers, they require the engineer to have at least a Bachelors degree and, in some cases certifications including test and evaluation and professional engineer licenses. It’s preferred to have a graduate degree and a Ph.D is required for research fields.

Salary – The geographic location and experience are two of the most important factors in determining annual salaries. For example, an engineer may earn $56,000 in one city but in another may earn $93,000. It depends on the job requirements which the employer needs to have filled and the type of industry or customer who is requiring this expertise.

Math Career

Statistician – The main focus of statisticians is to gather up statistical evidence to effectively solve real world problems associated in the fields of business, engineering, health care, etc. Statisticians must identify the type of data which are needed to answer specific questions or problems. They must formulate a survey; determine which methods to use for finding or collecting data. Some of these methods include; surveys, experiments and opinion polls.

When Statisticians have decided on what method they are going to use to collect data, Statisticians either collect this data themselves or others will do so. The Statistician will collect data, analyze, and then interpret this data. The conclusions from their analysis are usually reported for various industries and customers alike.

Education requirements – Statisticians typically require a Masters Degree in statistics, mathematics or other related fields. However, a Bachelors Degree may be acceptable for entry-level jobs. Research and academic jobs commonly require a Ph.D. You will most definitely need; analytical skills, communication skills, math skills and some problem-solving skills.

Salary – The annual salary average of $80,500 (2016). Some earn less than $46,500 annually while others can earn as much as $130,000 depending on experience and education.

To get a head start towards a rewarding STEM career and one that is and always will be in demand, you need to begin planning your career with an education first. Colleges and universities are continually updating their curriculum to keep pace with technology changes. To find a school which matches your STEM interest, try the College Mouse Degree Search Tool.


Written by:  John Ingram

John Ingram is a former Marine, a retired Soldier, engineer, and self proclaimed geek. He is located in Maryland and is currently a freelance writer.

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