It can sometimes feel like the world does nothing but change. New technologies and jobs are being created at a blistering pace, and many of them are now related to STEM. Today, STEM education is all about preparing kids for a digital future and understanding the new world around them. 

Someone seeing the acronym STEM for the first time would understandably be confused about what a part of a plant has to do with the future of their children, but don’t worry because we’re here to help!   

What is STEM?

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is an approach to education that focuses on the hard sciences, develops critical thinking skills, and improves problem-solving abilities. STEM aims to give students the tools they’ll need to succeed in school, work, and hobbies. It’s like a toolbox full of smaller toolsets for designing and making things. Inside a carpenter’s toolbox, you might find sets of drill bits, ratchets and wrenches, chisels, and other useful gadgets. STEM disciplines are like those little toolsets. Each is useful in its own right, but most activities require more than one.

What are the benefits of STEM?

STEM equips kids with competencies that will enable them to overcome personal challenges, pursue careers in technical fields such as software engineering or artificial intelligence, find creative solutions to difficult problems, and understand how the world works. For example, perseverance is important to success in almost any endeavor. 

STEM helps kids learn to stick with difficult tasks and abstract ideas. Math is hard. Coding is too. Kids who push through the frustrations learn that great rewards lie on the other side of big challenges. John F. Kennedy articulated the attitude of STEM professionals in 1962 when he said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Professionals in STEM fields often enjoy complex problems.

Kids who believe in themselves tend to do better in school.

Kids who believe in themselves tend to do better in school. Writing code and seeing it work is satisfying. Building a robot, programming it to execute a task, and watching it happen is thrilling. But while kids are having fun, they’re also building confidence. That confidence is important in test-taking and academic achievement. 

Throughout the STEM curriculum, students have opportunities to use and get comfortable with technology. Computers, peripherals, sensors, and other instruments are important items in many STEM classrooms and education programs.

What are STEM skills?

Skills gained from STEM education include:

Science is a body of knowledge and a method of inquiry. It’s about asking the right questions and finding accurate answers. The basic science classes taught in school prepare STEM students to explore biology, chemistry, and physics. Often, collaborative projects are involved, so kids need to be able to work together. Science classes introduce the thrill of experimentation and discovery to individual students as well as teams. And because modern-day scientists use computers and technology in much of their work, science classes frequently incorporate these tools. 

To turn ideas into real things, people use various forms of technology. 3D printers, CNC machines, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few of the implements that enable creators to transform imagination into reality. Kids in STEM learn about these tools and how to use them. 

Engineering is about designing, testing, and building. These skills are part of the STEM curriculum and sometimes require software or other tools. Kids may learn to use CAD/CAM software to design a part, analyze its physical properties, and generate the code required to actually make it on a 3D printer or CNC machine.

Math skills for STEM include everything from basic arithmetic to calculus. Students may need to do some manual calculations, but they should also know how to use powerful tools like Python’s built-in math libraries. Probability, graphing, linear algebra, and other tasks are fast and accurate with the right tools. Students in STEM may learn about these tools much earlier than their peers.

What is STEM, Boy VR Headset in Class

How can I improve my STEM skills?

There are many educational and fun ways to improve problem-solving, math, and coding skills. 

STEM kits let kids explore electronics, robotics, programming. Arduino, SparkFun, and other companies make small, programmable computers that can hook up to sensors, motors, lights, speakers, and other gadgets. Online classes are convenient and affordable ways to explore a variety of STEM subjects. Clubs and competitions can build teamwork and STEM skills. Books are great resources. 

Some online and in-person classes combine multiple STEM fields, such as computer science, programming, and math. Multi-discipline, project-based courses can make learning fun. Live, instructor-led courses like those from CodeWizardsHQ give kids personal attention that can keep them in sync with their peers. 

Examples of STEM careers

Top STEM jobs in 2020

Great STEM careers exist in many seemingly disparate fields, such as computer programming, medicine, and statistics. And jobs in these areas tend to pay quite well. According to U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the 30 best STEM careers in 2020, eight of the top 10 STEM jobs come with annual salaries above $100,000. The number one position on the list is Software Developer, with an average yearly income of $103,000. The list ranks jobs based on salary, unemployment rate, growth, and other factors. Here are the 10 best:

Top 10 STEM Jobs v2

Careers in the hard sciences, like biology, chemistry, neuroscience, and physics, are ideal for many STEM students. Mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, architecture, and industrial design are excellent for people who enjoy designing and building things. Computer science and programming are popular fields for those who appreciate logic and creative problem-solving. 

The Pew Research Center has some interesting data about STEM education. According to Pew, majoring in STEM may pay off even for those who end up working in non-STEM fields. Pew analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau (collected between 2014-2016) and found that workers with a bachelor’s degree in STEM made at least $10,000 more per year than workers with other degrees. This was true for all kinds of jobs, including those outside of STEM fields.

STEM skills can be useful in other careers too, like technical writing … Many trade jobs require a high degree of computer literacy and some familiarity with programming.

STEM skills can be useful in other careers too, like technical writing. A technical writer plans and writes instruction manuals for scientific instruments, lab equipment, machinery, software, and just about any kind of product. To produce helpful instructions, the writer needs to understand how the product works and has to be able to communicate that information in simple terms. Manufacturers, government agencies, software publishers, and social media companies employ technical writers to communicate with their users.

Many trade jobs require a high degree of computer literacy and some familiarity with programming. In the woodworking industry, CNC machines cut, route, and drill the parts that become cabinets and furniture. A skilled woodworker programs and troubleshoots those machines. Success in the woodworking trade now depends, in part, on computer skills. A basic knowledge of programming concepts is also beneficial, and will probably be even more so as automation increases.

STEM is even helpful for some sales professionals. Imagine being a sales representative for a company that manufactures environmental monitoring instruments. Your prospective clients might be scientists or engineers. They’ll expect you to understand enough about what they do to provide them with equipment that meets their needs. That could mean having a solid grasp of basic chemistry, data science, or some other technical subject. 

What is STEM, Boy Coding with Telescope

Is coding a part of STEM?

Coding is one of those skills that can be applied broadly across many different disciplines. While coding is often compared to learning a language, the skills learned in coding are actually more closely related to the STEM subjects.

For instance, the process of debugging code aligns nicely with the scientific method. Coders and scientists both test their hypotheses through experimentation. They observe the results and adjust based on what they see. Math concepts can easily be seen in coding. Things like measuring distances and working with variables are foundational. And many of our technologies and engineering jobs are dependent upon a firm foundation of code. When we look at the concepts that make up STEM, coding is linked with each of them.

Is STEM good for kids?

Some of the most prominent figures in business and technology started tinkering with STEM subjects as kids. When he was just 12 years old, Elon Musk was already so adept at coding he was able to build and sell his first computer game. At the same age, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg created messaging software that enabled the staff in his dad’s dental office to communicate from different parts of the building. Zuckerberg had a private tutor. Musk loved to read. But both were interested in STEM when they were quite young. 

STEM education has myriad benefits for young people. It introduces them to exciting subjects that can lead to lucrative and fulfilling career opportunities. For girls, early exposure to computer science appears to make them more likely to major and work in the field. With companies like Google making efforts to achieve gender parity, opportunities for girls in tech are expanding. 

Kids who study STEM can build the foundation required to pursue degrees in high-paying fields like computer science. Graduates with degrees in this field earn more over their lifetimes than graduates with other degrees.

Why is STEM so important in early childhood education?

Getting into STEM early can be the key to a lifelong interest and a productive career in related disciplines, especially for girls. Women currently represent a smaller percentage of people in STEM careers than men. Women remain underrepresented in engineering (14%), computer (25%) and physical science (39%) occupations (Pew Research Center 2018). But some organizations are trying to change that, and they need qualified candidates with STEM backgrounds to do it. 

STEM teaches kids the skills they need to do well in school, and not just in their STEM classes. Critical thinking is valuable in reading, writing, and other subjects. STEM also gets students interested in constructive hobbies. Many people working in computer science and engineering started out by experimenting with computer programming, ham radio, or electronics as kids. 

What is STEM, Girl holding robot in class

How do I get my child into STEM?

The earlier your child can get into STEM education, the better. There are after school programs for elementary, middle school, and high school kids. Online education is an easy and convenient way to get started. Good programs make learning fun and help kids build skills that apply broadly. For example, CodeWizardsHQ coding classes for elementary students start with the fundamentals of the Scratch programming language. Scratch is a visual language that involves dragging little blocks of code around the screen and connecting them, but the concepts it uses apply to all languages. 

Resources for getting kids into STEM

Opportunities for kids to get into STEM are numerous and span the technological spectrum. The following list includes digital and non-digital ways to get started.

Kids Ages 5 and Under
Kids Ages 6-10
Kids Ages 11-13
Kids Ages 14-18

CodeWizardsHQ classes can get kids started in STEM from home.

Online coding classes provide easy access to STEM education and fun projects that keep kids excited about learning. CodeWizardsHQ students develop coding skills quickly with interesting challenges like building animations and games. Coding classes at CodeWizardsHQ are 12 sessions long and delivered live by expert instructors. Students learn core programming concepts by building increasingly complex projects and progressing through the curriculum. 

Starting with simple games, moving through web development, and taking off into more difficult challenges, elementary students master programming basics. Middle school kids can take classes in Python, a powerful language used for everything from web development to data science. CodeWizardsHQ classes for high school kids dive into deep topics like algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Kids who get into STEM will be prepared for the challenges they’ll face throughout their schooling and later in life. Opportunities to get into science, technology, engineering, and math are abundant. There have never been so many interesting ways to get started. The key is to take that first step. Now is a great time to do it.