Why Choose A STEM Subject At University?

The term STEM is increasingly being used more and more frequently, but what is STEM? Why is it so important? And, why should you choose to study a STEM subject at university?

Author: Chloe Hewitt

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More and more people are applying for STEM subjects at universities than ever before.

STEM education creates critical thinkers, improves science literacy levels, and helps create the next generation of innovators.

But what is STEM, and why should you choose to study a STEM subject at university?

What Is STEM?

In 2001, the US National Science Foundation introduced the acronym STEM. Since then, the name has become highly important in education, careers and even politics.

But what does STEM stand for, and why is it important?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in an educational context.

STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives:

S

Science is everywhere in the world around us. 

T

Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives.

E

Engineering is the basic design of roads and bridges and tackles the challenges of changing global weather and environmentally friendly changes to our homes.

M

Mathematics is in every occupation, every activity we do in our lives.

At its core, STEM is a teaching philosophy that integrates all four disciplines together into a single, cross-disciplinary programme that offers real-world applications and teaching methods.

This is important to understand because getting a Mathematics degree does not necessarily mean you completed a STEM programme, even though Mathematics is a STEM subject. Without integrating all four disciplines and using real-world teaching methods, you do not get the educational benefits that make STEM degrees so valuable and careers in STEM so desirable.

Science and Mathematics are particularly important in STEM because Technology and Engineering are dependent on them. If an Architectural Engineering student needed to design a 10-story building, they would first need to understand the underlying mathematical and scientific principles that make a building like this possible.

Given the practical way these subjects are taught in a STEM programme, you may find yourself having a greater understanding of the subjects than you have in the past.

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Why Should You Study STEM At University?

Since 2011, there has been an unprecedented growth in students opting to study a STEM subject. This includes a 400% increase in acceptances for students wishing to study Artificial Intelligence courses at university.

Acceptances into Computer Science courses has risen by almost 50%, from 20,420 in 2011 to 30,090 in 2020, and acceptances to Engineering courses are up 21% from 25,995 in 2011 to 31,545 in 2020.

 Between 2010 and 2020, the number of women accepted into full-time STEM undergraduate courses increased by 49%. In that same 10-year span, the number of UK 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds accepted into full-time undergraduate STEM courses increased by 79%.

This is all driven by an increase in demand from UK 18-year-olds, suggesting the impact early STEM uptake in schools is having on further education.

These statistics suggest that young people are benefiting from increased support in these subjects, with potential barriers to access based on gender, race or class gradually being lifted.

With this in mind, what are the overall benefits of studying a STEM course at university?

Transferable skills

STEM subjects teach you important transferable skills that include critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork. These skills can be applied to different professions and throughout your life. Some of the skills you will learn include:

These skills can be used in just about any occupation or industry, meaning you will emerge from your studies as an all-rounder. If you are good with numbers and data or have strong technical skills, you will be suitable for a range of roles. You will also boast high-level communication, interpersonal, critical thinking, problem-solving and adaptability skills attributes that are increasingly important to employers today.

Employability

As previously mentioned, employers value the transferable skills acquired through a STEM degree, opening doors to jobs within STEM fields once you graduate. You will not be restricted to working within a STEM field. Studying a STEM subject can make you an ideal candidate for roles outside of STEM.

No job is ever 100% secure; however, professionals working in STEM fields are less likely to be unemployed than their non-STEM counterparts because of growing demand. This fact can mitigate hesitation to take out student loans. Most students graduating with STEM degrees find themselves immediately employed.   

What ties all STEM fields together is the focus on solving problems and creating new knowledge, and in that, there is something for everyone. Many current STEM professions did not exist even ten years ago, and ten years from now, there will almost certainly be jobs we have not even thought about.

Demand for STEM graduates

There are more and more job opportunities becoming available for STEM graduates, given the rapid rate at which science and technology are developing. A study by EDF Energy projected that between 2016 and 2023, STEM-related jobs will grow at a rate of more than double any other occupation.

With more focus being placed on topics such as sustainable living, electric cars and AI technology, the job demand in these sectors is set to increase for years to come. As national goals such as the ban of selling petrol and diesel cars by 2030 are set, many industries which involve STEM will continue to grow.

Meaningful change

Studying a STEM subject can lead to a career making meaningful change. If you decide to study Engineering, you might use your skills to develop new ways of accessing clean water. Graduating with a Biomedical Sciences degree might lead to a career in improving the human immune system.

Working in STEM means learning about the world around you, finding innovative solutions to real-world challenges, and playing a role in some of the world’s major discoveries and developments.

Each occupation that falls under the STEM umbrella is pushing our understanding of the world around us (and beyond) and is literally shaping the future.

Whatever STEM role you decide to take, you can be sure this fast-paced, innovation-led industry will give you one of the most satisfying, rewarding careers out there.

What Career Prospects Are There In STEM?

STEM jobs are growing at a faster rate than non-STEM careers, and workers have higher rates of pay than those in other industries.

Going through a STEM programme is intense; it requires a lot of dedication, perseverance, and sacrifice to make it all the way through. As mentioned, this style of education builds the skills and mindsets that employers find incredibly valuable.

STEM degree graduates can move into many different jobs based on what they studied. Notable STEM-related jobs include:

  • Biomedical Scientist – average first-year salary is £24,214 to £30,112
  • Civil Engineer  – average first-year salary is £27,000
  • Data Analyst – average first-year salary is £20,337
  • Dentist – average first-year salary is £33,720
  • Mathematician – average first-year salary is £27,750
  • Physician – average first-year salary is £39,467
  • Psychologist – average first-year salary is £32,306
  • Radiologist – average first-year salary is £28,243 to £32,691
  • Software Developer – average first-year salary is £31,095

You may also find some more niche career paths based on your STEM degree, such as:

  • Ethical Hacker 
  • Fragrance Chemist 
  • Rollercoaster Engineer

Jobs outside of STEM that graduates move into include marketing, communications, human resources and more. You will broaden your choice of employment if you can demonstrate to an employer how the skills you have gained through your STEM degree would make you a good fit for their vacancy.

Research has found that graduates in STEM-related subjects can earn nearly 20% more than their peers. The average salary for someone working in a STEM is just over £26,000 in the UK. Some of the highest-paid roles include engineers and computer scientists, and as billion-pound industries continue to grow, the average salary within these sectors is set to increase.

Job search site Graduate Jobs found that the average graduate salaries in 2021 in five of the top STEM career fields are as follows:

  • Science and Technology (£28,325)
  • Computing and IT (£28,003)
  • Research and Analysis (£27,981)
  • Engineering (£27,952)
  • Internet and Media (£27,917)

Conclusion

If you choose to study a STEM subject at university you will find yourself joining a fast-paced and continuously evolving field that has the potential to take you anywhere.  

The opportunities offered to you are endless and is the overwhelming positive of pursuing STEM. 

You may find yourself in the future in a career you would never have imagined yourself doing – that is the beauty of STEM. 

The right time to start preparing is now. Utilise our Oxbridge Tutors to give yourself the best chances of receiving your dream STEM offer. 

Prepare effectively over the next few months with our expert Oxbridge guidance and structured learning. We help you craft the perfect Personal Statement, achieve a highly competitive Admissions Test score and teach you how to Interview effectively – covering all areas of your Oxbridge application, from History to Medicine.

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