As a technology librarian often trying to promoting STEM to patrons, I am regularly asked: “why are STEM jobs important?” Usually, that’s followed by information about how little knowledge they have of STEM.
Not knowing a lot about STEM is not something to be embarrassed about. STEM, after all, consists of 4 main subjects that relate to each other in different ways. Trying to explain STEM would not allow me to even touch why STEM jobs are important without them walking away from boredom. So, in an attempt to be ready for any future questions regarding this topic, I have put together this page.
Why are STEM jobs important? The economy and our general welfare are all backed by science, technology, engineering, and math. Innovation is leading to STEM occupations getting multiplied. Being able to fill the number of STEM jobs available in the future is critical to our growth.
Given the variety of STEM, different jobs have their particular importance. Each STEM field offers its uniqueness and many benefits from new and innovative technology, medical discoveries, more efficient tools and equipment, or advanced algorithms. This wide array makes a difference in our everyday lives.
Our Economy Is Affected By STEM
The computer and tech boom of the 90s is still reverberating strongly into the 20s. New gadgets such as wireless headphones or 3D printers are things that weren’t even sold in the consumer market 15 years ago. Now, you can see these items almost anywhere you go.
New technology such as virtual reality and voice command devices are already starting to be seen in homes around the world. It seems like there’s a new gadget coming out every day making it hard to keep up with the trends.
However, these innovations help boost the economy by creating jobs that enable the production of the goods sold to consumers. Without STEM-skilled experts, these gadgets would not exist. We need engineers and developers to create the new smartphone that learns faster than any human. We also need mathematicians to help us understand big data and to explore Space. So, for the economy to continue growing, STEM jobs must continue to be filled.
Our General Welfare Is Affected By STEM
Now that we talked about how STEM affects the economy, let’s talk about how it affects your general welfare.
Some of the most significant organizations are taking on world pursuits cancer research, artificial intelligence, and space explorations. What may not be so apparent is that all of these require workers skilled in science, technology, engineering, and/or math to make it happen
For example, the foundation of physics is math, while the foundation for engineering is physics. NASA engineers design rockets and spaceships to help us explore space.
Another, more straightforward, example is cancer research scientists. These scientists are involved with preventing and terminating one of the most ongoing medical problems of today.
STEM Innovation Affects STEM Occupations
STEM itself can’t and won’t stop getting larger. The innovative nature of STEM expands the umbrella under which all of these jobs fall.
But, all fields are not equal in this respect. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the projected growth of math occupations from 2014 to 2024 was 28.2 percent compared to a 6.5 percent average growth percent for all occupations. The BLS also reported that the projected new jobs for computer occupations was 12.5 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is nearly half a million new jobs.
AI, machine learning, and cyber-security were the buzz back in 2013, but they are much bigger things now.
Tencent, the massive Chinese multinational conglomerate, reports that there are 300,000 AI researchers and practitioners in the world. But, the market demand for these roles is in the millions.
STEM and innovation go hand in hand. Companies always need to have the best innovative talent to try to get ahead in their industries. They need to have the top accountants, the top engineers, the best web developers, and so on. For this reason, some companies are investing in STEM education programs hoping they will be able to develop the next generation of innovators.
The STEM Job Crisis
Now for the not so good part.
On one hand, the growing number of STEM jobs and occupations sounds like a good thing.
On the other hand, if there aren’t enough skilled people to fill those future jobs and occupations, we would have a job crisis on both of our hands.
In 2013, there were 1.2 million vacant STEM jobs. Today, that number eventually grew to 2.4 million – twice the amount in just 6 years!
So, why don’t we have enough skilled people to fill vacant STEM jobs? That is because up until recent years, our schools did not place much importance on STEM.
According to Fast Company, 80 percent of professions will require a high level of understanding of STEM skills in the next decade. Right now, fewer students are excelling at STEM skills with 57 percent struggling to meet basic math requirements and most students are choosing not to take electives or advanced courses that are required to enter into a STEM-related field.
Filling STEM Jobs Shapes Our Future
James Brown, not the singer but the executive director of the STEM Education Coalition, says the future of the economy is in STEM. He’s not just saying that because he’s an executive director of an operation that promotes STEM, we know he means it because he’s got the numbers to prove it.
As mentioned in a previous post, STEM-focused education was created to help the U.S. maintain its position as a global leader. New gadgets means more jobs to produce them (if they’re not made offshore) and more consumers to buy them.
An increasing number of countries, especially China, have been noticing the importance of STEM and putting it at the center of learning. As STEM expands, these countries will be able to meet the demand of jobs it requires to stay afloat and keep innovating. Countries that are unable to do so, will fall behind.
It is also important to note that national security depends on STEM. Drones are now important devices used to survey and strike targets. If engineers and developers can enhance these drones further or create a new gadget that’s even more useful, the country that does so will be one that no other country would want to mess with.
Those lucky enough to start STEM education in early childhood will have the advantage of continued success throughout their educational careers. They are the ones who are more likely to be able to fill these high-demand/high paying jobs. It is important to get our children involved with STEM because our future may be at stake.
How Much Do STEM Jobs Pay?
STEM jobs pay very well. All non-STEM jobs in the country have a median earning of $19.30/hour. The average median wage for STEM jobs is $38.85/hour. This means that STEM jobs are paying $19.55, or about 99% more than all others.
What Are The Benefits Of STEM?
Some STEM benefits include the following:
- High salary due to high demand
- Increasingly large variety of jobs to choose from’
- Job security
- Helping to shape the future
- Teaches problem-solving skills
- Encourages applied knowledge