What Is STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math)?

STEM is more than a catchy acronym

STEM education is a curriculum that focuses heavily on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

STEM schools and programs approach these key educational subjects in an integrated way so that elements of each one apply to the others. STEM-focused learning programs span from preschool through master's degree programs, depending on resources within a given school district or region.

What Is STEM?

STEM is a growing movement in education worldwide, not just in the United States. STEM-based learning programs aim to increase students' interest in pursuing higher education and careers in those fields. STEM education typically uses a model of blended learning that combines traditional classroom teaching with online learning and hands-on activities. This model aims to allow students to experience different ways of learning and problem-solving.

We'll take a closer look at each STEM element.

STEM Science

Classes in the science category of STEM programs include biology, ecology, chemistry, and physics. However, STEM science classes also incorporate technology, engineering, and math into scientific studies.

STEM Technology

Technology classes have changed dramatically over the years. Today, tech classes may include digital modeling and prototyping, 3D printing, mobile technology, computer programming, data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and game development.

If you're interested in digital modeling, learn about common modeling pitfalls beginners often experience and how to avoid them.

STEM Engineering

Engineering classes might include civil engineering, electronics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and robotics.


Similar to science, mathematics is one STEM category with classes that will sound familiar, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus. However, when it comes to STEM math, kids are learning more advanced mathematics at younger ages, with introductory algebra and geometry starting as early as the third grade for some students, even those not enrolled in a STEM program. STEM math incorporates concepts and exercises that apply science, technology, and engineering to mathematics.

Students learning robotics in classroom.
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What Are the Benefits of STEM?

STEM has become a buzzword in education. Unfortunately, many people have a superficial understanding of STEM learning programs, but some grasp their impact on the bigger picture of education in the United States. STEM education modernizes the learning process for kids, bringing them up-to-speed on the skills and knowledge most relevant in today's society.

STEM initiatives emphasize inclusion, equality, and diversity to find and support talent. Diversity and inclusion boost innovation, creativity, productivity, and revenue in STEM fields.

Widespread STEM education helps people gain careers in computer networking, IT, and engineering. These jobs are in high demand, and STEM professionals are in short supply.

What Do STEM Critics Say?

Critics of STEM education are concerned that the in-depth focus on science, technology, engineering, and math shortchanges students' learning and experiences with other subjects that are also important, such as art, music, literature, and writing. These non-STEM subjects contribute to brain development and critical reading and communication skills.

There's also concern that educators don't get clear-cut guidelines and curricula to follow in STEM education. For example, there's no standardized STEM certification for teachers. Further, students who choose a STEM focus in high school and beyond have such a challenging curriculum—mastering four disciplines—that there's little room for fun classes or exposure to new ideas.

What Is STEAM?

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) is an offshoot of STEM that incorporates the arts to provide a more enriching educational focus. The idea is to integrate concepts with a real-world approach and create critical thinkers.

The STEAM movement is an answer to critics that feel STEM education doesn't adequately help children thrive because of its more limited focus. STEAM adds creativity and innovation to STEM and widens the learning pallet for children and young adults. It provides a blended learning environment that applies scientific thinking to all aspects of life.

What Are Popular STEM Careers?

Popular and in-demand STEM-related careers include:

  • Computing: Computing careers include software developers, systems analysts, statisticians, and more.
  • Engineering and physical sciences: Careers in this broad category include civil, electrical, and mechanical engineers. Also included are unexpected career paths such as cartographers, orthodontists, and biochemists.
  • Life sciences and mathematics: Careers in this category are a bit more limited but still have ample room for growth. Examples include economists, mathematicians, and clinical research associates.
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