If you’ve ever wondered about how the United States will compete in a global 21st Century economy driven by advanced technology, the answer is by preparing our nation’s young people for a STEM education at the college level.
The liberals arts are fun, I’m human, I get it. But there is one thing that separates an Art History major from a Civil Engineering or a Pre-Med major – practicality in the real world. The real-world skills that a student learns when taking up a STEM major are both essential for steady job placement and rewarding down the road in your career. Yes, at times being a STEM major is difficult and stressful, but anything in life worth having takes hard work and dedication. Here are 15 reasons why you should become a STEM major tomorrow. Not next semester, not next year, but TOMORROW!
STEM majors earn the highest salaries
Money isn’t everything. But there’s no denying that every single credible source that tracks career salaries list STEM related fields at the top of their lists. Take Forbes, BusinessInsider, CBSNews, and USNews for example. While there are certainly plenty of anecdotal examples of Art History, Anthropology, and Sociology majors “hitting it big” in their respected fields, the likelihood of the average liberal arts graduate earning more (salary wise) than a STEM major is unlikely to occur.
STEM unemployment is virtually non-existent
While the current national unemployment rate hovers around 5% depending on what sources you consider accurate and whether or not you are accounting for individuals who have stopped actively looking for work, STEM unemployment is virtually non-existent. The truth is, in the 21st Century, the U.S. economy needs as many highly skilled workers in science, technology, engineering, and math as it can get. Wages for STEM related occupations have risen in recent years, a clear indication of a shortage of workers. When was the last time you’ve heard of a shortage of liberal arts majors? In addition, we’ve been hearing in the media time and time again, the CEO’s of some of the biggest U.S. tech companies, (Google, Facebook, Microsoft) requesting more H-1B visas to attract as much hard-working foreign talent in the STEM areas as possible.
Unlike the 20th Century economy which was based off of industrial machines and natural resources, the 21st Century is a knowledge economy
As noted in a Washington Post opt-ed, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says:
Today’s economy is very different. It is based primarily on knowledge and ideas — resources that are renewable and available to everyone. Unlike oil fields, someone else knowing something doesn’t prevent you from knowing it, too. In fact, the more people who know something, the better educated and trained we all are, the more productive we become, and the better off everyone in our nation can be
Zuckerberg is right. Today’s emerging economy is certainly centered around new ideas and individuals having access to unlimited resources via the web. Entrepreneurs who start companies here in the U.S. will create more jobs which in turn provides opportunity for others which may have never exited before.
Education is evolving at all levels
Education even at its earliest stages, is slowly but surely becoming more technology based than ever before. Who would have thought elementary school children would be masters of all things Apple? That school committees would be voting on providing iPads and laptops for all their students? Knowing Microsoft Office inside and out is no longer résumé worthy. Coding courses are being implemented at middle and high schools across the country to better students for the future demands of the 21st Century. Those who refuse to take-up the minimal demands of the 21st Century will soon be left out.
STEM provides flexibility
Unlike a Religious Studies student who is limited to a very few set of options as to what their degree can do for them after graduation, STEM majors have virtually an unlimited number of routes available to them thanks to cross-marketability skill sets. Lets take Biological Sciences for example. Once you complete a degree in Biological Sciences, your degree qualifies you to work in a research lab, get your foot in the door at a pharmaceutical company such as Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline, provides you with the knowledge necessary to the MCAT for medical, veterinary and podiatry school, the DAT for dental school, the PCAT for pharmacy school, and the OAT for optometry school. Not feeling any of these options? The biological science degree also provides you with the qualifications to up a career in education at the primary and secondary level.
Basic skills will never go obsolete
It’s true that science and technology are ever progressing, but the basics will never change. Because STEM majors are constantly coding, solving critical thinking problems, complex math problems, analyzing data, writing research papers, and using lab equipment, they will be more adapt to changes down the road than others with little to no experience at all.
Smaller and more focused classes
What’s more boring than sitting in a 300 person lecture hall when you can barely hear your professor? It is proven that the larger class sizes are, the more likely students are to get distracted on their phones and laptops and miss out on important notes and information. STEM classes tend to be smaller classes, which allow for more one-on-one time with TA’s and professors. This provides an excellent opportunity to ask questions, seek answers, and make good impressions with professionals you will likely need a recommendation from later in your professional career!
Classroom and career diversity
With all of today’s talk about women making 77% of what their male counterparts make, females who enter STEM fields see little to no pay gap for similar work when compared to their male co-workers. On top of that, recent studies show that STEM classes and careers are of the most ethnically diverse learning environments and career paths in the United States today. With that being said, it all begins in the classroom. If you are actively seeking a diverse learning environment in an academic setting, STEM classes are that perfect fit.
You have the best tutors at your fingertips
The web has provided us with an unlimited amount of free resources at our fingertips. Some extremely useful tutoring platforms for STEM majors are KhanAcademy and BozemanScience. Both of these YouTube platforms provide everything you will ever need from general and organic chemistry lessons to kinematics and projectile motion. Salman Khan and Paul Anderson are seasoned professionals who know the topics they are talking about inside and out. While Khan holds degrees in mathematics, electrical engineering, and computer science from MIT, Paul Anderson of BozemanScience has over twenty years of teaching under his belt and serves on the Montana Board of Public Education.
You have an opportunity in front of you that many others don’t
You’ve graduated high school and made it to college – Whether you realize it or not, you’ve made it far. Although you might take it for granted, you have an opportunity in front of you to pursue anything you desire through determination and the right mindset. At thing point, nobody can tell you no. With that being said, STEM outreach programs have certainly come a long way in recent years to ensure stereotypes don’t hinder women and minorities who wish to enter STEM fields. Believe it or not, many students in urban communities do not have access to the necessary tools to prepare them for a STEM education. These communities lack basic prerequisite classes needed to enter accredited engineering and applied science programs holding them back from this opportunity.
Relevance to everyday life
As mentioned previously, the bridge between technology and education is closing in at a fast rate. We are living in an information-based and highly technical society that values those individuals with relevant skill sets. Expertise in STEM fields promotes inventiveness, discovery, and critical thinking – key components to improving the everyday problems we face as a society. It is through STEM that we understand the world around us and can improve our well-being.
Ticket to the middle and upper class
For many of us, the American dream means achieving upward social mobility for our family and loved ones despite where we came from. Unlike liberal arts majors, finance, and marketing majors where it works to your advantage to be learning at an elite institution, STEM nurtures the same approach to lessons regardless of what institution you choose to reside at. Organic chemistry is organic chemistry. What this means is, regardless of what institution you learn it at, the same fundamentals apply. Interestingly enough, many of the biology, chemistry, and physics labs taken at ivy league institutions follow the exact same rubrics and procedures as those labs at lesser elite institutions.
It’s 2015, not 1965
Technology has made liberal arts majors such as German studies, Communications, and Women’s studies irrelevant to pay money to pursue. College is extremely expensive, and students need to absorb as much as they possibly can for the price they are paying each year to attend college. Why are so many liberal arts majors irrelevant to pay money to pursue? Take some recent innovations: Language translator engines embedded into our mobile devices, Google translate, and Skype. Using just these three innovations, companies can video chat with German-speaking clients from across the world instantly. What exactly does one learn in Communications class?
Society hasn’t defined the ceiling for STEM
This might be the most important reason on the list for becoming a STEM major. The true beauty of pursing a science, technology, engineering, or math degree, is that society has not defined the impact it will have in the future. Why? Because it’s ours to decide. We the creators of tomorrow. We will determine the future and what role STEM has to play in it. Unlike liberal arts majors like German studies, Communication, and Women’s studies where the endgame is in decade old textbooks, STEM is relevant and constantly evolving.
You will find you passion sooner than later
STEM isn’t for everyone. But what better way to find out than by giving it a shot? I’ll never forget the story of a former classmate who was so fixated on his music major path until junior year rolled around and a revelation led to packing on enough science classes semester after semester into the summer months and ultimately leading to an uphill battle into medical school. As mentioned earlier, the liberal arts are fun. Those who choose that route are guaranteed to enjoy the coursework that comes with it. But when reality hits, it might be in a liberal arts majors best interest to at least give STEM a try, before it’s too late.