Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Career Cluster Overview
Do you like performing experiments to test scientific hypotheses? Do you enjoy the challenges of working with numbers? Perhaps you like thinking of new and improved designs for vehicles or everyday products. If any of these or similar activities describe you, then you may have the innate curiosity that all of the jobs in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics cluster require.
Science careers include jobs in biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology, or any other natural, physical, or earth science. Mathematics is the science and study of numbers and how they relate to each other. Engineering and technology encompasses many areas of study, such as aviation, environmental science, and robotics, just to name a few. All of these engineering fields employ unique and sometimes similar methods of research, development, and production to reach practical solutions to problems and questions.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Career Pathways
Although the fields covered in this cluster are varied, they all share the common themes of research and testing hypotheses against problems both real and theoretical. They call for people with analytical minds who enjoy challenges and innovation. The jobs in this cluster are divided into two pathways: engineering and technology and science and math.
Engineering and Technology Career Path
Engineering of all types consist of three main stages: research, development, and project application. Engineers use the data from research and development and apply them to the design and production of materials, machines, methods, or to whatever the ultimate goal is.
There are many different types of engineers. Electrical engineers work with electrical circuits and systems in small-scale electronics and in large buildings and cities. Civil engineers design the bridges, highways, and dams that serve our cities. Software engineers design the computer programs that we use for business and recreation. These are just a few examples. And as different as the job responsibilities are in these careers, they all deal with the application of technical knowledge to create solutions and innovations for real-world situations.
Engineering technicians are an important part of this career pathway. Technicians help engineers do their jobs by performing some of the hands-on routine work for them. This gives engineers more time to work on the development of new ideas and innovations. Technicians generally have two years of formal education and training.
Some other examples of careers in this field include aerospace engineers, environmental engineers, hardware engineers, industrial engineers, and packaging engineers.
Science and Math Career Path
Careers in this pathway are part of the mathematics or natural, physical, or earth science fields. Work in this area can mean teaching biology to high school students or studying mineral samples from another planet. Scientists and mathematicians of all types have a natural curiosity about how the world works. In their jobs, they strive for a better understanding of the processes that govern the environment, our health, and the ways in which we relate to one another. Through research, experimentation, and the development of new theories, medicines, and other products, they help us all live better lives.
Because the two fields are related, scientists and mathematicians work in many of the same areas. Many ideas and developments in physics, chemistry, the biological sciences, astronomy, and even social sciences (like economics and psychology) rely on ideas from mathematics. These scientific fields offer many careers, including such areas as astronomy; space technology; energy and resources; earth, ocean, and space science; electronics; industry; computer science; medicine; communications; environmental science; and consulting. Mathematicians and physicists work as engineers, teachers, researchers, lab technicians and supervisors, acoustical scientists, astronomers, astrophysicists, medical physicists, and geophysicists, as well as other positions. Knowledge in math or physics opens opportunities even for writers, lawyers, and administrators.
Also, employment opportunities exist worldwide in government, schools, and private organizations. For instance, mathematicians like statisticians, operations researchers, and actuaries work in government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Management and Budget. They help gather information on how many people are likely to get cancer from smoking. They help the president understand how much money our country has and owes other countries and agencies. They even help figure out how tax laws can benefit certain people. Other agencies that employ mathematicians and scientists include the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Other examples of careers in this pathway include biologists, chemists, ecologists, statisticians, and zoologists.
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Exploring Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers
One of the most important parts of preparing for a career in this cluster is getting a solid educational foundation in math and the sciences. Be sure to take as many courses in these areas as possible, as they will provide the background you will need in college and in the workplace.
Many of the careers in this cluster require at least a bachelor’s degree, and in many cases a master’s degree or doctorate may be required. Exceptions may be some technician positions. Many of these require an associate’s degree or a formal training program in addition to a high school diploma.
Talk to your math and science teachers about their experiences and what led them to the field. Also, ask your teachers about any math and science competitions that you can enter to help sharpen your skills. These contests may also provide scholarship money to help pay for your college education. They can also be a great way to meet other students who share similar interests.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers Outlook
Although the U.S. Department of Labor predicts growth in the sciences to be a bit slower than the average for all industries, many exciting opportunities await those with the right skills and education. As the elderly population of the United States continues to grow, the demand for scientists in medical and pharmaceutical research will be great. Excellent growth is predicted for medical scientists who also have a strong knowledge of computer engineering, as there will be a continued need for new and improved medical technology.
The outlook for most types of engineering is favorable, with job growth predicted to be about as fast as the average. Environmental engineers will have the best employment possibilities, as companies will need their services to meet changing regulations and to deal with existing hazards. Job opportunities in mathematics will be best for those people who combine their math knowledge with a science or engineering discipline, or for those who pursue education careers in mathematics.
Job opportunities in this cluster will be best for those who pursue advanced education beyond the bachelor’s degree level.
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