We hear a lot about the high demand for workers to fill STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers. What’s less clear is what actual jobs are available, and how you, as a career changer, can leverage your experience to enter these fields.
Interested in a STEM education?
Consider the realities of today’s job market:
- High pay. STEM education isn’t just a path to a job; it’s a path to a high paying One study indicates that STEM majors will earn a minimum of $500,000 MORE over their lifetime compared to non-STEM majors, even if they don’t work in a STEM career.
- Job availability. STEM jobs are found in numerous different fields, ranging from research to education. By 2018 there will be 3 million NEW or replacement jobs in STEM, so as a STEM graduate, it’s unlikely that you’ll have trouble locating a job in this field.
- Less competition. Every year 2 million jobs in the STEM fields go unfilled, mostly due to lack of qualified applicants.
- Basic skills are always needed. Yes, technology is ever progressing, but the basics stay the same. We’ll still need math and research. If you have basic knowledge of the scientific method, computers, and report writing, you’ll be valuable, no matter how things innovate.
- There’s no guarantee. STEM education doesn’t guarantee that you will walk straight into your dream job on a high salary. Without necessary “soft- skills” (see below), it’s unlikely that your technical skills will get you a long-term job or promotion.
- What’s “hot” varies. It’s almost impossible to predict what the job market will look like years after you graduate. As a result, it’s difficult for educators to develop a curriculum to best fit the material that will be “hot” in the future.
- Most STEM careers require a degree (often an advanced degree). By 2018, 92% of STEM jobs will require post-secondary education and training.
- Career advancement may be limited. STEM is continually evolving, and only those who frequently update their skills will move forward in their careers.
The good news for career changers
No matter what you studied in school or your work background, employers will value your critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. The trick is to demonstrate that you have these key skills through your cover letter, résumé and interview.
- Collaboration: Employers look for workers who possess “soft skills”, like being able to collaborate on teams and interact smoothly with clients.
- Critical Thinking: According to a 2013 study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 93% of the survey respondents said, “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
- Communication: Successful managers communicate well, build relationships, and create an environment where employees can do their best work. In other words, they practice the skills most closely associated with a liberal arts education, where emphasis is placed on participation, community, and functioning as part of a team.
Whether you decide to pursue a STEM career or not,
here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Work experience trumps degree. When asked what they look for in new college grads, a recent survey shows that employers are overwhelmingly interested in experience outside the classroom. A few specific classes and some real-world experience, even if as a volunteer, may be enough to get a job – whatever your field.
- Core skills can be developed in fields other than STEM. Critical thinking and analysis can be honed in the Humanities and Social Sciences as well as STEM fields. Many experts agree that as a society, we need better STEM literacy overall – not just more STEM graduates.
- Thought about Teaching? As demand for STEM workers has increased, so has the need for teachers who can prepare students to pursue STEM careers!
If you don’t like the STEM majors, you won’t be happy pursuing a STEM career. Students who are not happy are far more likely to switch majors, losing time and money, or to drop out altogether.
About the Author:
Edythe Richards is a Career Counselor who specializes in working with mid-career adults in transition.