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An Overview of the Importance of STEM Education

By Lilian Xu

“What is STEM education?” Answering this question involves more than just the words that comprise the acronym “STEM”. You may already be familiar with the frequently-used term STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Historically, STEM education combined with major world events as catalysts allowed the development of advanced innovations in weaponry, transportation, communication and other common everyday items. In the modern world, STEM remains important to both the growth of society and individuals. Despite only containing four subjects, STEM education is a large umbrella term that covers thousands of jobs, ranging from clinics to classrooms. As a result, the STEM field opens up many opportunities for students while also providing society with a skilled workforce.

Importance of STEM Education

Chris Richard, in charge of operations and strategy at Deloitte Consulting declared, “If you come out with one of these engineering hard science degrees, you not only have opportunities for those kinds of roles, but you have opportunities to write code at Google or become a product marketing person at Amazon.” Overall, STEM education is significant because it introduces students to important STEM-related global issues, gives students an opportunity to learn and use practical knowledge, and piques kids’ interests. 

In the United States, state-curriculum STEM education often begins early in elementary school and continues all the way up to the 12th grade. Introductory STEM education usually focuses on blending these four subjects together, creating a learning environment far different from the typical academic approach. The fusion of these subjects is crucial, as it teaches kids logistics through the scientific method and also allows students to apply their previously-learned knowledge to real-world scenarios. For instance, many elementary and middle schoolers learn about the severity of pollution and create projects to explore plausible ways to protect the environment. At the high school level, STEM education is more specialized with subjects like linear algebra, chemistry, and physics. The more specialized classes help high school students find their interests. Also, through high school STEM classes, many students realize that they want to potentially pursue STEM degrees in college. STEM is crucial to the development of a society and the improvement of living conditions.

Details about the STEM acronym

    The science part of STEM applies to natural sciences like chemistry, biology, and physics, so medicinal careers are also counted as part of this category. Over the next decade, the science field is predicted to expand about 7%. The technology portion of STEM focuses on the production of programs and goods, including computer software and hardware. It also includes cyber security and digital information. As a field, the amount of technological jobs will increase by about 12% in the next decade. Engineering focuses on the design and construction of a large range of items from infrastructure to machinery. Because of the wide variety of things that are designed by engineers, engineering contains dozens of specialized sub-fields. For instance, biomedical engineering is a steadily growing field due to its demand. Finally, mathematics focuses on the computation and processing of numbers, which is also essential to the other three STEM disciplines. Because of the relevance of statistics in business, the mathematics field is predicted to expand about 30% in the following decade.

Types of STEM Careers

STEM education also leads to a multitude of opportunities in the professional world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, in 2019, there were around 9.95 million STEM jobs. Additionally, the median annual wages of STEM careers in 2019 more than doubled the median wage of all other fields. The technology field in particular is expanding quickly as the world fights to continue producing revolutionary technology.
Some technology-related jobs include: 

  • Information Security Analyst. Expected job growth by 2026: 28%

  • IT Manager. Expected job growth by 2026: 12%

  • Software developer. Expected job growth by 2026: 24%

Some math-related jobs include: 

  • Operations research analyst. Expected job growth by 2026: 27%

  • Statistician. Expected job growth by 2026: 34%

Some science-related jobs include:

  • Pediatrician. Expected job growth by 2026:  15%

  • Nurse Practitioner. Expected job growth by 2026:  30%

  • Physician Assistant. Expected growth by 2026: 37%

Challenges STEM Education faces

A long-term difficulty STEM education faces is the lack of STEM educators. Over 50% of public school districts in the United States have reported difficulty hiring STEM educators. Thus, schools have started to not only default to lower-quality STEM classes, but also in some cases have removed some STEM course options completely. This leads to less students pursuing a STEM discipline in higher education, which perpetuates the cycle of the scarcity of STEM teachers. One of the STEM fields that has been impacted is the hardest electrical engineering. Data reports that around 60% of all companies looking for electrical engineers are having difficulty finding qualified personnel. 

One way to stop this cycle is to create or support organizations that help STEM educators, such as organizations that provide ongoing training and other developmental opportunities for them. A more important method of stoppage would be to actively incentivize young people to go into STEM and education fields. NexStream does this by piquing kids’ interest in machine learning, coding, and applied math at an early age.  

Another reason there is a shortage of STEM educators is the large difference in salary. The average range of the salary of a high school science teacher is approximately from $45,000 to $54,000, whereas the estimated pay range for a scientist is $80,000 to $170,000. Because of this pay disparity, scientists who have worked in the industry are generally unwilling to go into education, unless they happen to be very passionate about teaching. Thus, schools have a difficult time finding science teachers with industry experience, resulting in not only a shortage of STEM teachers, but also potentially unqualified teachers. NexStream classes remedy this issue by providing instructors that have industry experience, as well as instructor assistants that are experiencing college-level STEM courses at prestigious universities.

Future of STEM

Each field within STEM will continue to expand, and as a result of this expansion, STEM education will become a more valuable asset as well. In the past and throughout history, STEM education led to revolutionary discoveries and inventions. Today, STEM education remains equally crucial to the advancement of societies, and its significance will persist as the world continues to take leaps and bounds in STEM innovations.

Works Cited

“Employment in STEM Occupations.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 Sept. 2019, www.bls.gov/emp/tables/stem-employment.htm. 

Humphrey, Chevy, and Paul J. Luna. “The National STEM Teacher Shortage Threatens Future Prosperity.” RealClearEducation, 4 Apr. 2019, www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2019/04/04/the_national_stem_teacher_shortage_threatens_future_prosperity_110320.html. 

Jones, Kaylor. “What Are STEM Degrees?” Grand Canyon University, 29 Nov. 2019, www.gcu.edu/blog/engineering-technology/what-are-stem-degrees. 

Lapedus, Mark. “Engineering Talent Shortage Now Top Risk Factor.” Semiconductor Engineering, 25 Feb. 2019, semiengineering.com/engineering-talent-shortage-now-top-risk-factor/. 

“Science Teacher Salary.” Salary.com, 26 Feb. 2021, www.salary.com/research/salary/recruiting/science-teacher-salary. 

“Scientist Salary.” Salary.com, 26 Feb. 2021, https://www.salary.com/research/salary/recruiting/scientist-salary.

Snider, Susannah, and Rebecca Koenig. “Explore Top STEM Careers.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 22 Apr. 2019, money.usnews.com/careers/slideshows/explore-top-stem-careers?slide=7. 

Lapedus, Mark. “Graph of Engineering Talent Shortage.” Semiconductor Engineering, 25 Feb. 2019, semiengineering.com/engineering-talent-shortage-now-top-risk-factor/. 

“Employment in STEM Occupations.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 Sept. 2019.

 

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About the Author

Lilian Xu is a sophomore at Canyon Crest Academy in California. She is interested in pursuing medicine in the future. Currently, she mainly manages our Facebook platform and writes STEM-related blogs. Through this internship, she has honed her writing skills, learned about interview etiquette, and explored the STEM fields more deeply. In her free time, she enjoys baking, ice skating, singing, and graphic design.

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