STEM careers are well suited to inquisitive minds; science, technology, engineering, and math are all subjects based on exploring, understanding and even changing the universe around us. Luckily, today there are more STEM career openings than there is available talent. This means qualified STEM candidates are in high demand, so men and women in STEM industries typically see lower unemployment rates and higher pay than professionals in other sectors. Read on to begin the journey or gain new tools to further a career in STEM.
The United States government traditionally funds and promotes industries related to STEM in order to remain internationally competitive. This has created a high-salary job field with innumerable openings across a wide array of fields. Individuals with STEM degrees and certifications can find careers across the country in academia, research laboratories, small businesses, major corporations and more. With such a wide array of subjects and fields, a STEM career exists for nearly every passion.
*Green denotes occupations with higher than average projected job growth through 2024
|Occupation||Mean Annual Wage||Job Growth|
|Computer and Information Research Scientist||$116,320||11%||Systems Software Developer||$110,590||17%|
|Computer Network Architect||$104,240||9%|
|Information Security Analyst||$96,040||18%|
|Computer Systems Analyst||$91,620||21%||Database Administrator||$87,130||11%|
|Occupation||Mean Annual Wage||Job Growth|
|Medical Scientist||$95,000||8%||Atmospheric and Space Scientist||$94,840||12%|
|Biochemist or Biophysicist||$94,340||8%|
|Occupation||Mean Annual Wage||Job Growth|
|Petroleum Engineer||$147,030||10%||Chemical Engineer||$105,420||2%|
|Mining and Geological Engineer||$103,010||6%|
|Marine Engineer and Naval Architect||$99,860||9%||Health and Safety Engineer||$90,190||6%|
|Occupation||Mean Annual Wage||Job Growth|
|Statistician||$85,160||34%||Operations Research Analyst||$84,340||30%|
|Market Research Analyst||$70,620||19%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 – 2024
Despite growing initiatives and efforts promoting women and minorities in STEM, these demographics are underrepresented. For example, in 2015 over three times more men than women earned degrees in computing.
Source: Change the Equation, U.S. Department of Education Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, 2001-2015
In order build a more diverse STEM workforce, various fellowships and organizations promote women and minorities. This also benefit STEM fields as a whole; more diverse STEM talent can result in more diverse ideas, which in turn bolster the STEM research and development community.
Lighting the Pathway focuses on increasing the number of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian faculty in STEM fields by providing extensive mentorship in addition to funding and opportunities for fellowships and internships.Argonne’s Women in Science and Technology
The Argonne National Laboratory, one of the most prestigious research and development laboratories in the United States, promotes women in science and technology through its WIST program by hosting workshops, honoring outstanding women in the field and sharing resources.Brookhaven Women in Science
The Brookhaven research laboratory hosts scholarships and grants for women—high school, undergraduate, and graduate students—as well as lectures and workshops for and by women in STEM.Million Women Mentors
MWM recruits and connects STEM mentors with women of nearly any age, from middle schoolers to those in post-graduate careers.National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates
NAMEPA works to recruit a more diverse workforce in STEM careers in addition to hosting conferences and conventions dedicated towards promoting cultural diversity in STEM.
These grants are specifically for women looking to further or change their careers by seeking education beyond an initial bachelor’s degree.American Association of University Women’s Selected Professions Grants
These grants are available to women seeking master’s degrees in the fields of architecture, computer and information science, engineering, mathematics and statistics.Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Graduate Scholarship Programs
Sloan Foundation scholarships are focused on increasing the enrollment of underrepresented minorities in STEM graduate programs, especially those who are planning for careers in academia.Fermilab Ph.D. Fellowship for Students Underrepresented in STEM
Doctoral students from traditionally underrepresented groups who are attending a Universities Research Association member institution (of which there are approximately 100) can apply for this fellowship with Fermilab; applicants must have participated in a Fermilab Summer Internship in Science and Technology.National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Ford Foundation Fellowship Program
Ford Foundation Fellowships are awarded to graduate and post-graduate applicants who plan to become faculty at colleges or other higher education institutions and are dedicated to promoting diversity in higher education.
A professional association that provides leadership development and training for its members, NWA also advocates for and honors women in STEM careers.Blacks in Technology
This is a professional organization for African Americans in technology careers. BIT offers its members mentorship, resources, guidance and more.National Association of Mathematicians
NAM includes the recruitment of minorities to the field of mathematics as one of its primary objectives; the organization also hosts seminars and workshops in addition to providing resources and networking opportunities.National Center for Women and Information Technology
With a focus on supporting women in information technology, NCWIT offers networking opportunities, hosting conferences and resources for women in high schoolers all the way through IT career development.National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals Inc.
NOGLSTP is an organization of LGBTQ + STEM professionals that provides its members with opportunities for networking, professional development, education and more.Women of Color Research Network
The WoCRN, an extension of the National Institute of Health’s Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers, provides women of color in biomedical fields with guidance and information.
AWIS’s job board allows for sorting and narrowing by state and industry; users can also upload a resume where it may be seen by a potential employer.National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering Career Center
NACME scholars can use the career center to post resumes for internships and full-time engineering positions, where they might be seen by NACME’s corporate partners such as 3M, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Seagate.National Organization of Minority Architects Featured Jobs
This organization’s job board allows results to be narrowed by state, job type, and industry in addition to offering a resume review and other career resources.National Society of Black Engineers Job Search
The NSBE’s job board allows users to search over 5,000 listings by industry, education level, state and other factors.Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Career Center
The SACNAS career center contains hundreds of listings across a wide range of scientific fields as well as a resume bank where members may post their resume.
STEM includes such a wide variety of subjects and fields that the options may feel overwhelming. Luckily, resources are plentiful. Mentors can guide and encourage STEM students and professionals; fellowships and internships can be used to explore the field and narrow interests; grants can fund independent research. There are resources for everyone, from the prospective student to the professional looking to develop their career below.
These free webinars are hosted throughout the year, allowing participants can learn about careers in the biochemistry and molecular biology industry as well as general information about other STEM careers.
This STEM quiz from Purdue University categorizes results to help job seekers narrow down their choices and find a good career fit.
The world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology has made the materials used in its courses available for free on this website; here, STEM students and enthusiasts can access hundreds of resources.
Fermilab, renowned research center for particle physics, offers a variety of fellowships for physicists and engineers.
This list of Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring winners provides information about the people who dedicate their time specifically to mentoring prospective and current students, job seekers and other professionals in STEM fields.
Look here for graduate-level research fellowships, awards and other opportunities offered by federal agencies.
Here the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture division, offers extensive information about applying for USDA-NIFA grants including information on grant writing conferences.
The National Research Mentoring Network connects biomedical experts with undergraduate- and graduate-level students as well as individuals looking to develop their careers.
The National Science Foundation is a federal agency with a website full of resources on obtaining funding, cutting-edge NSF research and scientific news.
College students can apply for summer internships with the Department of Navy’s research laboratories where they can introduce themselves to a top STEM employer while learning valuable skills.
This is a free ebooklet, created by Science magazine’s editorial team, which provides guidance for STEM career builders and job seekers.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducts research across scientific disciplines and offers programs for individuals at a variety of stages in their educational and career development.
This is a list of fellowships available through the Smithsonian Institution; over a dozen of these fellowships are relevant to STEM careers and fields.
A division of Great Minds in STEM, MentorNet connects mentors to STEM students in order to encourage students to complete their course of study and pursue STEM careers.
This tool searches undergraduate-specific internships, scholarships and more sponsored by various federal agencies.
Vicki V. May, Ph.D. is an associate professor at Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering. She has received numerous awards, including 2013 New Hampshire Professor of the Year. She received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in 1991, then went on to earn her Master’s and PhD in Civil and Structural Engineering from Stanford University. Her research interests include seismic engineering, student-centered learning and K-12 outreach activities.
Talk to people in STEM fields to learn about what they do, look for summer camps or workshops in STEM, take an online course in a STEM field. I developed a massive open online course (MOOC) focused on structural engineering that is offered free through edX. Read about STEM field online, etc. The reality is that you can pretty easily transfer between different STEM fields so it is not necessary to be narrowly focused, at least initially.
I strongly believe that anyone can become an engineering (or other STEM professional), not everyone will necessarily want to become an engineer but given the right support and encouragement, anyone with a desire to be an engineer should be able to succeed. And engineering is so broad that there is something for everyone: some engineers focus more on design, some focus on analytical details, some build prototypes, some mainly work outside, some mainly work in a laboratory, some interact closely with clients while others work in an office, etc.
Hmm… I guess math and a good friend drew me into engineering. I was a music major initially in college but loved math, so I took math classes even though I didn’t need them for my major. A good friend was planning to study engineering (her father was an engineer so she knew all about engineering, whereas I knew nothing); I ended up helping her with math and decided that if she could do engineering, maybe I could too.
I see students who abandon their plans in STEM because they get a poor grade on an exam or assignment and decide engineering is not for them. Instead, I wish these students would seek out help or find new study strategies and realize that engineering (and other STEM fields) is very broad, so they may just need to find a different direction within STEM that they love.