what is stem

STEM education is a teaching approach that combines science, technology, engineering and math. Its recent successor, STEAM, also incorporates the arts, which have the “ability to expand the limits of STEM education and application,” according to Stem Education Guide(opens in new tab). STEAM is designed to encourage discussions and problem-solving among students, developing both practical skills and appreciation for collaborations, according to the Institution for Art Integration and STEAM(opens in new tab).

Rather than teach the five disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEAM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education(opens in new tab) “In an ever-changing, increasingly complex world, it’s more important than ever that our nation’s youth are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions.” 

In 2009, the Obama administration announced the “Educate to Innovate(opens in new tab)” campaign to motivate and inspire students to excel in STEAM subjects. This campaign also addresses the inadequate number of teachers skilled to educate in these subjects. 

The Department of Education now offers a number of STEM-based programs(opens in new tab), including research programs with a STEAM emphasis, STEAM grant selection programs and general programs that support STEAM education.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $141 million in new grants and $437 million to continue existing STEAM projects a breakdown of grants can be seen in their investment report(opens in new tab).  

STEAM education is crucial to meet the needs of a changing world. According to an article from iD Tech(opens in new tab), millions of STEAM jobs remain unfilled in the U.S., therefore efforts to fill this skill gap are of great importance. According to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(opens in new tab) there is a projected growth of STEAM-related occupations of 10.5% between 2020 and 2030 compared to 7.5% in non-STEAM-related occupations. The median wage in 2020 was also higher in STEAM occupations ($89,780) compared to non-STEAM occupations ($40,020).

Between 2014 and 2024, employment in computer occupations is projected to increase by 12.5 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to a STEAM occupation report(opens in new tab). With projected increases in STEAM-related occupations, there needs to be an equal increase in STEAM education efforts to encourage students into these fields otherwise the skill gap will continue to grow. 

STEAM jobs do not all require higher education or even a college degree. Less than half of entry-level STEAM jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to skills gap website Burning Glass Technologies(opens in new tab). However, a four-year degree is incredibly helpful with salary — the average advertised starting salary for entry-level STEAM jobs with a bachelor’s requirement was 26 percent higher than jobs in the non-STEAM fields.. For every job posting for a bachelor’s degree recipient in a non-STEAM field, there were 2.5 entry-level job postings for a bachelor’s degree recipient in a STEAM field. 

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