What Does STEM Stand For?

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By Sakina Taher
Last updated on September 22, 2023

Learn all about STEM education — what does STEM mean, STEM degree programs, which schools you can apply to, career prospects with a STEM degree, and more!

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — also known as the acronym STEM — are key segments of a wide range of industries around the globe. STEM careers are available in accounting, architecture, health care, software development, and many other sectors. 

With a degree in a STEM field, you’ll have a versatile skill set and in-depth technical knowledge to support multiple career options. Even better, careers in STEM-related fields are growing: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10.8% increase in STEM employment by 2031.

Read on to learn more about what does STEM mean, opportunities available in STEM-field professions, what does STEM stand for in education, and which STEM schools you can consider for your degree.

What Does STEM Mean?

As we mentioned earlier, the acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. These specializations are grouped together for their impact and strong contributions in innovation, business development, and job creation. 

Additionally, at universities, STEM fields often share core foundational concepts, also known as STEM curriculum. For example, a computer science degree combines technology, engineering, and mathematical subjects with classes that may include hardware engineering, programming, numerical analysis, graphics, and data security. STEM degrees can enhance your creativity, critical thinking, analytical abilities, and problem-solving skills as you learn more about interconnected subjects.

As technology and consumer needs evolve, the following STEM-field subjects are growing in demand:

  1. Behavioral economics

  2. Environmental science

  3. Game design

  4. Mechatronics 

  5. Pharmaceutics

  6. Psychology 

  7. Robotics

STEM degree programs build transferable skills that prepare you for many professional roles in engineering, analytics, data management, health, strategic management, and more. With guidance from expert faculty and the opportunity to learn from real-world case studies and simulation tools, you can look forward to developing a diverse skill set for your future career.

Now that you have an idea of what does STEM stand for, let’s take a look at why STEM education is a valuable asset to have on your resume

Why Does STEM Matter?

What does STEM stand for in education? Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are the foundation to many of the advancements and technological innovations in modern society. From computers, phones, and data systems to weather forecasts and medical advancements, STEM-related principles and findings have contributed significantly to the world we live in today. 

STEM-field degrees equip professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills that global employers value and seek out in their employees. According to the World Economic Forum, STEM degrees are the US’s most desirable qualifications, featuring high pay and strong career prospects. Graduates entering the workforce are qualified for roles in operations, may already exhibit industry specializations (e.g., petroleum engineering, video game programming, or architectural design, to name a few), and are solutions-driven, well positioned to discover better outcomes and efficiency. 

Now that you understand what does STEM stand for, let’s look at what do STEM courses mean and why do they matter?

  • STEM graduates are high in demand — There is a growing need for artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics engineers, along with environmental specialists, data analysts, and economists. Many organizations need STEM professionals who can drive innovation and developments within the company.

  • A STEM education offers transferable skills — STEM curriculum covers a broad range of subjects such as mathematics, engineering, software management, and biomedical engineering. As you master your technical skills, STEM degree programs encourage students to build adaptability, innovation, planning, and execution capabilities, all of which are essential to any professional role.

  • STEM graduates earn higher incomes — STEM professions offer higher entry-level salaries compared to non-STEM jobs. Data security officers, mechanical engineers, architectural engineers, and computer scientists are some of the highest-paid roles in the US, and all are considered STEM-related. 

Understanding a STEM field, meaning which courses and potential careers are available, offers insights on which subjects you can consider for your academic studies. Taking STEM courses early is a great way to determine which topics and potential fields are a good fit for your interests, capabilities, and goals. 

How Early Should I Start Introducing STEM?

The U.S. Department of Education recommends introducing STEM-related subjects in elementary school and high school curriculum. These can be simple experiments, interactive lessons, and group projects that build students’ interest and develop a better understanding of what does STEM mean and what does STEM stand for.

In America, many high schools provide hands-on STEM education designed to create a strong foundation in core topics, encourage gathering and analyzing information, and build solution-driven approaches. 

Here are some STEM subjects that US students are often introduced to early in their education:

  1. Science 

  2. Mathematics

  3. Computer studies 

Additionally, American science fairs and competitions such as the Congressional App Challenge, Source America Design Challenge, and Microsoft Imagine Cup drive interest and involvement among high school students toward STEM-related learning. Participating in these activities provides an ideal opportunity for students to be introduced to STEM and its academic pathways. 

If you are an international student interested in studying STEM at a US university, aim to take as many STEM-focused courses during your primary school years as possible. Your education counselor can make personalized recommendations on ideal course loads and specific classes during your high school years. 

What Does it Mean for a School To Be a STEM School?

A STEM school is a college or university that has curriculum focused heavily on the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Additionally, the school may be known for outstanding STEM programs and/or have a large enrollment of students in these particular fields. STEM schools are equipped with resources that provide a nurturing and supportive atmosphere for students to obtain a well-rounded education in STEM courses.

STEM schools provide specialized learning tools to prepare students with the advanced skill set required in future STEM professions. STEM courses cover in-depth technical education in a variety of subjects, and students participate in practical experimentation at labs and workshops where classroom learning is applied in real-world situations. 

Schools that specialize in STEM also connect students with internship and mentorship opportunities at top-ranked organizations. Working with potential future colleagues and learning in the field enhances confidence, flexibility, and interpersonal skills, and gives you the chance to network and build professional connections with experts. 

If you are interested in applying to a STEM school, consider evaluating which STEM field most interests you. Depending on your choice, you may have to take additional entrance exams for your application. For example, a Dental Admissions Test (DAT) is required to apply to most dental schools in the US. Similarly, some specialized medical STEM programs require Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) and Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) scores in your application. 

What if I Don’t Have a STEM Background?

With hard work and perseverance, anyone can pursue a STEM education. Gaining a general understanding of what do STEM courses mean, while evaluating your own capabilities, is a good way to begin preparing for a STEM degree program. Here are a few steps you can follow:

Step 1: Establish Your Career Objectives

What are your career goals? Consider what you would like to achieve professionally in both the short- and long term, which qualifications you want, and the timeline in which you hope to achieve them. 

Step 2: Identify Your Preferred STEM Industry 

Once you have mapped out your career goals, the next step is to understand which industry you are interested in, such as medical science, robotics, engineering, or statistics, for example. Research online or speak to a counselor to identify your best-fit possibilities.

Step 3: Match Your Skills and Goals to the Requirements of Your Selected Field

Some STEM schools require additional test scores to be submitted with your application. For example, some medical programs have an entry-level examination you need to pass with a specific score. Recognizing your current capabilities can give you clarity on any skills you may need to develop or improve to make sure you can pass these tests and have a good base for starting your degree program successfully.

Step 4: Look for Schools that Offer Programs that Match Your Career Goals

Seek out universities with programs that give you the chance to develop specific skills and hands-on experience that align with your long-term goals. Review curriculum, subjects covered, and campus resources. For example, engineering students may require access to labs and workshops, while computer science students need access to computers, databases, and even servers.

If you need guidance on understanding what does STEM stand for and which STEM schools you can apply to, consider connecting with a Shorelight advisor. Counselors can brief you on the skills STEM majors need, and work with you to develop a career plan.

Does Shorelight Have Any Schools with STEM Programs?

Through Shorelight, you can access a wide variety of top-ranked STEM schools offering undergraduate and graduate programs in crossdisciplinary STEM subjects. Here are some STEM schools interested in reviewing applications from international students like you: 

Cleveland State University

According to U.S. News & World Report, Cleveland State is ranked #184 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs. The Washkewicz College of Engineering empowers students to create sustainable living solutions and get hired for internships. Partnerships with world-class hospitals, Fortune 500 companies, and government research centers give Cleveland State students the chance to learn from industry experts and explore a variety of STEM topics.

University of Dayton

Ranked #127 in National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, UDayton Global at the University of Dayton is ready to enroll international students interested in STEM fields. Dayton is recognized as a top-tier research university offering qualifications in engineering, business, education, and health sciences. Through collaboration, entrepreneurship opportunities, and a supportive campus environment, UDayton Global provides ideal learning experiences for international STEM students.

University of Illinois Chicago

Located in the third largest city of the US, the University of Illinois Chicago is ranked #68 in Most Innovative Schools and #75 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs by U.S. News & World Report. STEM students are exposed to a variety of hands-on learning opportunities such as the Guaranteed Paid Internship Program (GPIP), where first-year engineering students have the chance to serve as paid interns over the summer after their freshman year. 

Western New England University

Recognized for its computer science and engineering programs, Western New England offers state-of-the-art research facilities, entrepreneurial prospects, and extensive resources for STEM students to explore. The College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering offer curriculum in actuarial science, forensic chemistry, information technology, mathematical sciences, economics, and more. Programs train students with in-demand industry skills and build lifelong learning capabilities.

The acronym STEM branches out to many industries and occupations that you can explore to find the right career. A Shorelight counselor can provide application assistance for a STEM school that suits your objectives and will be there to assist you every step of the way. From academic support and guidance in understanding what does STEM stand for, get in touch with an advisor who can clarify all the questions you may have regarding your STEM education. Take the first step toward your future career in STEM today!

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