It’s easy if you’re a high school student to dismiss talk about your future as just more blah-blah-blah.
And 20 years ago, it might have been OK to put that discussion off until you got to college, or hit senior year of college, or, not so rarely, graduated from college. Now, you need to be on top of things and we can provide it with our latest guide to STEM Colleges & Programs.
The world is moving quickly, and you don’t want to miss out. And where does it seem to be picking up the most speed? In the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
For example, health-care jobs – technical and support workers and practitioners – are projected to be among the fastest-growing occupations between now and 2026, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Aging baby-boomers with increasing life expectancies are going to need health-care services, and this sector is expected to supply 20 percent of all new jobs in the next few years. Computer and mathematical occupations also are expected to be one of the fastest expanding sectors, growing by more than 13 percent by 2026, according to the Labor Department.
And salaries and opportunities for STEM workers reflect this demand, based on a January 2018 Pew Center Research Report that analyzed U.S. Census data:
STEM workers earn an average of 26 percent more than non-STEM workers with similar levels of education. That is true even among all workers with master’s degrees.
STEM fields do not necessarily require an expensive, long-term degree. About a third of STEM workers do not have four-year degrees; another third have only bachelor’s degrees, and a third have a master’s, doctorate or professional degree. Life scientists (for example, biologists) are most likely to have advanced degrees.
Students who majored in a STEM field in college averaged 33 percent more in salary than those without STEM degrees even if they were not working in a STEM field after graduation.
There is still a “leaky pipeline” for women majoring in STEM subjects such as engineering: They are significantly less likely than men to be working in a STEM field after graduation. The share of women working in computer fields actually dropped from 32 percent in 1990 to 25 percent of workers now. (However, 75 percent of health-care practitioners and technicians are women.)
Blacks and Hispanics continue to be underrepresented in most STEM fields relative to their share of the U.S. workforce except in health care, where they hold 11 percent of all jobs. That’s a bit skewed, however, because they are overrepresented in lower-level jobs such as practical nursing, where they comprise 37 percent of the workforce, but underrepresented in professions requiring more education, such as dentists, optometrists, veterinarians and chiropractors.
But don’t assume that even with a degree, all STEM fields are equally attainable. Computer-related occupations were expected to have a million job openings between 2014 and 2024, according to the Labor Department, but in that same time period, architects, surveyors and cartographers were expected to have only 52,500 opportunities. While many STEM jobs are high-paying (for example, petroleum engineers) there aren’t always a lot of openings in those fields. That means there could be a lot of competition for the job you want.
You need to position yourself to stay on top of the STEM innovations and careers, keeping in mind your own interests and skills and the resources you can put toward the necessary degrees.
How do you do that?
One option is a STEM high school summer program that lets you explore a new interest or sharpen one you already have. Another is a STEM college fair, where you can connect with representatives from schools and programs and compare what they have to offer. You can find all that and more in the latest guide to STEM Colleges & Programs published by TeenLife Media and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).
This year, NACAC will host both spring and fall STEM fairs in cities across the country. Our free guide has information about those as well 175 summer programs and colleges that are eager to recruit students who are interested in STEM. We also have tips for STEM students, such as how to build essential skills like communication; how to find a summer program just for girls; and how to get the most from a STEM college and program fair.
Of course, even STEM students aren’t into science, technology, engineering and math 24/7, so if you’re looking for a way to do something different this summer, we have that, too, on our website at www.teenlife.com.
Don’t tune out to the discussion about your future. Think of it as the next step on an adventure of discovery, one that could end up in a career that makes cutting-edge discoveries or helps others or saves the environment or builds something incredible or, at the very least, keeps you fascinated about what will happen next.