How popular is the STEM degree?

The U.S. is not known for producing college graduates proficient in the STEM field, but a number of programs are encouraging students to sign up

STEM may just be entering a high tide with renewed opportunities. Credit: iT@c

The United States is known to be a leader in science and technology. From the government’s National Library of Medicine unveiling genetic sequence barcodes to SpaceX introducing the first commercial manned spaceship, the country has produced plenty of technological feats.

At the same time, the U.S. is not known for producing graduates proficient in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). However, the future will likely bring more STEM graduates, as a number of programs incentivize young adults to study and ultimately seek a career in this field.

The narrowing gender gap

The STEM field is known for being male-dominated, because for a large part of the nation’s history, these careers were reserved for men. But the tides are turning as universities, high schools and advocacy networks spark the interests of both genders in the sciences.

The Association for Women in Science publishes a number of books and magazines geared toward women interested and involved in science-related careers. The organization also advocates at the national level so that government officials can address reduced participation of women in STEM fields. The Association for Women in Science provides important scholarships, mentorships and career databases for women.

More women are earning degrees in the STEM field than ever before. About 58 percent of all bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates in biology are awarded to women, according to The New York Times.

However, women earn 17 to 18 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering. Slightly more than 40 percent of women study the physical sciences and math.

More work needs to be done to narrow the gender gap, and awareness of this problem is helping to drive STEM education in the United States.

What universities and the private sector are doing

Universities are offering major-specific scholarships, especially in the STEM fields. Small liberal arts colleges and large research universities alike have set up scholarship funds and paid research positions in the sciences. Marist College, for example, offers 17 full tuition and free room/board scholarships that are partially supported by the National Science Foundation.

The private sector has taken a major role in attracting students to STEM fields. Accenture, a major global consulting firm, has created the Future Technology Leaders program geared toward first- and second-year college students. The program is currently working with 35 universities, many of which are located in the United States.

How the government is helping

The U.S. government has a hand in trying to popularize the STEM degree as well. Major visa-regime reform has allowed international students studying in the STEM fields to remain in the country longer to find work.

“This is intended to help us attract and hopefully employ students with an interest in STEM,” John Campagnino, managing director of global talent acquisition for Accenture, said in a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek. “We want to build relationships earlier than is traditional and develop that talent early on.”

STEM may just be entering a high tide with renewed opportunities and interest in these fields.

Norman Rozenberg
Norman Rozenberg, based in the New York metro area, keeps up with the dynamic world of development, innovation and public health. He has also contributed to Txchnologist, an online technology magazine.
Norman Rozenberg
Norman Rozenberg
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