Academic disciplines
••• STEM Disciplines. Stuart Kinlough/Ikon Images/Getty Images

What is STEM?

STEM is an acronym that refers to the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. STEM careers include all occupations that require one to be educated in any of those areas of study such as those in physical and life sciencescomputer science, mathematics and engineering. In addition, those who wish to pursue a career in the health professionshealth technology, and social science can also benefit from education in these disciplines.

Should You Pursue a STEM Career?

There are some particularly compelling reasons to pursue a STEM career:

  • A Very Good Job Outlook: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment in occupations related to these disciplines  will "grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022." ... This is an "an increase of about 1 million jobs over 2012 employment levels" (Stem 101: Intro to Tomorrow's Jobs. 2014).
  • Excellent Earnings: Many STEM workers earned more than double the $35,080 median wage all workers earned in May 2013—$76,000 (Stem 101: Intro to Tomorrow's Jobs. 2014). 
  • You Don't Need a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctoral Degree: Regardless of the level of education you plan to attain—high school diploma or associate, bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree—you can find a suitable occupation.

    Does all this mean everyone should pursue a STEM career? Since individuals have different interests, personality types, aptitudes and work-related values, all of which play a role in finding a suitable occupation, STEM isn't right for everyone. It is important to learn about yourself  before you choose a career.

    Given the vast number of occupations that require an education in a STEM discipline, however, you may be able to choose one from among them that is suitable for you. Keep in mind, as well, that studying a STEM discipline, will allow you to acquire many transferable skills that can be used in a variety of occupations. Having said that, make sure studying science, technology, engineering or math will allow you to achieve your occupational goals, in whatever way you define them. Also, consider whether you will do well in these subjects.

    You must be able to meet your educational and training requirements.

    Adding STE-A-M

    What happens when you add an A to STEM? You get STEAM, with the A standing for the Arts, including visual and performing arts, writing, literature and communications. It's hard to imagine a discipline that is further away from the hard sciences we associate with STEM than the arts. In fact, combining arts education with STEM education can provide you with some vital skills such as critical reasoning, problem solving, time management, communication and presentation skills. In addition, design is an important ingredient in innovation.

    Not only must things be functional, they must be aesthetically pleasing as well. If your passion is the arts and you would like to make that your career focus, adding science or technology courses to your curriculum can also be very helpful.

    Examples of STEM Careers

    There are hundreds of careers that can utilize the skills and knowledge acquired through an education in a STEM discipline. Here are some examples:

    • Actuary: An actuary uses database software, statistical analysis and modeling software to evaluate the probability of an event occurring in order to minimize its impact on his or her employer.
    • Architect: An architect designs buildings and other structures, making sure they are functional, safe and meet the needs of those who inhabit them.
    • Biochemist and Biophysicist: A biochemist and a biophysicist both study living organisms and their relationship to the environment.
    • Biomedical Engineer: A biomedical engineer solves problems having to do with biology or medicine.
    • Cardiovascular Technologist: A cardiovascular technologist uses non-invasive or invasive procedures to help doctors diagnose and treat cardiac and vascular problems.
    • Chemist: A chemist, by  searching for and using new knowledge about chemicals, creates processes and develops products that improve the way we live.
    • Computer and Information Systems Manager: A computer and information systems manager, who may go under the title chief information officer, chief technology officer, IT director or IT security officer, directs an organization's computer-related activities.
    • Computer Hardware Engineer: A computer hardware engineer oversees the manufacture and installation of the physical parts of computers and computer systems.
    • Computer Programmer: A computer programmer writes the code that serves as a set of instructions that make software and operating systems do what they are intended to do.
    • Computer Support Specialist: A computer support specialist helps people who are having trouble using computer hardware, software or peripherals.
    • Computer Systems Analyst: A computer systems analyst helps an organization use technology efficiently and effectively. 
    • Conservationist: A conservationist helps governments and landowners utilize land without harming natural resources such as soil and water.
    • Cost Estimator: A cost estimator calculates how much it will cost to complete a construction or manufacturing project.
    • Dental Hygienist: A dental hygienist, working alongside a dentist, provides preventative oral care to patients.
    • Dentist: A dentist diagnoses and treats any problems he or she finds after examining a patient's teeth and mouth tissue.
    • Dietitian: A dietitian plans and supervises food and nutrition programs at institutions including schools, nursing homes, and hospitals.
    • Doctor: A doctor, also called a physician, diagnoses and then treats injuries and illnesses.
    • Engineer: An engineer uses his or her expertise in science, engineering and math to solve technical problems. He or she specializes in a particular branch of engineering.
    • Engineering Technician: An engineering technician uses his or her expertise in science, math, and engineering to assist engineers in solving technical problems. He or she specializes in a particular engineering discipline.
    • Environmental Scientist: An environmental scientist conducts research that allows him or her to find ways to protect the environment.
    • Environmental Technician: An environmental technician, working under the supervision of an environmental scientist, monitors the environment by performing laboratory and field tests.
    • Forensic Scientist: A forensic scientist gathers, documents, and analyzes physical evidence from crime scenes.
    • Geographer: A geographer does research about the land, features, inhabitants and phenomena of a specific region of the earth in order to help governments and businesses plan construction, disaster response and marketing strategies.
    • Geoscientist: A geoscientist studies physical aspects of the earth such as its structure and composition.
    • Hydrologist: A hydrologist studies the distribution, circulation and physical properties of underground and surface waters.
    • Laboratory Technician: A laboratory technician performs tests and procedures that help medical professionals diagnose diseases, plan treatments and ascertain the effectiveness of treatments.
    • Laboratory Technologist: A laboratory technologist performs complex tests that help doctors and other medical professionals diagnose and treat diseases.
    • Medical Scientist: A medical scientist does research to determine the causes of diseases and then develops ways to prevent or treat them.
    • Network Systems Analyst: A network systems analyst designs, analyzes, tests and evaluates network systems including local area networks (LANS), wide area networks (WANS), the Internet and intranets.
    • Nuclear Medicine Technologist: A nuclear medicine technologist, in order to diagnose or treat a disease, administers radioactive drugs to a patient.
    • Nurse, Licensed Practical: A licensed practical nurse (LPN) cares for patients under the supervision of a registered nurse.
    • Nurse, Registered: A registered nurse (RN) provides medical and emotional support to patients and their families.
    • Occupational Therapist: An occupational therapist (OT) helps patients regain their ability to perform daily living and work activities.
    • Operations Research Analyst: An operations research analyst solves problems for organizations and businesses using his or her mathematical expertise.
    • Optometrist: An optometrist diagnoses and treats disorders and diseases of the eye.
    • Pharmacist: A pharmacist dispenses medication and explains their safe use to patients.
    • Physical Therapist: A physical therapist (PT) uses a variety of techniques to restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities in their patients.
    • Psychologist (Clinical): A clinical psychologist diagnoses and treats patients' mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
    • Radiologic Technologist: A radiologic technologist uses diagnostic imaging equipment to help physicians diagnose illnesses and injuries.
    • Respiratory Therapist: A respiratory therapist treats patients who are suffering from breathing problems.
    • Software Developer: A software developer creates the software that makes computers and other devices functional.
    • Surgical Technologist: A surgical technologist assists surgeons and nurses in the operating room.
    • Veterinarian: A veterinarian diagnoses illnesses and injuries and provides medical care to animals.
    • Veterinary Technician: A veterinary technician assists a veterinarian in providing medical care to animals.
    • Web Developer: A web developer creates applications and software that makes websites function.