Employment in STEM fields is growing at nearly twice the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, meaning those in science, technology, engineering and math careers will be facing a wealth of opportunities even in areas like business, law and medicine.
Students who specialize in these programs will find themselves at an advantage once they graduate from college, says Kristen Wendell, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University.
For Wendell, the skills involved with STEM, such as problem-solving, reasoning and life skills, can empower people to feel more essential in the complex world.
“STEM careers are so innovative these days that high school and college students are learning how to design solutions that will protect the environment or are building medical machines that can generate body tissue and cells,” Wendell says.
Wendell, who currently uses her engineering in education, described a handful of up-and-coming jobs in the STEM fields. Students, she says, can find the perfect career by “thinking about a problem they want to solve and the questions they want to answer.”
Here are her descriptions of the top 10 STEM jobs she sees on the horizon. (Salary estimates are based on sites such as Monster.com and Salary.com.) For more on outlooks for specific STEM jobs, go to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/.
- Engineering Technician: An engineering technician helps an engineer or scientist plan and execute projects. This gives people the opportunity to research, maintain equipment or even create an apparatus that a scientist or engineer can use in the field.
Estimated beginning salary: $54,000.
- Computer Systems Analyst: This is where engineering combines the business and science fields. Computer systems analysts plan and develop computer systems for businesses and scientific institutions. By understanding the needs of both areas, they can design information systems that help organizations and companies run more efficiently.
Estimated beginning salary: $82,000.
- Civil or Environmental Engineer: Civil or environmental engineers focus on resolving and preventing environmental problems such as pollution, global warming and unsustainability. Many environmental engineers research, plan and design solutions that can protect the environment. This is appealing to many different kinds of students and opens the door to so many different areas around the world. Civil engineers also can find jobs planning and supervising the building of roads, bridges, tunnels.
Estimated beginning salary: $75,000.
- Bioengineer: Bioengineers use principles of engineering to develop solutions within the fields of biology, medicine and health care as well as law, business, education and other fields. Bioengineers can also help develop health-related products and develop techniques that can improve the quality of life. Bioengineers often practice molecular, cellular and tissue engineering or create tools that can model the way different organisms work together. As technology advances, new jobs like computer-assisted surgery are more commonly appearing in the workforce.
Estimated beginning salary: $53,000.
- Writer (Technical Writer): When you study engineering — any kind of engineering — that expertise can translate into the writing or journalism field. Because the foundation for STEM fields is based on problem-solving and life skills, engineers can find a comfortable living transforming scientific and technical information into readily understandable language.
Estimated beginning salary: $60,000.
- Aerospace Engineer: Those who are interested in the astronomy field but don’t want to be actual astronomers can support the work of astronomers as aerospace engineers. Aerospace engineers design and develop robotics and flight vehicles, such as aircraft, missiles, spacecraft and satellites, for governmental institutions like NASA, as well as for private space travel companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX. Aerospace engineers of the future will want to pay attention to these private companies as they will be increasingly looking for people to design and develop vehicles and systems for atmospheric and space environments.
Estimated beginning salary: $97,000.
- Educator: Many engineers who are curious about how people learn can earn a doctorate in science education, which will enable them to work as teachers and professors. They will be able to not only work with college-level students, but also with K-12 students and teachers. Education spans several different areas, including hands-on learning, building and design, lectures and research.
Estimated salary: depends on the engineering specialty.
- Mechanical Engineer: This career is for people interested in building devices and power-producing machines, such as elevators and escalators, that make life easier. They also figure out ways to harness energy and use it in more efficient ways and are often employed in the auto industry. They also design and build infrastructure or heating and ventilation services and develop mechanical products that coordinate with the operation and repair of power-using and power-producing machinery.
Estimated beginning salary: $85,000.
- Computer Science Engineer: This field relies heavily on technology, problem-solving and teamwork. Computer scientists write software to make computers do new things or accomplish tasks more efficiently, and can be found in many different fields including health care, entertainment, architecture and game design. They also work in traditional fields, including telecommunications and energy systems.
Estimated beginning salary: $56,000.
- Lawyer: Many people who have backgrounds in engineering are pursuing careers in law, which opens the doors exponentially to a range of opportunities (intellectual property law or patent law). Both law and engineering have many technical aspects, and when you combine them together it can create a pretty successful field.
Estimated beginning salary: $122,000.