The future of STEM careers looks bright: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs are expected to grow more than twice as fast as other sectors between 2021 and 2031.
While STEM jobs are expected to grow by 10.8%, non-STEM jobs are only expected to grow by 4.9%.
It’s also notable that STEM careers can often pay more. The median annual salary for STEM jobs in 2021 was $95,420 for STEM occupations and only $40,120 for non-STEM occupations.
STEM careers can offer greater financial security while contributing to the development of our world.
Given these market trends, it’s essential to provide avenues for the next generation to pursue STEM careers so that they are equipped with the skills to succeed in the 21st-century world.
Opening up these paths is the key to developing our labor force and society. So, what paths can students hoping to pursue STEM careers take?
Path to a STEM Career
There are many paths to pursuing a successful STEM career, but they usually involve some kind of additional schooling or training beyond high school.
Traditionally, a bachelor's degree in a STEM major at a college or university can open doors to many STEM jobs.
Sometimes, additional schooling is necessary, such as pursuing medical school to become a doctor.
However, college is one of many paths to a STEM career.
According to the National Science Foundation, a little more than half of all STEM workers do not have a bachelor’s degree, showing that STEM can be accessible to anyone with the right skills!
However, STEM education should not start at the university level.
Students who have experience with advanced STEM courses at the high school level are often more prepared for the intense and technical education awaiting them in college.
According to Collegeboard, students who took an AP exam performed the same or better than their non-AP counterparts that took the introductory college equivalent when they took the subsequent course.
Furthermore, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland explains that students who had taken advanced math courses in high school (above Algebra I) had greater labor market outcomes, with higher salaries and lower unemployment than students who had taken less advanced math classes.
The STEM choices available at the high school level are something that directly impacts students’ job prospects and college achievement.
It's never too early to start building the skills for a STEM career!
Top STEM College Majors
For those choosing the college path, you might be wondering what major to choose.
It is important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all model, and each person should choose according to their interests, skillset, and career goals, among other considerations.
STEM college majors can lead to careers within the STEM field as well as hold many valuable transferable skills that can be applied to non-STEM careers if one wishes.
It’s perhaps not surprising that many of the majors that lead to high-paying careers are STEM-related. These college majors include, but are not limited to:
- Computer science
Engineering largely dominates the list of the highest-paying jobs right out of college, making it a very valuable major.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, math jobs are reported to have the greatest job growth out of any field at 28.7% overall, making math another strong college major to choose.
Majoring in a STEM field is one of the several paths that can lead to a STEM career!
Top 10 STEM Careers
If you're looking for the top ten STEM careers with the highest projected job growth in the next few years, you're in the right place.
Here are some of the top STEM careers to pursue:
1. Nurse Practitioner
The healthcare field at large is projected to have high job growth, but there is a very strong need for nurses in particular. With a 45.7% job growth projection by 2031 and a 2021 median annual wage of $120,680, if you want a fulfilling career working with people and saving lives, nursing might be the perfect career for you.
2. Physical Therapist Assistant
Another healthcare position to consider is becoming a physical therapist assistant. PT Assistants typically only need an Associate’s degree, and there is a lot of opportunity in this field, with a projected job growth of 26.5% and a median annual wage of $61,180.
3. Web Developer
The importance of technology in our world today means that the tech industry is continually growing. Companies need great websites, and web developers are in high demand. Web developers are expected to have 30.3% job growth by 2031. If you’re looking for a career in technology in a front-facing role, web development might be for you.
4. Information Security Analyst
With the growth of the tech industry, the security of data has become more and more important. Information security analyst positions are expected to grow by 34.7% by 2031.
Blending together these different fields for biology research gives you biochemistry and biophysics – two fascinating fields that drive developments in medical progress and scientific understanding overall. These research positions are expected to grow by 15.3%, and one often needs a doctorate degree to enter this fascinating, cutting-edge field.
6. Forensic Science Technician
If you’re interested in the science behind solving crimes, forensic science might be the field for you. Forensic science technicians are expecting 11.4% job growth by 2031, with a bachelor’s degree as the typical entry requirement. This may be the perfect job for the Sherlock Holmes aficionados out there.
7. Chemical Engineer
Chemical engineering is an ever-changing field combining innovation and science. It’s also one of the highest-paying majors out of college. This role has an expected job growth of 13.9%.
8. Data Scientist
The ability to analyze data is a highly sought-after skill, and data scientists will become more and more important in our world. There is an expected 35.8% job growth for data scientists and a 2021 $100,910 median annual wage.
Analyzing risk mathematically is another in-demand skill, and if you enjoy applying math in practical, real-world ways, this might be the job for you. There is a projected 20.8% job growth for actuaries and a median wage of $105,900 as of 2021.
10. Software Developer
Rounding out the list with another expanding tech role that typically needs a bachelor’s degree, software developers are one of the occupations at the heart of tech. With 26% projected job growth by 2031 and a 2021 median annual wage of $120,730, it’s a fast-changing and interesting job that is certain to be at the forefront of innovation.
The Future of STEM Jobs
STEM careers can be meaningful, lucrative, and fascinating.
The projected job growth, earning potential, and being at the forefront of an ever-changing world are some of the benefits of pursuing a STEM career, which can open up opportunities for the next generation.
With advancements and new opportunities across many STEM fields, especially in healthcare, technology, and mathematics, equipping the next generation with the skills to pursue a STEM career is paramount.
“50 Highest-paying College Majors.” Lone Star College, https://www.lonestar.edu/salary.htm.
DeZarn, Nicholas, et al. “Occupational projections overview, 2021-31.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2023, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2023/article/occupational-projections-overview-2021-31.htm.
James, Jonathan. “The Surprising Impact of High School Math on Job Market Outcomes.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, 1 Nov 2013, https://www.clevelandfed.org/en/publications/economic-commentary/2013/ec-201314-the-surprising-impact-of-high-school-math-on-job-market-outcomes.
Krutsch, Emily, and Victoria Roderick. “STEM Day: Explore Growing Careers.” U.S. Department of Labor Blog, 4 Nov 2022, https://blog.dol.gov/2022/11/04/stem-day-explore-growing-careers.
Okrent, Abigail, and Amy Burke. “The STEM Labor Force of Today: Scientists, Engineers, and Skilled Technical Workers.” National Science Foundation, 31 Aug 2021, https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsb20212.
Picchi, Aimee. “College majors have a big impact on income. Here are the highest-and lowest-earning fields.” CBS News, 26 May 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/college-major-top-and-lowest-earning-majors-impact-on-income-pay/.
Wyatt, Jeff, et al. “Postsecondary Course Performance of AP Exam Takers in Subsequent Coursework.” Collegeboard, 2018, p. 9, https://research.collegeboard.org/reports/ap-academic-prep.