According to both the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation, the strength of our nation’s STEM (scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians) workforce is an indicator of a nation’s ability to sustain itself. Maintaining a citizenry that is well populated with STEM workers is a key portion of the public education agenda of the country. Substantial lobbying is underway in Washington, DC to raise awareness of STEM education issues. This includes initiatives for more financial grants, scholarships, and overhauling the public secondary school system. This is the perfect time for those who want to enter these fields to take online college classes as they continue with their current responsibilities. Combining work and study means a smooth transition in advancement.
It’s been keeping online colleges bounding ahead, not only aiding young students to obtain their first Bachelor’s of Science degree, but for seasoned professionals who need to move on to their Masters and Ph.Ds, and just attending online seminars to keep up to date. STEM is a field of perpetual study. It’s also so broad it can use more definition. The best way to start is defining the main categories, i.e. science, engineering, math and tech. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they are:(1) Natural Science Occupations: These scientists and technicians fall broadly into three key subsets: Life scientists, physical scientists and natural scientist technicians. They compose approximately 13% (752,000) of all STEM personnel. Specialists include agricultural and food scientists, biological scientists, conservation, environmentalists and geophysicists, astronomers and medical scientists. The technicians assist scientists in conducting experiments and analyzing the results, providing the backbone of the process.
(2) Engineering: This is the second largest group at 2.2 million (approximately 37%). Almost every product you use is due to some form of engineering. The number of specialties is as broad as the number of people in the field. They include agricultural, biomedical, chemical, civil (the largest category), electrical/electronics and mechanical engineers among others. There are also drafters and technicians, who assist the engineers in designing and then testing the products they help produce.
(3) Technology – The largest group at approximately 2.9 million (almost 50%), these people are the main work force of the field, and the fed primarily reserves this category for those in computer and information tech. These people make computers function. Some workers create new software, others design computer systems, some just work on databases. Others teach people how to use computers and while others keep them running in proper order. It should be noted though this area also does design and development of the machines.
(4) Mathematicians – While the least represented of these groups at barely 57,000 (less than 1%), their impact can be profound. They focus purely on numbers. Mathematicians then are divided into two main subcategories. The first is theoretical, and includes pure mathematicians, operations research analysts and statisticians. Practical mathematicians work on such things as your insurance premiums to setting odds for gambling establishments.
As a group, STEM workers earned about 70 percent more than the average worker in 2005. They also enjoy better than average benefit packages, including insurance, investment/retirement, continuing education and vacation programs. This is due to an extremely strong demand for workers. Depending on the specialty, growth is expected to range anywhere from 10% to 31%.