Are STEM Degrees Still a Viable Option?
Careers in STEM fields are generally considered the gold standard when choosing a major in college, but there is some talk that emphasis on technology degrees has created an over-saturation of the marketplace, leaving a flood of qualified graduates to fill relatively few vacancies. While this is certainly untrue for careers in the medical and science sectors, where demand remains high, what about careers in computer science and engineering?
This is one field where the technology has moved at such a rapid pace that it’s difficult for modern instructional institutions to keep up with advances. The slant seems to be moving away from the ‘science’ part of the equation, and moving more toward development. In general, students no longer need to have an in-depth knowledge of algorithms, decomposition of problems or how to structure solutions organically.
Though demand remains high for IT professionals in development and in the design and implementation of IT systems, it’s not nearly as high as it once was for programmers, and the current state of computer technology and IT no longer requires a four-year degree in order to have a lucrative career in this field. Many newer IT professionals are graduates of two-year vocational programs or self-taught.
Engineering is one of the more diverse segments of the STEM careers, encompassing elements of information technology, science, and physics. Although this vocational path covers every occupation from agriculture to nuclear development and industries from mining to the aerospace industry, it can be divided up into four major categories, and each encompasses dozens of occupations:
1. Civil engineering
2. Mechanical engineering
3. Electrical engineering
4. Chemical engineering
Civil engineers account for the largest population of professionals entering the field, with 274,000 as of 2014. That’s followed by mechanical engineers, with 264,000. Increases in the demand for engineering professionals are in the double-digits, and that trend is expected to continue well into the first half of this century.
The outlook for those who chose to go into a career in engineering is very positive, According to a recent poll in Forbes magazine, six of the ten highest paid careers are in a branch of engineering. There are two factors that are driving the demand for engineering professionals: the retirement of a large segment of engineers who began their careers two decades or more ago, and a relatively low number of current graduates – this despite media proclamations to the contrary.
Much like science, there is a diversity in the types of occupations in engineering, whether you chose an academic path, go into research and development or work out in the field. The top three growth sectors are:
– Aerospace, which focuses on the design and development of aircraft for civilian or military use.
– Biomedical engineering, which focuses on research and development of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
– Agricultural engineering, which seeks to solve problems related to improving cultivation and production.
Engineering students, like CEO Azmi Mikati from the class of ’94, were able to get in on the ground floor of many exciting developments that shaped the current world we live in. It will be interesting to see the course that the millennials will take in shaping the world of tomorrow. Although the world keeps changing, we will never lose the need for innovative and imaginative professionals who want to improve the human condition and the structures that support it.