How to Thrive in College Programs Geared to STEM Disciplines Reply

STEM careers count among the hottest and best-paying jobs around. A sampling of salaries for engineers on the Glassdoor website shows that the average salary for people working in this STEM field is just above $76,000 per year. It is salaries like these that make these fields attractive to incoming college students. If you’re entering a STEM-related degree program in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, here are a couple of tips to help you thrive in your new college environment.

Prep Courses

Most STEM fields require a foundation in the sciences and in mathematics. The early years of your education should be spent taking coursework in fields like biology, trigonometry, or geometry, (depending upon the demands of your program). If you aren’t sure which of these prep courses you should take for your major, be sure to talk to your guidance counselor or refer to your college catalog.

Specialized Knowledge

According the University of Illinois at Chicago website, regulations may play a role in how software like mobile apps for the medical field gets developed (or not). There can be issues pertaining to unclear regulations or privacy laws. If you’d like to use your STEM career to go into a specific field such as this, it might also be helpful to take coursework that deals with ethics or law in your future field. This specialized knowledge can help you define a career niche as well as help you make decisions about future internships.

Non-STEM Options

If you’re interested in a STEM career, but aren’t sure if you actually want to work in a STEM job, say as an engineer or a computer programmer, it’s possible to work in positions that support these types of jobs. For example, Ohio University offers a Master in Engineering Management.

This field of study builds on an engineer’s education and adds coursework in project management, communication, and engineering process improvement. This is just an example. Chances are there is a management or support position in your STEM field of interest. When you are looking at your STEM field, think about taking coursework that would support a STEM job. These skills allow you to work in your STEM field, but in a different capacity.

Soft Skills

A lack of STEM skills isn’t the only reason people don’t get jobs post-college. These graduates often lack communication, critical-thinking, or even creative skills. (In other words, they need more soft skills). While it’s important for you to get a solid foundation in math and science, don’t completely overlook classes like speech and debate, creative writing, or even art. Having these skills could mean the difference between getting a job after you graduate or not.

People who pursue STEM degrees position themselves to get good jobs and good incomes once they graduate. If you’ve committed yourself to getting a STEM degree, be sure to take coursework in both basic math and science—as they relate to your field—as well as classes in disciplines that teach you soft skills.

Additionally, if you know you want to work in a STEM field, it’s often helpful to know which one specifically in order to build the skills necessary to work within the regulations of that industry. Finally, remember that not all STEM-field jobs require you to have degrees in engineering or math. You might find a job in a support position. Be sure to take some classes that deal with these positions as well.


About the author: Anica is a professional content and copywriter from San Francisco, California. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

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