Top reasons to study STEM

STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) is everywhere. It’s in your home, your classroom, the businesses you visit and the roads you drive on. Products and services you use every day are shaped by science and technological innovations, from your smartphone to your fridge, ATMs and medicines. If you’re considering studying in these fields, there’s good news ahead: it’s been predicted that 75 per cent of all jobs will require STEM skills over the next decade.

Keen to get started? If you study STEM, you will:

… find a course to suit all interests

Think STEM is just for aspiring scientists, engineers and mathematicians? There are actually hundreds of specialisations, suiting any student who likes asking questions or being challenged. Expect institutions to offer everything from agriculture, astrophysics and ecology to game development, pharmacology and veterinary studies. You’ll find a great range of options within each field too. Considering engineering? Know that aerospace, audio, chemical, civil, electrical, marine, mining and product design are just a selection of the specialisations available. 

If you’re not sure what you’d like to study or want more time to see where STEM can take you, a generalist course such as certificate, diploma or degree in science or engineering is a good option. For example, in a Bachelor of Science you can start by exploring the basics before selecting a major in your second or third year. Double degrees are also worth considering — why not combine science or mathematics with teaching or journalism to boost your career prospects?

If you’re heading into postgraduate study, coursework and research are equally inspiring. Interested in both? You might opt for a coursework degree with a minor thesis.

… be immersed in the latest technological innovations

Studying and working in STEM means learning about the world around you, finding innovative solutions to real-world challenges, and playing a role in some of the country’s major discoveries and developments. Want to work with robots, refine driverless car technology or cure disease? You’ll have these opportunities and more in STEM. And don’t forget — you’ll be taught by professionals who are passionate about their field. They may be researchers, seasoned industry experts or currently making their mark in the workforce.

… learn transferable skills

You’ll learn a range of transferable skills that can be used in just about any occupation or industry, meaning you’ll emerge from your studies as an all-rounder with an impressive résumé. If you’re good with numbers and data, or have strong technical skills, you’ll be suitable for a range of roles. You’ll also boast high-level communication, interpersonal, critical thinking, problem-solving and adaptability skills — attributes that are increasingly important to employers in today’s competitive job market. These are known as ‘soft skills’ or ‘employability skills’.

Although the overall graduate employment rate has slipped in recent years, the transferable skills gained in a STEM course mean that you’ll enjoy strong job prospects into the future. Also keep in mind that some of the strongest employment rates and salaries come from STEM disciplines. The $52,840 average graduate salary — for undergraduates aged under 25 in their first full-time job — compares to $62,102 in engineering and technology, $58,520 in mathematics, and $54,382 in computing and information technology. When it comes to securing full-time employment, the fields with the best prospects tend to be those requiring STEM skills. Check out our ratings section for all the details.

… have access to a range of professional development and mentoring opportunities

The federal and state governments are working hard to increase the STEM workforce, which means that students and graduates are supported by a great range of mentoring, professional development and assistance schemes. Many programs target women entering STEM, with men outnumbering women in most professions (check out Engineers Australia’s Women in Engineering division), as well as the more general Industry Mentoring Network in STEM program for PhD students, CSIRO’s Student Science Bootcamp for secondary students and the Australian Computer Society’s Student Hub for tertiary students. Do some research or chat to your career adviser for more information. 

In addition, there are various scholarships targeting students entering these fields. They may be awarded for academic merit or equity, or for particular student groups (women entering non-traditional fields or those who have experienced educational disadvantage, for example). There are also specialised degrees that combine study with paid work placements, such as Swinburne University’s Bachelor of Information Technology —which sees students benefit from a $40,000 industry-funded, tax-free scholarship and two 20-week work placements with industry partners.