Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths — the four STEM subjects that, over the years, have become synonymous with unlimited career options and unshakeable job security. And justifiably so too! Take a look at any industry around the globe and you will find that it has been built on the strong foundation of STEM. It is only natural then that graduates from these fields are in great demand.
According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, STEM-related jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs between 2000 and 2010. Studies also predict that by 2025, 3.5 million STEM jobs in the US alone will go unfilled. This, even as the field offers employees 12-30% more pay than other jobs!
The demand for STEM graduates is clearly high. But with future-focussed businesses creating new career paths and demanding specialised skills, is old still gold? Will STEM still be relevant a decade or two down the line, or should you set your sights on new and emerging fields of study? Maybe even fields like renewable energy and data analytics?
While global warming is one of the biggest issues of our time, future generations are likely to face far greater environmental challenges than we do. But where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. As we grapple with finding ways to save the planet, renewable energy has emerged as one of the most promising solutions. Tomorrow’s world will need skilled graduates to lead the charge and take this industry forward; graduates with knowledge of the field, with the appropriate training and the ability to adapt to a fast-changing world.
Data Analytics is yet another field that has opened the door to boundless opportunities in the world of work. The all-pervasive nature of technology — and the advancements made in it — mean that Big Data has the power to make or break businesses and industries. From medicine and marketing to banking and education, data analytics is everywhere. Forbes reports that 83% of businesses across the world are looking at prioritizing their data initiatives. A study by the International Data Corporation (IDC) also estimates that global revenue for the field will grow to over $203 billion by the end of 2020. This means greater job opportunities for young, capable graduates who have prepared themselves for this profession of the future.
Studies predict massive employee shortages in both fields.
So, think it’s time to abandon STEM?
Not just yet.
Growth of one field of study doesn’t necessarily mean the decline of another, especially when the other field is STEM.
As an area of study, STEM is complex, comprehensive and underpins nearly every new and emerging discipline. Many students therefore choose to do their undergraduate degree in a STEM subject, and then specialise in a newer field at the Masters level. This gives them a strong theoretical grounding in traditional subjects as well as transferrable skills that they can then apply to their new field of learning.
For instance, students looking at a career in renewable energy must keep in mind that the criteria for an M.Sc. in Renewable Energy and Clean Technology is an undergraduate degree (or an international equivalent) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics or an equivalent scientific discipline. Subjects like Civil Engineering too offer transferable skills that can be extremely useful for a future in renewable energy.
Data sciences may be an emerging field of study, but STEM subjects like mathematics and statistics form the heart of this discipline. Similarly, degrees in computer science and engineering offer experience in fields like artificial intelligence, machine learning and data theory.
Universities are also beginning to respond to these changes in the job market by offering traditional courses with specializations in newer fields. Students can now choose to do a degree in Business Analytics, Big Data Management or even Business Intelligence.
New fields of study and new ways of working are constantly emerging. It might be tempting to dismiss STEM subjects as archaic or irrelevant, but these form the very basis for all future-focussed disciplines and professions.
Most importantly, remember that although it feels like you must choose one of the two options, both schools of study influence and impact each other.
Choosing to do your undergraduate in STEM, means choosing to work on an enduring foundation for your future. And the future is fluid.