What are STEM Degrees and Why Should I Study One in 2019?

by Robert S. Balan

Studying a Master’s degree abroad is a unique opportunity to discover new cultures, enjoy top-class education, and test yourself in a multicultural environment.

Did you know that STEM degrees have been growing in popularity and offer lucrative careers? But what is a STEM degree exactly? And why should you apply for a STEM course abroad? We’ll answer these questions and many others below.

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1. What is a STEM degree?

So, what does STEM stand for? STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It includes all the subdisciplines within these fields and STEM graduates are in high demand across various industries.

STEM degrees often have an interdisciplinary, hands-on educational approach and they prepare students for a world which needs more researchers, engineers, computer scientists, and other professionals from the top STEM fields.

STEM students will develop important transferable skills like problem-solving, research and analysis, as well as critical thinking.

2. Why should I study a STEM Master’s degree?

Not convinced if STEM degrees are right for you? Here are the main advantages of studying a STEM programme abroad:

  • STEM offers students the ability to work with the latest technologies and find innovative solutions for real-world problems. 
  • You might find new cures for mysterious diseases. 
  • Learn from people who are passionate about what they do. 
  • Hands-on approach to teaching that guarantees you will be able to apply your knowledge immediately after graduation. 
  • Develop communication skills, adaptability, research and taking initiative.
  • Numerous job opportunities and higher salaries when compared to other disciplines. 

Other benefits will vary depending on each country. In the US, for example, all international graduates have the right to stay there and work for 1 year. This period is called Optional Practical Training (OPT), and you have to get a job in the same field you graduated in. International STEM graduates are allowed to extend this OPT period by 2 years. 

All this shows that the STEM workforce is very important internationally, and the demand for qualified professionals is increasing every year.

3. What are the best universities offering STEM degrees?

Choosing a university or college for a STEM degree depends on tuition fees, living expenses, the country where you’ll study, and other aspects. If the quality of education is the top factor for you, here’s a list with some of the best STEM universities worldwide:

4. What’s the difference between STEM, STEAM, and STREAM?

STEM is a relatively new initiative, which picked up speed in 2009-2010. The United States realised that although STEM fields were the cornerstone of the economy, there weren’t enough STEM graduates when compared to the number of STEM jobs available. This determined them to encourage and support institutions and students willing to focus on STEM studies.

As years passed, new disciplines were added to the original 4, which led to the emergence of concepts like STEAM and STREAM.

  • STEAM includes the same main technical fields of STEM but adds Arts in the mix. This includes subdisciplines like Humanities, Visual Arts, Languages, Design and others. Arts allows students to approach technical problems creatively and find a balance between design and functionality.
  • STREAM takes things one step further, including Reading and Writing. The supporters of this initiative argue that a complete curriculum should include literacy because it encourages critical thinking, self-expression, and creativity.

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5. How popular are STEM degrees, really?

Very! Due to technological advancement, future jobs will require people with skills you can gain during STEM education. For this reason, not only are STEM degrees popular, but they are also supported by governments and other national and international institutions around the world.

STEM degrees in the USA

In the U.S.A, STEM degree programmes were supported through the America COMPETES act (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science), which granted federal investments for science and technology research and development, educational programmes, as well as financial aid for STEM students.

STEM degrees in Europe

In Europe, Schoolnet is a network of 34 Ministries of Education which collaborates with teachers, education institutions, researchers and companies to innovate education and provide better learning experiences for students. STEM is one of Schoolnet’s main focuses, and the organisation supports its development through initiatives like:

  • STEM Alliance - which promotes STEM jobs and the development of graduates with STEM skills
  • Scientix – which shares STEM teaching materials and encourages the collaboration between policymakers, researchers, teachers and other people from the STEM field throughout Europe

6. How much does a STEM degree cost?

Tuition fees for STEM degrees at top universities and colleges can start at 1,000 EUR/year and reach up to 45,000 EUR/year. Luckily, there are many European higher education institutions offering free STEM degree courses.

Check out some of the most popular universities offering free STEM degrees:

7. What STEM scholarships and financial aid are available?

STEM scholarships are offered by universities, national and international institutions, but you can also find financial aid programmes provided by the government, especially in the United States.

While there is no unified online platform where you can search for STEM scholarships worldwide, websites like Stemstudy have all the information and links you need to apply for a scholarship.

If you want to explore scholarships depending on the country where you’ll study, Scholarshipportal is a great place to start.

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8. What are the best STEM careers?

Since the four main STEM fields have so many subdisciplines, a future STEM graduate can choose from a large number of potential STEM jobs. We’ll look at some of the most popular STEM jobs and the average salaries they provide in the US:

  • Biomedical Engineer – you’ll use your knowledge from Healthcare and Engineering to design new software and devices for the Medical industry. Average salary: 76,000 USD/year
  • Computer System Administrator – you’ll be in charge of managing computer networks, operating systems and software, and make sure every computer within your organisation runs smoothly and securely. Average salary: 68,000 USD/year
  • Environmental Engineer – you’ll use your Engineering knowledge to find solutions for environmental problems like global warming, pollution, waste disposal, etc. Average salary: 73,000 USD/year
  • Forensic Science Technician – you will help police departments to collect and analyse evidence which is used during criminal investigations. Average salary: 55,000 USD/year
  • Accountant – you’ll prepare and examine financial reports, verify if they respect the law, ensure taxes are paid on time, and constantly evaluate your business’ financial operations. Average salary: 56,000 USD/year

9. Should I apply for a STEM degree abroad?

Right now, there is a gap between the number of STEM jobs available and the number of graduates in this field. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, until 2026 STEM industries are expected to grow by 13.5%. This data shows how important it is to encourage more people to choose STEM degrees and support them throughout their educational journey, especially knowing that a STEM course involves a lot of effort and understanding complex notions and concepts.

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If you’re determined to make a change in the world and work in the fields which will shape the future of humanity, your journey can start right now with a STEM Master’s degree abroad.

Best of luck and have a great learning experience!

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