Getting Ready for Careers in STEAM

By Emma Yenko

Published on September 10, 2021

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From STEM to STEAM

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. This educational approach integrates these five fields. A STEAM education promotes creative and critical thinking. It also promotes cross-disciplinary problem-solving.

Some schools apply STEAM methods from kindergarten through high school. College students who enroll in STEAM programs can qualify for scholarships and grants in their specific field.

Degree-holders can explore STEAM careers in diverse fields, including architecture and biomedical engineering. This guide explores professional options for students interested in STEAM jobs.

What is STEAM?

The National Science Foundation coined the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in the early 2000s. However, NASA has focused on STEM education since its inception in 1958.

NASA was created as part of the space race with Russia. The agency tries to attract learners to STEM fields. NASA supports STEM-centered university majors and industries that offer professional opportunities for graduates.

The recent introduction of the arts into STEM education allows educators to integrate creative ways of thinking and communicating. STEAM training promotes a holistic approach to assessing diverse challenges in the workplace, in communities, and in the environment.

STEAM education immerses students in a learning environment that resembles the real world. Degree-seekers develop a deeper connection between learning and practice. STEAM education strengthens their ability to apply cross-disciplinary knowledge and skills to classroom projects and real-world scenarios.

Key Components of STEAM

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Why the STEM to STEAM Movement is Gaining Traction

In a 2020 whitepaper, the State Education Agency Directors of Art Education says that STEAM is how the world works. Traditional STEM fields align with the arts. For example, computer animators create most of the special effects in 3D movies. Engineers create furniture that incorporates modern design elements into precise technical specifications.

STEAM careers span technical and artistic fields. Students interested in STEAM jobs can prepare for the workforce by taking STEAM courses in college. STEAM education focuses on integrating the complementary aspects of STEM fields with the arts and humanities. This approach gives graduates the skills and knowledge to navigate diverse fields.

Comparing STEM to STEAM

Pros

  • Focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math
  • Integrates technology and engineering with science and math curriculum
  • Develops problem-based learning opportunities to develop critical skills

Cons

  • Emphasizes the wonder of art and science
  • Encourages the arts to serve as a catalyst for STEM subjects
  • Inspires students to think creatively to solve real-world problems
  • Encourages experimentation, collaboration, and innovation through core standards

STEAM Careers

Degree-holders can pursue STEAM careers in various fields. Graduates may qualify for the STEAM jobs below with an academic background in STEM or in the arts and humanities. However, a STEAM education prepares them to meet the technical and creative demands of these multifaceted careers.


Science

These professionals work closely with scientists or medical professionals. They conduct experiments and record their findings. They also gather and prepare samples for analysis. Many biological technicians work in laboratories. Some work in the field collecting specimens for further study. These scientists help protect an area's natural resources. They work with private landowners and federal and state governments to maximize land use while conserving the environment. Conservation scientists negotiate contracts for forest harvesting and choose sites for new trees. They also monitor the use of forest-cleared land to ensure all parties comply with regulations. These technicians determine and examine pollution's origins and causes. They analyze samples of water, soil, air, and other materials from contaminated environments. These professionals inspect establishments to ensure compliance with health, safety, and environmental regulations. Environmental science and protection technicians work with hydrologists and geoscientists to address environmental and public health threats and issues. These professionals work with scientists and researchers to examine bacteria, viruses, and other parasites. They study how these parasites impact plants, animals, and other microorganisms. Microbiologists conduct experiments to find connections between microorganisms and different types of diseases. They also perform field or laboratory research for possible treatments. These professionals study how different animals interact with humans, other animals, and the environment. They analyze the impact of human behavior on animal environments. Many wildlife biologists work with breeding programs that help preserve endangered species. Wildlife biologists work with land or aquatic animals.

Technology

These professionals create websites and monitor website traffic. They also test new applications and interfaces. Digital designers work with computer programmers and graphic designers to ensure websites meet client objectives. These scientists create new applications for existing technology. They also create new software using complex algorithms. Clients rely on them to improve the efficiency, speed, and security of their processes and networks. Computer research scientists can focus on software or hardware design. These professionals design data communication networks such as LANs (local area networks) and WANs (wide area networks). They upgrade and maintain the hardware and software components of network systems. Computer network architects also train users on new applications. These analysts use their business and IT skills to design solutions for organizations' computer systems. They work with programmers and engineers. Computer systems analysts use many tools to accomplish their tasks, including data modeling and grid charts. Companies rely on database administrators to organize and secure the information in their computer systems. These professionals ensure authorized users can access and share data. They also test and monitor systems to prevent or reduce unauthorized entry. Database administrators update software permissions and merge new database systems with existing ones.

Engineering

These engineers work in various fields, including robotics and manufacturing. They design, test, and maintain machines. Some of these machines include elevators and electric generators. Mechanical engineers test new devices and examine existing mechanical systems. They also investigate failures to prevent recurrences. These engineers perform tests before planes and spacecraft are put into service. They calibrate computer systems to ensure they comply with manufacturing and test requirements. Their work ensures the safety of passengers and space crew. These professionals draft construction plans. They ensure their designs comply with zoning laws and building codes. Architects use computer-aided design and drafting. They also use building information modeling software to design and create construction drawings. These professionals draft construction plans. They ensure their designs comply with zoning laws and building codes. Architects use computer-aided design and drafting. They also use building information modeling software to design and create construction drawings. These engineers create infrastructure projects such as tunnels and bridges. They survey construction sites and get clearances and permits to build. Civil engineers also oversee and supervise actual construction. These architects use geographic information systems to design public spaces such as parks and playgrounds. They design outdoor spaces that complement rather than harm nature. Landscape architects also prepare cost estimates and site plans. They ensure projects comply with environmental laws and local ordinances.

Art

These professionals use computer programs and animation techniques to create visual effects for video games, movies, and websites. Most special effects artists use computer animation software such as Flash and Poser. Some artists write their own code. Animation companies may require artists to use in-house digital animation software. These professionals need strong computer and artistic skills. These designers use elements such as light, colors, and textures to create attractive spaces. Interior designers create budgets and timelines for projects. They also coordinate with other professionals to ensure timely project completion. Interior designers monitor compliance with building codes and construction regulations. These professionals work with engineers and materials scientists. They develop concepts and designs for manufactured products. These products include cars, electronic devices, and medical equipment. Industrial designers combine practical elements with technical specifications to bring diverse products to the consumer market. Graphic designers use text and images to convey a client's message in advertisements, logos, and reports. They work in digital and print media. Graphic designers use elements such as color, lighting, and typeface to inform, attract, or inspire audiences. Art directors determine the visual style of their clients' products and materials. They oversee the work of artists and other designers. Art directors work for movie companies, book publishers, and advertising agencies.

Mathematics

Insurance companies depend on actuaries to help determine premiums for different coverage plans. These professionals use advanced modeling and statistical software. They assess the financial costs of risk and forecast the probability of an event occurring. Actuaries then determine potential costs. These professionals use computational techniques and mathematical principles to solve problems in various fields. They design surveys and opinion polls to collect data. Mathematicians apply statistical models to analyze, interpret, and organize their findings. These professionals allocate resources and set production schedules. They establish market prices and manage supply chain and logistics. Operations research analysts help organizations make informed and economical decisions. They collect and organize information from various sources to craft solutions to operational problems and challenges. Economists examine the production and distribution of different goods and services. They craft solutions to economic problems and forecast market trends. Economists also assess the impact of rules and regulations on commerce and trade. Many economists work for state and local government agencies. They may also work for research firms and international organizations. Companies hire market research analysts to help them determine their best-performing products and identify ideal target markets. These professionals monitor sales trends. They gather data on competitors and consumers. They also measure the effectiveness of sales and marketing campaigns.

From the Expert

Susan Riley

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, and 21st century learning skills. Riley is a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on best practices for integrating the arts.

Riley holds a bachelor of music in music education from Westminster Choir College. She also has a master of science in education administration from McDaniel College. Riley lives in Westminster, Maryland with her husband and daughter.


Q. How can a STEAM education translate to career success?

STEAM allows students to put the pieces together. We teach each discipline individually. This is important because students need to understand each content area to truly be able to use it. The challenge is finding time to use these disciplines. When students enter the workforce, they have difficulty creatively solving problems that don't have a scripted solution. This is where STEAM education comes in.

NASA estimates that we'll have people on Mars within the next 30 years. To meet this prediction, we need people who can think creatively, persevere when a solution doesn't exist, and look at things from new perspectives. STEAM education provides this kind of training. Students can use their creative skills within a different context.

Q. Why have the arts been underemphasized in favor of an education focused on math and science?

What we measure gets done and gets emphasis. We measure math, science, and reading through various tests. The arts are typically an untested area. They are often the first subjects to go when schools face budget cuts.

Additionally, the arts are difficult to measure by their nature. That doesn't mean they don't have value. It just means that schools often don't have the data to back up the importance of the arts. It's much easier to do with math and science.

Q. What do we lose as a society when we don't acknowledge the importance of arts in education?

The arts are an access point for each of us. We communicate, connect, and grow in and through the arts. As author Elizabeth Gilbert says, "People were painting on walls before they learned how to feed themselves." By ignoring the importance of the arts, we're pushing aside these fundamental parts of our humanness. The arts provide us with an avenue to listen and to be heard.

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