STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and covers a broad range of fields, industries and jobs. Despite the huge variety of jobs in these fields, generalizations are common. There’s a lot written about STEM jobs, much of it conflicting and often downright wrong, that it’s easy become confused about what’s true and what isn’t. Below we bust a few of the most common myths that continue to persist about STEM jobs.
1. there’s a STEM shortage and it’s impossible to find enough workers
This statement has some truth to it, but the STEM shortage is less dire than some have made it out to be. While some STEM fields are losing jobs (for example, aerospace engineering), others are growing rapidly. IT and technology roles are in particularly highly in demand at the moment. While employers must compete to secure the talents of STEM workers, with the right hiring strategy and a strong employer brand, it’s certainly not impossible to find the right workers!
2. college graduates with STEM degrees are only qualified for STEM jobs
This is actually not true at all. 3 out of 4 college grads with a STEM degree do not end up working in a strictly STEM job. Students who graduate from STEM-based programs tend to have transferrable math and science skills and excel at logic and strategizing, which translates well to a number of careers both in and out of STEM fields.
3. more women are working in STEM jobs than ever before
As much as we wish this one were true, the percentage of women graduating from STEM courses is actually dropping. In 1985 women made up 37% of computer science grads. That number has dropped to just 18%. Despite making up about half of the total workforce, women represent just 25% of the workforce in STEM fields, according to Think Progress. The number of women in STEM steadily grew between 1970 and 1990. In the years since, it’s actually tapered off, proving we still have a long way to go to reach gender equality in STEM.
4. STEM careers are better suited to men
As the previous point illustrates all too clearly, STEM is a boys club and has been dominated by men for decades. But don’t think that means that males are more naturally inclined to work in STEM fields! Historically women have been pushed towards careers (like nursing or teaching) that require emotional intelligence, while men are directed to careers that emphasize numbers and logic.
Studies have proven that this gender divide is actually a cultural construct. Women who are exposed to STEM fields (as men tend to be) are just as successful and capable as their male counterparts. When it comes down to it, neither men nor women have natural inclination to one type of career or another. It’s all about what skills and interests they’re exposed to, and where they focus their efforts.
5. STEM jobs require a natural aptitude for math and science
There’s a mistaken belief that an aptitude for STEM is something that you’re born with. Either you’re good at it or you’re not. This just isn’t true. Sure, there are those lucky people have a natural ability and know from a young age what career their natural talents are best suited for. But there are plenty of us who don’t have a natural gift and make it a goal to learn about something we’re interested in. Just like any other skill, STEM can be taught and learned whether you have a natural gift or not. All it takes is a desire to learn and expand your horizons.
6. STEM jobs are dry, boring, and highly technical
When people hear STEM they often think about careers requiring complex calculations and methodical scientific processes. While some STEM careers do require this kind of approach, STEM jobs cover a broad range of careers. STEM jobs can just as fun and creative as any other career path. Remember, STEM is an umbrella term that covers a very diverse range of careers! Developer jobs, engineering jobs and design jobs – all of which require design sensibility and creativity – are considered STEM careers.
7. STEM jobs are for geeks and lab rats who want to avoid hands-on work
If, when you think about STEM careers you picture a sterile lab or computer workstation, think again. STEM jobs run the gamut when it comes to working environment. Yes, there are some STEM careers that’ll require you to be plugged into an indoor workstation for most of your working hours (think developer jobs, actuaries and data scientist) there are also plenty of career options for those who want to take their science and math skills out into the field (think civil engineering, environmental science, and geology.)