“The future of the economy is in STEM. That’s where the jobs of tomorrow will be.” – James Brown, Executive Director of the STEM Education Coalition in Washington D.C.
A STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degree can open up a plethora of career avenues in research and innovation. The vital problem solving and critical thinking skills developed through a STEM degree are highly prized in the Oil & Gas, Cybersecurity, Healthcare, and Medical Science industries. With rigorous training in Science, Mathematics or Statistics, STEM degree holders are naturally equipped to take up quantitative modeling and analysis to solve unique business problems. As our world becomes more technologically integrated and sophisticated, opportunities for STEM individuals are bound to grow by leaps and bounds.
The emergence of Industrial Revolution 4.0 has ushered in new job titles that include: Machine Learning Engineer, Data Scientists, Artificial Intelligence Engineer. Medical scientists are experimenting with gene technology, embryo creation, and other diverse areas of research to improve quality of life. As per the data published by Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth in the STEM is projected to grow by more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022, pointing to an encouraging employment scenario.
Opportunities in the STEM are abundant, offering lucrative and fulfilling career tracks. However, capitalizing on the right opportunity requires STEM degree holders to effectively position their knowledge to prospective employers. Here are our best tips:
Emphasis on the Technical Skills:
If you lack the requisite experience for a particular role in the STEM but have the necessary skill set, you may still have a shot at the said opportunity. Skills often trump experience in STEM careers because many job roles have only recently materialized which creates an incongruity between talent demand and supply. Take, for example, the field of artificial intelligence or machine learning, which are relatively new domains, and are capturing the attention of technology behemoths due to the transformational impact they are already delivering. However, the number of engineers with the requisite experience in the field is relatively small, thereby placing skill-set as the deciding factor. And with the soaring popularity of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as Coursera, Udacity, EdX, gaining knowledge and skills in niche functional areas has become accessible and possible for professionals. For instance, Udacity’s widely popular Nanodegrees allow enthusiasts to equip themselves in fields of Flying Cars & Autonomous Flight, Unreal VR, Robotics Software Engineering, etc.
Therefore, explicitly touting technical skills atop your resume, online profile, or in an interview will help you stand out from the crowd. In fact, few STEM students also prefer creating a ‘Technical Summary’ for themselves on their resumes which serves as an exhaustive list of their technical skills. For example, a Software Developer might include Python, HTML, PHP, Java, etc. to his ‘Technical Summary’ to exhibit his knowledge base and capabilities.
Relevant Coursework and Laboratory Work:
As mentioned above, skills are crucial, but so is your degree coursework and the allied laboratory work you undertake as they establish your interest areas and proficiency level. Your coursework equips you with the adaptive everyday skills you need to perform the basic tasks of your job and to excel with finesse. Selecting elective subjects which help you garner the skills aligned with your future goals is essential. Let’s say, for instance, that you aspire to take up stem cell research in future, then you can try to immerse yourself deeper in DNA science or protein synthesis to bolster your credibility. Similarly, engineers from diverse fields with coding ambitions can take up programming languages as part of their extra course credits. An equally important aspect of a STEM degree is the laboratory work, which you must not forget to incorporate in your profile. For example, a Chemistry student could include techniques like visible spectroscopy, recrystallization, or synthesis, depending on her future goals.
Research Experience and Grants:
Formal research experience carries immense weight in any field, but more so in the STEM where innovation is key. Students must immerse themselves in conducting research, employing technical methods and problem-solving to not only enhance their scientific acumen but also to pitch themselves to potential employers who can consider research as a candidate’s first work experience and use it to gauge their potential. Research experience can be gained through co-ops, internships or direct assistantship under department professors who are much willing to give beginner students an opportunity and provide mentorship. Taking up research helps students narrow down their interest area and hone the much-needed communication skills through report writing, idea articulation and presentation. The buck shouldn’t stop there – students can leverage the output from their research and get it published in college journals or prestigious peer-reviewed academic journals such as Science and MIT Technology Review. Simultaneously, students must strive to obtain grants and further their research endeavors. On a resume, research experience and outcomes must be neatly and categorically defined to get recruiters’ attention.
If you sell yourself effectively with a STEM degree, you can capitalize on promising career opportunities. The value of technical skills and analytical prowess set STEM graduates apart. For employers, these intense skills are invaluable for fostering innovation and accelerating success. As science advances, the demand for refined and niche skills in Mathematics, Technology, Science, and Statistics will only increase. Leveraging a bouquet of technical skills, research experience, and relevant coursework along with laboratory work will help set you apart.