What Is a STEM Degree? And What Can You Do With One?

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A STEM degree offers many opportunities to enter a career in one of the hard sciences or advance your current position. Learn more about the opportunities that await you.

[Featured image] A group of STEM degree students study together inside near a staircase.

A STEM degree is a degree in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Occupations in STEM fields are projected to grow by 8 percent by 2029, compared with 3.7 percent for all occupations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. By earning a degree in one of these disciplines, you could enter the workforce prepared for a variety of in-demand and high-paying careers. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers list of 10 top-paid majors among the class of 2020 graduates comprised only STEM fields [2].

Let’s take a closer look at what types of STEM degrees are out there, as well as associated job prospects.

4 types of STEM degrees

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and degrees in STEM can be broken down into these four broad categories. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Science degrees

Science is the study of the material and physical and natural world. Many jobs in the sciences require at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Some of the most common science bachelor’s degrees conferred during the 2018-2019 school year included [3]:

MajorNumber of bachelor’s degrees awarded
Nursing143,232
Biology75,016
Kinesiology and exercise science25,514
Chemistry13,723
Health sciences13,147

These are some of the fastest-growing jobs that generally require a degree in science, along with their projected growth by 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [4]:

  • Environmental science and protection technician: 11 percent

  • Clinical laboratory technologist or technician: 11 percent

  • Exercise physiologist: 13 percent

  • Forest science technician: 16 percent

  • Veterinarian: 17 percent

  • Medical scientist: 17 percent

  • Genetic counselor: 26 percent

  • Epidemiologist: 30 percent

  • Physician assistant: 31 percent

  • Nurse practitioner: 45 percent

Technology degrees 

When we apply science and math to human activity, we get technology, a field with high demand for skilled workers. While not all tech jobs require a degree, many employers seek candidates through college recruiting programs, and some offer tuition reimbursement and opportunity for continuing education. As we rely more and more on technology, job opportunities should continue to expand. 

Some of the most common technology bachelor’s degrees conferred during the 2018-2019 school year included [3]:

MajorNumber of bachelor’s degrees awarded
Computer science30,140
Information technology11,034
Information science8,823
Computer and information systems security4,819

An advantage of technology careers is that some jobs offer the ability to work remotely. If you’re looking for a career that you can do from home, a STEM degree in technology could open up new opportunities. These are some of the fastest-growing jobs that generally require a degree in technology, along with their projected growth by 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [4]:

  • Web developer or digital designer: 13 percent

  • Special effects artist or animator: 16 percent

  • Software developer, quality assurance analyst, or tester: 22 percent

  • Computer and information research scientist: 22 percent

  • Information security analyst: 33 percent

Read more: Computer Science vs. Information Technology: Careers, Degrees, and More

Engineering degrees

If technology is the result of applying science and math to human activity, engineering comprises the methods that get us there—the design, building, and operation of machines, engines, and other structures. Some of the most common engineering bachelor’s degrees conferred during the 2018-2019 school year included [3]:

MajorNumber of bachelor’s degrees awarded
Mechanical engineering36,817
Electrical and electronics engineering17,398
Civil engineering14,518
Chemical engineering11,107
Computer engineering8,882

Generally, you’ll need an engineering degree to be competitive in the field. These are some of the fastest-growing jobs that generally require a degree in engineering, along with their projected growth by 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [4]:

  • Petroleum engineer: 8 percent

  • Materials engineer: 8 percent

  • Civil engineer: 8 percent

  • Aerospace engineer: 8 percent

  • Aerospace engineering and operations technologist or technician: 9 percent

  • Environmental engineering technologist or technician: 8 percent

  • Chemical engineer: 9 percent

  • Technical writer: 12 percent

  • Industrial engineer: 14 percent

Mathematics degrees

If you love mathematics, the science of numbers, quantity, and space, a STEM degree can set you on a path to a rewarding career. Mathematics offers career opportunities in academia and industry in fields ranging from technology to finance. Some of the most common math-related bachelor’s degrees conferred during the 2018-2019 school year included [3]:

MajorNumber of bachelor’s degrees awarded
Mathematics18,116
Econometrics and quantitative economics7,789
Statistics2,938
Applied mathematics2,632

Math skills translate across numerous jobs and industries. By earning a math-related degree, you could potentially build a career in any number of fields that interest you. These are some of the fastest-growing jobs that generally require a degree in math, along with their projected growth by 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [4]:

  • Economist: 13 percent

  • Actuary: 24 percent

  • Postsecondary teacher: 24 percent

  • Operations research analyst: 25 percent

  • Data scientist: 31 percent

  • Mathematician or statistician: 33 percent

Earn your STEM degree

Jobs in STEM are projected to continue growing, along with the demand for skilled candidates to fill positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Explore how earning your STEM degree online from a top university could open up new opportunities in high-growth industries like data science, computer science, and cybersecurity. 

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment Projections for STEM Occupations,  https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-10/why-computer-occupations-are-behind-strong-stem-employment-growth.htm." Accessed April 6, 2022.

2. NACE. “Salaries for College Graduates Climb Even in the Face of the Pandemic, https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/press/salaries-for-college-graduates-climb-even-in-the-face-of-the-pandemic/." Accessed April 6, 2022.

3. ​​NCES. “Digest of Education Statistics, 2020, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_318.30.asp." Accessed April 6, 2022.

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Home : Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/." Accessed April 6, 2022.

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