Advantages of STEM for Adults Considering Continuing Education

Workers with a degree in technical occupations earn more money and enjoy greater job security than others, due to the rapid growth of these career fields.

Even in a tough economy, anyone with a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) is experiencing a growing demand for their knowledge and skills. Technological advances in all industries are increasing the demand for workers, which translates to more jobs and higher pay. By 2018, employers are expected to hire more than two million new and replacement workers (Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11).

What Career Fields Include STEM Occupations?

Although the acronym represents specific occupations, there is not a specific definition of what STEM occupations represent. A broad view is an employment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. Workers in these careers hold positions in education, healthcare, social scientists, manufacturing managers, and technicians. STEM is divided into four broad career fields.

  • computer science and mathematics
  • engineering and surveying
  • physical and life sciences
  • managerial

Benefits for Earning a Degree in These Occupations

Workers in these career fields are the focal point of innovation and competitiveness in their industries. As a result, people in these occupations (STEM: Good Jobs Now and in the Future):

  • earn, on average, 26 percent more than non-STEM workers.
  • had an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent in 2010, compared to other occupations with a 10 percent rate.
  • represent one in every eighteen workers in the U.S.
  • hold more bachelor degrees than other occupations, which stands at two-thirds as compared to less than one-third.
  • benefit from an expected 17 percent growth in jobs by 2018, compared to only nine percent for others.
  • with computer and mathematics, degrees make up 46 percent of all STEM employees.
  • command higher earnings and more job security than other careers, compared to those without similar degrees.
  • with a two-year degree comprise 23 percent of all STEM workers, indicating not all positions require a bachelor or higher degree.

Financial Aid: Grants and Scholarships

The National Science Foundation and industries who hire qualified graduates provide funding for grants and scholarships to colleges, universities, and technical schools for distribution to eligible students. Based on the following criteria, schools then provide grant and scholarship funds to students enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs. Students who are:

  • academically talented
  • financial needy
  • legal residents of the United States
  • enrolled in an associate, bachelor, or graduate degree program

If you are considering enrolling in a qualifying STEM program, contact your institution’s financial aid office for application policies and procedures. These grants and scholarships are available for all eligible students, regardless of status as a traditional or non-traditional student.

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Not all scientists wear white lab coats and are confined to laboratories conducting experiments. Many scientists work in outdoor settings such as marine scientists, geologists, biologists, agricultural scientists, zoologists, and environmental scientists. This also applies to science technicians. Example types of work in these occupations include (Stem Occupations, 2007):

  • Life Scientists – study living things such as organisms, plants, bacteria, ecosystems, and conservation.
  • Physical Scientists – study non-living things such as solar systems, galaxies, weather, nuclear energy, forces of nature, earth structures, mathematical models, and development of new chemicals or materials.
  • Science Technicians – typically help with experiments, data collection, and monitor industrial processes.


Workers in these fields are involved in information technology and computers. They use logic, math, and computer science for developing and designing new computer systems or programs. Example types of work in these occupations include:

  • Computer Scientists – apply new computer technology techniques and principles to create advanced storage and retrieval systems.
  • Computer Programmers – work with software engineers to design tasks for computers.
  • Computer Analysts – help companies make the most efficient use of their computer programs and systems.


Engineers apply science and mathematical principles in designing new products such as machines, robots, electronics, and computers to solve problems. Engineers tend to specialize in specific fields such as bridges, military technologies, dams, highways, buildings, food processing, and medical devices. Examples include:

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineers – apply new principles in designing consumer electronics devices, robotics, and electrical devices.
  • Mechanical Engineers – work with companies to design new manufacturing processes and devices.
  • Aerospace Engineers – design new aircraft and rockets to achieve specific needs of the industry.
  • Naval Architecture – design warships and commercial vessels of all types.
  • Architectural Engineering – design new buildings, plan, and oversee construction projects.


Mathematicians work in industries requiring statistical solutions to problems and risks of loss caused by uncertain events. These risks include hurricanes, floods, fires, and car accidents. They also work collaboratively with scientists, technology scientists, and engineers in resolving problems or designing new products. Examples of occupations for mathematicians include:

  • Statisticians – collect, analyze, and interpret data used to make companies more profitable or reduce risk.
  • Operations Analysts – create math models to solve manufacturing, shipping, and logistics problems for companies.

If you desire employment in an occupation with a stable future and higher income, then earning a degree in a STEM career field is what you seek. Workers in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics career fields are on the cutting edge of innovation in U.S. industries. These are the people our country needs to help our industries be more competitive in the global economy. Grants and scholarships await all those eligible and apply.

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