Success in STEM requires both technical
and nontechnical skills and attributes. Curiosity, the
ability to think logically, and creative problem-solving
are highly valuable. Communication skills and teamwork are
All STEM workers need a firm grasp of
mathematics; science knowledge is also important for many
of the occupations. Preparation should begin in high
school, with coursework and extracurricular activities
focusing on honing problem-solving skills. After high
school, STEM career requirements are more specific to the
Students interested in a STEM career
should get started in high school by taking as much math
and science as they can. Even those who struggle in these
subjects during school can succeed on the job; with
perseverance, many people who may have had difficulty with
early math or science classes can later thrive in a STEM
There are many ways to build skills in
math and science. Teachers may be available to give
students extra help or to provide information about
tutoring. School counselors might also have advice.
Associations sometimes provide educational
assistance over the Internet. To learn more, see the
sources of information at the end of this article.
Students might also be able to take
courses at 2- and 4-year colleges during the summer. The
more math and science students learn in high school, the
easier it is to tackle advanced subjects later.
To further sharpen skills and explore career options,
students might consider joining a math, science,
engineering, or computer club at school. Starting a club
at schools that donít already have one might not be
difficult; ask a teacher or counselor for help. Club
members often take field trips to science museums, go to
math and science competitions, and help each other study.
Students can also participate in summer
camps that are related to math, science, and computers.
Campers take part in games and challenges and learn what
itís like to have a STEM career. Depending on the type
of camp, students might design and create their own
computer programs or secret codes. Or they might build
robots, motors, or architectural models.
As noted previously, the knowledge and
abilities needed differ for specific STEM occupations.
Education, certification, and experience are of varied
importance. Changes in the number of degrees granted in
STEM fields show how educational requirements are shifting
and how the demand for these workers is increasing.
Specific requirements. Many
scientists have a bachelorís degree; often, these
scientists work as research assistants or in applied
sciences. But for those who focus on research, a doctorate
and, possibly, years of postdoctoral training are usually
the minimum requirements.
Science technicians often need an
associate degree or experience in building and using
scientific equipment, in helping with data collection and
analysis, or in other technical tasks. Some of these
workers have a bachelorís degree.
Computer-related jobs usually require a
degree, certification, or both. A bachelorís degree is
the usual requirement for software engineers, systems
analysts, and database administrators, but a masterís
degree is becoming more common for workers doing higher
level development. Computer support workers and network
analysts often have an associate degree, certifications,
or both. Computer scientists, like other scientists, often
have a Ph.D.
Engineers need at least a bachelorís
degree, and a masterís degree is becoming common.
Engineering technicians and drafters often have an
associate degree or experience in building models, helping
with calculations, or doing other tasks.
Mathematical occupations usually require a
masterís or doctoral degree. A notable exception is
actuaries, who usually need at least a bachelorís degree
and a passing score on an actuarial exam.
Degree trends. The number of
bachelorís degrees awarded in STEM subjects has been
increasing in the past few years after several years of
according to the U.S. Department of Education. (See chart
3.) But the number of degrees in computer and information
science has grown dramatically, reflecting increases both
in the number of computer jobs available and in employersí
preference for workers who have formal education in
Increases in degree awards for some STEM
subjects are also apparent at the associate and masterís
degree levels. For example, the number of associate
degrees awarded in computer fields more than tripled in a
decade, growing from about 12,600 degrees in 1994 to about
41,800 in 2004.
In that same decade, the number of masterís degrees
granted in engineering declined before increasing from
more than 30,000 in 1994 to more than 35,000 in 2004.
Because more engineers are taking on managerial
responsibilities, more schools are offering masterís
degree programs that focus on the application of
engineering principles to industry rather than on basic
research. These programs include coursework in finance,
project management, and other areas of business. They may
increase workersí chances for advancement.
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