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STEM and STEAM

STEM and STEAM Majors

While STEM and STEAM majors may appear pretty straightforward at first glance, there are varying nuances in each category that span an array of academic departments.

Science Degrees:

  • Biology: the study of living organisms
  • Chemistry: the science of the identification of properties and their compositions
  • Environmental Science: the integration of sciences in order to study the impact of natural and unnatural processes on the environment
  • Food Science: the study of the biological and physical composition of food
  • Forestry: the practice of creating/maintaining forests
  • Geology: the study of earth's physical structures and their changes
  • Natural Resource Conservation: the technical assistance to protect natural resources including wildlife and forests
  • Physics: the study concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy
  • Zoology: the study of the animal kingdom

Technology Degrees:

  • Computer Science: builds the foundation for software engineering and developers
  • Database Administration: the process of using software to store and organize data
  • Environmental Control Technology: the theoretical and technical framework for HVAC
  • Industrial Production Technologies: the technical support used by engineers to use and develop industrial polymers
  • Information Technology (IT): the study of systems in relation to computers and telecommunications
  • Cybersecurity: the securing of information, particularly as it exists regarding data/cyber information
  • Mechanical Drafting Technologies: the creation of technically sound blueprints
  • Network Management: the administration and maintenance of computer networks
  • Web Development: the process of advancing web presence, including web design, content and configuration

Engineering and Computer Science Degrees:

  • Aerospace Engineering: the creation of aircraft and spacecraft
  • Bioengineering: the application of engineering coupled with biology and medicine
  • Chemical Engineering: the development of the transformation and transportation of chemical materials
  • Civil Engineering: the creation of systems in the public and private sectors
  • Electrical Engineering: the development of electrical systems
  • Environmental Engineering: product creation intended to improve the environment
  • Industrial Engineering: the optimization of complex processes and systems
  • Mechanical Engineering: production of powered machinery
  • Nuclear Engineering: research and development of nuclear energy

Arts and Sciences Degrees:

  • Business Writing: the process of writing that evokes a response
  • Rhetoric/Composition: the study of writing

Mathematics Degrees:

  • Accounting: the study of economic entities
  • Algebra: the study of mathematical symbols and symbol manipulation
  • Applied Mathematics: the study of the combination of mathematics and specific knowledge
  • Calculus: the study of properties, derivatives and integrals
  • Finance: a study of the allocation of assets and liabilities
  • Functional Analysis: the analysis of techniques and strategies
  • Geometry: the study of shapes, sizes and relative position/space
  • Probability and Statistics: the study of chance based on data
  • Topology: the study of geometric properties as well as spatial relations

STEM and STEAM Careers

The growth of STEM and STEAM careers is a trend that has increased tremendously over the years. According the Pew Research Center study mentioned above, the U.S. has shifted to an information-based economy and the growth of employment in STEM/STEAM is notably outpacing the growth of overall employment.

Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the mean wages of STEM workers were nearly double those of non-STEM workers. There is a surplus of STEM and STEAM careers available with varying skills, pay and requirements associated accordingly.

Science:

  • Astronomer:
    • Average Salary: $111,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Environmental Scientist:
    • Average Salary: $78,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Material Scientist:
    • Average Salary: $102,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Natural Sciences Manager:
    • Average Salary: $140,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Neuroscientist:
    • Average Salary: $73,000/yr
    • Schooling: PhD

Technology:

  • Computer Network Architect:
    • Average Salary: $105,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Computer Systems Analyst:
    • Average Salary: $88,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Database Administrator:
    • Average Salary: $87,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Information Technology (IT) Manager:
    • Average Salary: $139,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Web Developer:
    • Average Salary: $68,000/yr
    • Schooling: Associate's

Engineering:

  • Biomedical Engineer:
    • Average Salary: $88,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Civil Engineer:
    • Average Salary: $85,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Environmental Engineering Tech:
    • Average Salary: $87,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Mechanical Engineer:
    • Average Salary: $86,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Petroleum Engineer:
    • Average Salary: $132,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's

Art:

  • Art Director:
    • Average Salary: $72,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Creative Director:
    • Average Salary: $96,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Design Manager:
    • Average Salary: $85,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Production Artist:
    • Average Salary: $52,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • 3D Artist:
    • Average Salary: $67,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's

Math:

  • Accountant:
    • Average Salary: $75,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Actuary:
    • Average Salary: $111,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Economist:
    • Average Salary: $109,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Operations Research Analyst:
    • Average Salary: $84,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's
  • Statistician:
    • Average Salary: $84,000/yr
    • Schooling: Bachelor's

The Representation Gap in STEM and STEAM

STEM and STEAM programs leave a large representation gap in terms of diversity. A study done by the National Science Foundation breaks down the representation gap in STEM/STEAM statistically as such:

  • White men = 49% of the industry
  • White women = 18% of the industry
  • Asian men = 4% of the industry
  • Asian women = 7% of the industry
  • Black men = 3% of the industry
  • Black women = 2% of the industry
  • Hispanic men = 4% of the industry
  • Hispanic women = 2% of the industry

The study goes on to explain that there is a large gap in STEM/STEAM employment for individuals with disabilities as well. Individuals with disabilities are employed, but at a much lower rate than individuals without disabilities. This is also true for LGBTQ individuals.

Lead researcher Bryce Hughes from Montana State University formed a study that shows the retention rate of students in STEM/STEAM programs. He observed 4,162 students across 78 different schools who were pursuing STEM/STEAM majors. He found that 3,844 students identified as heterosexual, while only 318 students did not. As those students ended their senior year, Hughes observed that 71.1% of heterosexual students remained in their STEM/STEAM major, while only 63.8% of LGBTQ students remained in theirs.

This lack of diversity in STEM/STEAM is an issue because, according to an article by Katherine W. Phillips, “being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.” More diversity offers alternative viewpoints, and alternative viewpoints help eliminate biases that are unknowingly ingrained in the industry.

The disparities in the representation gap can be broken down even further in regard to females earning degrees in STEM/STEAM. A study done by Catalyst shows that aside from degrees in the life sciences, women are earning STEM degrees far less often than males. The percentages of degrees earned by women in the United States are broken down as follows:

Biological/Biomedical Sciences

  • Bachelor’s Degree - 59.9%
  • Master’s Degree - 57.3%
  • PhD - 53%

Mathematics and Statistics

  • Bachelor’s Degree - 42.5%
  • Master’s Degree - 41.7%
  • PhD - 28.5%

Physical Sciences and Science Technologies

  • Bachelor’s Degree - 38.8%
  • Master’s Degree - 37.8%
  • PhD - 32.2%

Engineering and Engineering Technologies

  • Bachelor’s Degree - 19.7%
  • Master’s Degree - 25.2%
  • PhD - 23.5%

Computer and Informational Sciences/Support Services

  • Bachelor’s Degree - 18.7%
  • Master’s Degree - 30.8%
  • PhD - 20.1%

All STEM/STEAM Fields

  • Bachelor’s Degree - 35.5%
  • Master’s Degree - 32.6%
  • PhD - 33.7%

Women of color in the United States make up an even smaller margin of individuals pursuing/obtaining STEM degrees. This is true across all STEM/STEAM fields and follows as such:

  • Asian Women = 5%
  • Black Women = 2.9%
  • Latinas = 3.8%

The Disparity in STEM and STEAM Representation

In 2010, the American Association of University Women reported on why there is such a lack of diversity in STEM and STEAM fields. Notably, negative stereotype threats can affect performance. This can arise from notions that women are less able to perform tasks than their male counterparts, and also from being in a male-dominated industry. These negative stereotypes can not only affect individuals who are actively in STEM/STEAM careers, but also discourage individuals from aspiring to enter the field as a whole. This remains true for all underrepresented minorities, not just women.

Another reason for the lack of diversity in STEM/STEAM is unconscious, implicit biases. According to the same article, although many individuals claim to invalidate stereotypes, people can still hold those beliefs subliminally. This claim is understood through gender-science association information gathered by Project Implicit, beginning in 1988. From 1988 to 2010, over half a million people took the gender-science implicit association test. The study found that more than 70% of the test takers associate men with sciences and females with arts. While many claim that stereotypes and gender biases are past issues, women (of any race, orientation or level of disability) face significant barriers based on their gender.

According to an article from The New York Times, in the continually growing STEM/STEAM industry, the representation of women is declining, and the representation of minorities has shown very minimal growth. This is attributable to:

  • Lower Expectations: As stated above, there are stereotypes that perpetrate the belief that specific demographics are better or worse in a particular field of study.
  • Teaching Methods: Conventional teaching methods often neglect to make science and math practical and hands-on. Women have shown improvements when the link between curricula and the real world is understood.
  • Fewer Role Models: For all types of demographics, academic support (as well as social support) is crucial. Active role models can help shape individuals to believe they can achieve higher.

Interestingly enough, a Pew Research Center study shows that the American public not only places a high level of importance on gender diversity, but also racial and ethnic diversity. The study defends this claim through statistics such as:

  • 53% of Americans believe that racial and ethnic diversity is extremely/very important.
  • 27% of Americans believe that racial and ethnic diversity is somewhat important.
  • 18% of Americans believe that racial and ethnic diversity is not too important, or not at all important.
  • 45% of Americans believe that increasing racial and ethnic diversity will contribute to other perspectives that result in overall success.

Inclusive Strategies and Resources for STEM and STEAM

There are many strategies and resources for STEM/STEAM program integration for girls, minorities, individuals with disabilities and any other underrepresented demographics. Strategies can be implemented on multiple levels such as:

Student Implementation:

  • Celebrating underrepresented student achievements in math and science
  • Helping other underrepresented students recognize career-relevant skills
  • Encouraging underrepresented peers to takes STEM/STEAM-related courses
  • Diminishing stereotypes and biases by going against the grain
  • Iterating that trends don’t determine who is successful; skills are acquired through hard work

Faculty Implementation:

  • Creating department reviews that assess the climate for underrepresented faculty
  • Creating course reviews that assess the climate for underrepresented students
  • Providing support groups or mentors for underrepresented students and faculty for open discussions about issues they are facing
  • Discussing and enforcing Title IX and Title VII throughout curricula

Women and Girls

There are a variety of resources available specifically to women and girls, including:

STEM/STEAM scholarships for women:

Organizations that support STEM education and employment:

Specific job boards for women:

Minorities

There are a variety of resources available specifically to minorities, including:

STEM/STEAM scholarships for minorities:

An organization that encourages the employment of minorities:

Minority-specific job boards:

People with Disabilities

There are a variety of resources available specifically to people with disabilities, including:

STEM/STEAM scholarships for people with disabilities:

Organizations that support the education and employment of people with disabilities:

Disability-specific job boards:

LGBTQ

There are a variety of resources available specifically to LGBTQ individuals, including:

STEM/STEAM scholarships for LGBTQ people:

Organizations that encourage the employment of LGBTQ people:

LGBTQ-specific job boards:

Inclusive Strategies and Resources for STEM and STEAM by Age

There is a number of age-specific STEM and STEAM strategies and resources available to young people. By introducing students to STEM/STEAM at a young age and urging them to continue studying those topics into the future, we can lessen the disparities in STEM/STEAM representation.

Elementary School

Starting STEM and STEAM promotion as early as possible is crucial. There are a variety of programs designed to teach and encourage elementary-aged children about the importance of STEM and STEAM programs, such as:

Middle School/Junior High

There are a variety of programs available to support STEM/STEAM exposure in middle school and junior high school, such as:

High School

High School is an important time to encourage STEM/STEAM programs because it’s the last stretch of education before a student heads off to secondary education where they must choose their field of study. There are a variety of STEM/STEAM resources and opportunities available for high school students, including:

  • Tech camp
  • Guest speakers
  • Field trips
  • Internships

Scholarships and Higher Education

A STEM/STEAM degree is not an easy venture, so it’s essential that students have access to resources that can help them finish their degree programs. Some of these include:

General Resources

There is an array of general resources available to anyone and everyone interested in STEM/STEAM. These include:

Grants:

High-Level Resources:

Another way to support STEM/STEAM education is by asking businesses to donate materials. For example, some companies have donated Ozobots — robots that use colored pencils to teach children about coding — to local elementary schools.

Emphasizing STEM and STEAM education through all stages of development is imperative to helping close the diversity gap in these programs. Creating an inclusive culture in the STEM/STEAM field will benefit the future of technology and innovation.