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Study abroad : Applying to University

What are STEM fields?

Read our guide to find out more about what STEM fields are and why you should consider this for your degree.

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As the world becomes more connected and advanced, so do science and technological industries. Graduates in science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) fields are highly sought after abroad especially in the US, UK and Australia. Students in these fields will develop transferrable critical skills that are extremely desirable across several sectors. Let us explain to you more about STEM fields and why there is an increasing demand for graduates in this field.


What are STEM fields?

STEM refers to the subjects within these four fields- science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Conventionally taught as separate, discrete subjects, these four areas have been merged into a singular teaching curriculum that focuses on interdisciplinary and practical skills with ‘real-world’ application. This is especially advantageous for those graduating with a related qualification when it comes to finding that first job.


Why study a STEM course?

A STEM education will equip you with specific skills applicable to technical roles, and aids in fostering a wide range of generic skills that are useful across several disciplines. The broad knowledge and versatile skills gained make graduates more employable than others. Potential areas for employment in STEM areas are endless as science and technology fields are constantly evolving.


Global career prospects

Skills such as numeracy, analysis and an ability to be critical are all applicable across a wide range of industries and can lead to specialisations in fields including mechanical engineering, computer technology and programming, physics, food science and software publishing. Jobs in the finance and business sectors also value STEM graduates for their logical problem-solving skills and high-level, applied analytic capability.


In the UK, there is a shortage of STEM graduates which means that there is high demand for these types of skills. In fact, STEM jobs are expected to increase at twice the rate of other positions, creating 142,000 jobs by 2023.


Similarly, there is a skills shortage in the US, particularly for STEM fields. By 2025, there will be 3.5 million vacancies with 2 million remaining unfilled due to a lack of high calibre students. In fact, only 16% of all degrees are expected to be STEM related by 2020.


This shortage of skilled STEM graduates is also evident in Australia. However, in more positive news, the Australian government has decided to invest AUD 64 million for early learning and school year students to encourage pupils to pursue STEM related subjects.


International demand and the current state of STEM

To address the growing demand for scientists, engineers and technologists, the UK government has recently created a STEM strategy. This initiative targets schools and universities to inspire students into studying these fields and to ensure that graduate skills and knowledge are of a working standard.


In Australia, the government has committed to investing AUD 1.1 billion for a National Innovation and Science Agenda to improve STEM education.


At university level in the US, better teaching methods are hoped to increase retention in STEM study programmes. It is estimated that between 2017 and 2027, the number of stem jobs will have increased by 13% with placements in engineering, computing and manufacturing taking precedence. Interestingly, out of 100 STEM jobs, 93% had higher wages than the national average.


Visa opportunities in the US

The US is one of the most desirable locations for international graduates seeking employment and thus changing their lives. International students on an F-1 student visa who have completed a STEM Bachelor’s degree programme or higher may apply to complete Optional Practical Training (OPT) in the US. OPT allows students up to a year of temporary employment in your field of study for each degree level you complete. For instance, a student may complete a year of OPT during their bachelor’s study, and an additional year at master’s level. Students can undertake OPT either before (pre-completion OPT) or after (post-completion OPT) the completion of their study programme.


Students undertaking post-completion OPT and receiving job offers from the company that you are working in, may apply for a STEM extension. You will then be able to accept the offer and work in the US for an additional 24 months. Students must apply for this extension directly with their host institution.


Inspired to study a STEM field? Browse courses in Applied and Pure SciencesTechnologyEngineering and Mathematics now!

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