STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers increasingly prove themselves to be the way of the future, and many of these are highly specialized jobs that pay well.
STEM careers are among the most stable and sought after professions around. Here we’ll share some of the most future proof jobs, and why STEM jobs are in demand.
There’s more to a great job than just a high salary (though a job that pays well certainly helps.) Across the world, one thing looming in the minds of many workers and job seekers today is job security.
According to one source, the top ten future proof jobs are heavy toward the math and technology fields. One of those top ten, a Computer Information Research Scientist, represents a combination of skills from all four STEM fields.
It takes work to establish oneself into a specific type of field, particularly those pursuing specialized career tracks. STEM career choices have become increasingly popular in the last decade. Many of them have been establishing themselves as solidly future proof (i.e. not likely to disappear anytime soon).
STEM careers have a wide range of specialties, meaning that people with many different skill sets are potentially compatible with various STEM career paths. This is promising not only for the college students looking ahead, but also for those searching for a new profession. There are many STEM-related careers to choose from, and job projections for each one will be covered later in this article.
Future Proof STEM Careers and Job Projections
There are hundreds of occupations in the STEM field, with hundreds of thousands of positions available at any given time. In today’s marketplace, with a high demand for science and technology, that number is constantly increasing.
Similarly, the STEM fields themselves are also continuously changing and evolving over time. There is an ongoing need to adapt to new technologies, social change, climate change, and other global issues.
Following is a table compiled with the top STEM careers that are virtually future proof based on salary and job projections through 2026.
|STEM Career||Job Projection (Expected Increase)||% Increase||Median Salary|
|Software Developer||+302,500||> 20||$103,560|
|Computer Support Specialist||+88,500||> 10||$52,810|
|IT Manager||+44,200||> 15||$139,220|
|Financial Analyst||+32,200||> 10||$84,300|
|Civil Engineer||+32,200||> 10||$84,770|
|Biochemist (5)**||+3,600||> 7||$91,190|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||+3,200||>11||$122,840|
*Although it appears the number of jobs expected to be added to this field is low in comparison to other careers, when looking at the % increase it is clear they offer just as much, if not more, job security.
**When looking into biochemistry, although the projection for job growth is relatively low in consideration of the other career pathways, the job security is actually quite high for those that do enter this occupation. With an aging population worldwide, breakthroughs in healthcare are important now more than ever – meaning the biochemists behind those breakthroughs are indispensable.
Keeping in mind that even 7% job growth is faster than average, it is clear that all of these jobs are quite future proof. Additionally, many pat well cat an above-average wage.
This means you not only have job security, but also the ability to support a family with peace of mind.
Note: this is by no means a complete list of STEM jobs, it is merely a compilation of STEM careers with high percentages of projected growth and job security.
Other Potentially Future proof STEM Careers
While it could be argued that pretty much all STEM jobs are future proof, there is not enough evidence to support that yet.
However, there are a few STEM careers not listed in the previous table that have the potential for steady growth in the future – although the growth seen right now is minimal. These include careers in occupations such as:
- Environmental Engineering (median annual salary: $86,800)
- Forensic Science Technician (median annual salary: $57,850)
- Geoscience (median annual salary: $89,850)
- Postsecondary Engineering Education (median annual salary: $98,360)
In the future, there may be more STEM jobs (and maybe even some brand new occupations!), so stay on the lookout for exciting new prospects. One Canadian study estimates 65% of current elementary school students will grow up to work in jobs that don’t exist today. Think of all the jobs today that didn’t exist a decade ago.
Job Descriptions of Top STEM Careers
With so many STEM careers to choose from, and so many different niches, searching for just the right fit can become somewhat overwhelming for many individuals.
The following table was prepared with the purpose of providing you with information on each of the listed STEM career fields from the previous table:
|Software Developer||Applications: Develop, change, and adjust computer applications in addition to troubleshooting consumer needs. Systems Software: Research, develop, design & test systems software for a variety of platforms and organizations.||Computer Science, Engineering|
|Cost Estimator||Create cost estimates for specialized or non-specialized services, including product manufacturing. Will work with engineers, architects, etc. to make adjustments to cost estimates.||Engineering|
|Accountant||Utilize a variety of software to analyze and prepare financial reports for clients/organizations. Very detail oriented.||Computer Science|
|Computer Support Specialist||Answer inquiries from computer users, run diagnostic programs to identify and resolve issues; may write training manuals or provide training to users.||Computer Science|
|IT Manager||Responsible for determining IT needs of organizations and implementing plans/solutions for those needs. Coordinate & lead computer-related activities within an organization. Troubleshoot hardware & software issues.||Computer Science|
|Financial Analyst||Apply mathematical/statistical methods to fix issues in finance, develop products used to inform the public/companies on financial matters.||Computer Science, Mathematics|
|Civil Engineer||Plan, design, and oversee construction/maintenance of infrastructures within responsibilities of a civil engineer. Provide technical advice in respect to the designs, construction, etc. of infrastructure.||Engineering|
|Statistician||Develop/apply mathematical or statistical theories in order to collect and produce usable material, including identifying data trends and research results.||Life Sciences, Mathematics|
|Biochemist||Study composition of living cells & organisms, develop new methods in studying the mechanisms of biological processes, and share research findings.||Chemistry, Life Sciences|
|Mathematician||Apply mathematical theories and techniques to practical problems in a variety of settings, develop models to be used for analysis/computational simulation, conduct research into fundamentals of mathematics.||Mathematics|
Did you notice the number of careers in the computer sciences?
Because of the rapidly advancing pace of technology, the career markets are also having to quickly adapt to integral shifts in societal structure.
More and more of life is shifting online, from schools (especially amid the pandemic), healthcare, and remote work. Someone has to design, build, and support all of that infrastructure!
The good news is that this has opened a lot of expansion of STEM jobs in the market. As was mentioned in the first table, many of these careers have a far greater than average expected growth. Job security has risen tremendously in all of these STEM fields, not just computer sciences.
How to Know if a STEM Career is Right for You
It is almost a given that you will struggle to find what you want to do in life. Most of us do. (Hey, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.) So it’s only natural for you to question whether a STEM career is right for you.
First, if you have an interest in science, technology, engineering, or math (or a combination of them), there’s a good chance a STEM field is right for you. (We can add the Arts and extend this into STEAM as well.)
If you already know you want to pursue a STEM career, congratulations!
But you can still benefit from this section, unless you already think you know exactly what section of STEM you intend to pursue.
What is STEM About?
STEM is an acronym that showcases an initiative among educators to enable and encourage young people in developing skills across multiple disciplines, to think deeply, and to eventually become the innovators, educators, etc. of the future.
STEM quit simply stands for the following fields:
What Are STEAM and STREAM About?
Even more recently, some adaptation of the original STEM acronym sought to incorporate “art” and have come up with the acronym you may somewhat less familiar with: STEAM. Or even more recently: STREAM. STREAM incorporates the “reading” or “research”, as well as “art” into the acronym for a more well-rounded approach.
While these definitely have an important purpose and place, for the intents and purposes of this article, we’ll stick to the basic STEM fields.
Related Post: The difference between STEM and STEAM
STEM Broken Down
Broken down into parts, the acronym STEM looks like this:
This is nothing new. You’re probably familiar with many of its subcomponents: biology, chemistry, astronomy, earth sciences, physics – you name it. Science comes in many forms, and many of fields within itself:
- Botany –
- Specializes in studying plants
- Ethology –
- Study of animal behaviors & patterns
- Marine biology –
- Specializes in ocean life (animals & plants)
- Paleontology –
- Specializes in fossils
- Physics –
- Study of energy, matter, and their relationship to one another
- Biochemistry –
- Study of chemical and physical properties of living things as well as biological processes in order to develop new medicines to fight disease.
You use this every day. Your coffee maker is a piece of technology could be considered one of the finest technological advances since sliced bread.
Many things taken for granted by much of society fall into this category, but we are oh so familiar with them:
- Computers (laptops, desktops, tablets),
- A/C, and so many more!
Technologists have a key role in determining what can be and needs to be improved upon within their industry. They find creative ways to incorporate new technology, resolve problems. In almost every industry, you will find a technologist working behind the scenes, from medical to engineering.
They could also be dubbed innovators, or more aptly:
They are incredibly adaptive, flexible individuals that are ahead of the game, taking principles of science and mathematics to form solutions to complex problems.
Engineering was around long before the technological advances of today – and is a huge reason as to why many of today’s technologies actually exist. Cell phones? Computers? Automobiles? Everything you can think of probably involved an engineer for at least a portion of the process, if not more.
Here are some examples of engineering occupations out there (keep in mind there are many more):
- Mechanical Engineering –
- Involves the design of mechanical systems that assist industries like aeronautics, nuclear power production, nanotechnology, etc.
- Architectural Engineering –
- Work in the construction, planning & design phases of projections to build the structure of builds & interior design from heating and cooling, to ventilation, lighting, etc. The reason we’ve been able to build buildings of increasing height, shapes, and angles is thanks to the ingenuity of a (or a team of) engineer(s).
- Environmental Engineering –
- Involves the study of science & engineering with the intent of improving the surrounding environment from the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we consume. If we’ve ever needed environmental engineers, now is the time.
- Computer Engineering –
- This would predominately be considered IT, involving computer sciences and electrical engineering.
- Chemical Engineering –
- The practical application of chemistry; utilizes chemical reactions to solve problems in cosmetics, foods, pharmaceuticals, beverages, etc.
Although in and of itself, mathematics can stand alone just fine, but it is also a necessary add-in for each of the other disciplines. Simply put, math is a critical life skill.
Some careers you may find that are highly mathematical are:
- Mathematician –
- Analyzes data and applies mathematical and statistical techniques in order to solve real-world problems. Often work in other fields, such as astronomy.
- Accounting –
- Ensures companies/organizations run efficiently; studies data, finances, budgets, etc. to return or keep the client on track.
- Economics –
- Conducts research to collect & analyze data using mathematical models in order to monitor economic trends and develop forecasts that are useful to anyone from corporation to the federal level.
- Statistician –
- Specializes in statistics: analysis, interpretation & interpretation of statistics and quantitative data collected from surveys, experiments, etc.
- Actuary –
- Similar to an accountant, yet integrally different. They analyze the financial consequences of risk to a business/organization, utilizing mathematics, statistics, and financial theory.
You Don’t Have to Pick Just One STEM Discipline
You might realize, looking at the breakdown of the acronym STEM, it’s really nothing new. These are things that have been in schools and society for a while now. It’s just that that it’s wrapped in a different packaging.
One unique aspect pertaining to STEM careers is that there is a lot of cross-over between the core disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It’s what makes these fields so versatile, flexible, and attractive!
It’s like getting a four-for-one deal!
If you’re good at engineering and enjoy mathematics that’s a great combination! You could try a field like engineering mathematics. Technology and engineering regularly overlap in various ways, as do the other disciplines.
Education: What to Study to Enter STEM Fields
In education today, STEM concepts are introduced very early on.
The hope is that by exposing young children to the many facets of STEM, they will develop greater interest earlier and will strive to develop the necessary skills which will later help them advance their future careers.
Related Post: Why STEM is Important in Early Education
STEM is integrated into classrooms, from early education through university levels. If you’re still in school, there is likely little additional you need to study to prepare you.
Once you have found your desired field of choice, you need to begin devoting more and more of your time and energy to studies that support that field.
Out of School and Want to Switch Careers?
You may already be employed and simply looking to change careers, in which case some of this information may seem irrelevant to you.
If you’re already in a STEM career and looking to switch to a different STEM career, depending on what you switch to, it should be a pretty seamless process. However, you will still likely need to start from the ground up.
On the other hand, if you are not in a STEM career and don’t hold a STEM related degree, it does not automatically mean you must go back to school first.
A STEM degree certainly helps, but it is not absolutely necessary in all cases.
Depending on the position you are looking for, there are companies that allow on-the-job training. They may also pay for your training to help you become further qualified.
Some companies offer reimbursement for continuing education, up to a predefined number of credits per year.
While you will of course start at the entry-level either way, there is ample room for advancement.
STEM Learning Opportunities
In the past, there have been many opportunities for students interested in STEM, regardless of age. These include:
- STEM After-School Programs
- Lights on Afterschool, a project of the Afterschool Alliance, specializes in both offline (i.e. in-person) and remote STEM learning opportunities.
- Summer Camps
- Due to the pandemic, many of these summer camps have shifted to an online format. However, they are still available and worth checking out.
- Various School Clubs and Science Centers
You can find some free coding classes and resources in our post: Free Distance Learning and Online Coding Courses, or check out our post How to Teach Kids to Code (these are also great resources for adults just starting out.)
STEM Volunteer Opportunities
While the internet makes learning easier than ever for the independent learner, older students can also find various STEM immersion opportunities via volunteering. Volunteer opportunities include:
- Community events or projects related to math, finance, engineering, etc.
- Data collection projects
- Youth science camps or after school programs
- Local Libraries or Science Centers
- Tutoring in STEM or STEAM subjects
This is by no means an exhaustive list – there are many more opportunities.
Volunteering isn’t just for kids! If you’re an adult in the STEM field and want to brush up on some new skills, or just have some creative fun, this could be a great way to do it. Consider heading up an after school program, community project, summer camp, etc.
You could be part of the movement that brings STEM to kids all over the nation, and the world.
Why Are STEM Careers Future Proof?
STEM graduates have access to more than double that of non-STEM graduates when It comes to most entry level jobs.
Right now, the job market strongly favors STEM graduates. That should be a pretty strong encouragement for those majoring in STEM fields, regardless of which one.
In short, STEM jobs are the way of the future, and we will only see more this trend as time passes.
As we’ve discussed, an acronym for “science, technology, engineering, and math,” STEM encompasses four specific disciplines that are present in everyday life.
There is a lot of cross over between STEM discipline – so instead of teaching each subject as a separate entity, STEM integrates them all based on real-world education.
Science explains what’s happening in the world around us (the most recent example: the pandemic).
Technology is always growing and integrating into society. It is more rapidly advancing today than in any other point in history!
Engineering helps us design infrastructure, allowing for the rapid expanse of cities. It also lies behind the creation of all the incredible technological innovations.
Mathematics is used in nearly everything we do. Many times we don’t even realize it!
Each discipline is just as important as the other and learning them together creates a well-rounded individual.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, STEM education is important in helping students develop problem-solving and decision-making skills based on evaluating gathered evidence:
Our society is continually evolving into a more and more scientifically and technologically-based environment. STEM has now become integral to its continued development and progress.
STEM education offers real-life situations and provides opportunities for growth. Lessons are interactive and engaging, igniting a passion for STEM even in young students.
Most Lucrative STEM Careers with Highest Projected Growth
The following are a list of careers that pay > $80,000/year with a projected percent increase above 15%:
|STEM Career||Job Projection (Expected Increase)||% Increase||Median Salary|
|Software Developer||+302,500||> 20||$103,560|
|IT Manager||+44,200||> 15||$139,220|
In general, STEM workers make more than average. Although these careers pay much more than the average salary of most men or women in the U.S. as of the beginning of 2020, they also pay more than the average salary of many STEM workers.
Here is a brief comparison of annual salaries of a general worker vs. a STEM worker:
|General Worker Average Annual Salary||STEM Worker Average Annual Salary|
These jobs not only pay well – they’re also incredibly secure.
Future Proofing Your Career
Although there are alternative future proof occupations outside of STEM, it’s always a good idea to be self-aware and find ways to make yourself and your job (current or future) indispensable.
Now is the time to ask yourself if your career is future proof. If not, use the following resources in making sure you’ve equipped yourself to the best of your abilities.
Helpful Tips to Future Proof Your Career
Here are some great tips for future proofing your personal career, regardless of what it currently is. Although not a guarantee, these are recommended for just about anyone who wants to improve their job:
- Be flexible. Trends change quickly, and you should be ready to change and improve with them.
- Stay current with your industry. It’s hard to catch up once you fall behind. Read up on your industry from reputable, trustworthy sources.
- Remain a life-long learner. Learn the newest and most up-to-date technical and specialized skills as they become available. In STEM, this is quite frequently.
- Network! This is important regardless of whether you are employed or not. Keep your resume polished and current and put your best foot forward.
- Think globally – learn new languages and immerse yourself in other cultures. Cultural awareness and diversity are integral in today’s society, and in the future.
Related Post: Love video games and want to make a career in gaming? Check out our post on Careers in esports.
Wrap Up – Top STEM Career List for Future Proof Jobs
Regardless of the occupation you choose or are currently in, be sure to make yourself the most marketable you can be. This means putting in a bit of extra work, but it’s worth it. If you work at it consistently over time, it won’t seem as much of a chore either!
The more you do, the more you’ll want to do:
- Attend trainings,
- Learn the newest skills,
- Follow the latest news regarding your industry – and
- Never stop networking!
On the same note, the longer you work, the larger your network will expand. These contacts will be indispensable if you ever do want to make a career shift.
As we just mentioned, always keep an updated version of your resume on file (just take our word on this – it’s a lot less work if you keep it up to date).
While graduating with a STEM degree will certainly help you get an entry-level job, in the end, any STEM field you choose will likely serve you well.
That said, not all STEM jobs are equal. If you decide STEM is for you, choose one of the future proof occupations mentioned in this article, or do some research of your own and decide what best suits you.
If you’re looking for a job that you can stay in a long time, be sure it’s one you also enjoy and excel in!