By Annette Johnson Career/Academic Advisor

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Technical jobs in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) will all play an instrumental role in the expansion of computer systems, high-tech manufacturing, and the research and development industries.

These types of occupations are consistently high-paying careers with potential for strong growth over the next 10 years according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. All STEM occupations require the ability to think logically, trouble shoot, and communicate. Opportunities range from certificate training programs to Ph.D. level, with most training programs falling at the bachelor degree level.

Science: 

Occupational areas in the sciences often bring a picture of someone working in a white lab coat running experiments. While this is correct, scientific job opportunities go far beyond the laboratory. Scientists also work in offices and outdoors. For example: Life scientists study living systems, including organisms and ecosystems and agriculture and food scientists are interested in production and distribution of food as they work toward improvements to increase food quality, quantity and safety. Biological scientists study animals, plants, and bacteria, and conservation scientists manage natural resources for economic and recreational value for everyone. Physical scientists are more interested in the areas of science that are not alive. They study and monitor weather systems, study how particles bond, create new chemicals for use in products, and monitor pollutants and ground water circulation systems, requiring data gathering skills, as well as written and oral communication skills to communicate issues so they can be improved on and solved. Occupational areas in all areas of science are expected to grow by 27 percent or more according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, over the next 10 years, with average earnings well above the national average of all occupations.

Technology: 

Technology-related careers include any category that requires technical skill. Most often these are referred to as information technology or computer-related occupations. Some technology workers create and design new software, and others develop databases, which are important to every type of business for organizational purposes. A computer systems analyst helps organizations make use of technology more efficiently. This area of expertise also requires good communication skills along with the ability to problem solve and think logically.

Engineering: 

The results of engineering can be seen in items we purchase each day, from tomatoes to televisions. Engineers use science to design, develop and test new products. Maintaining and improving goods is also a large part of what engineers do. Engineers often specialize in areas such as agriculture to creatively design new equipment, plan irrigation or food processing systems. Civil engineers design bridges and dams, often planning traffic routes and solving problems within each of these areas. Drafters use computers to plan and design new products or landscapes, and technicians in this area often map, survey, and make use of GPS technology to create new projects. All engineers need to think about and resolve issues at all phases of design, planning and implementation stages.

Mathematics: 

This area of the STEM occupations seems to be the most dreaded.  Many occupations that use math skills are not necessarily technically based, but they do require attention to details. For example: Actuaries analyze statistical data in order to predict risk for the future. Events like hurricane damage and auto collisions are areas of interest for insurance companies, which employ a large number of actuaries. Mathematicians, among other duties, decipher and devise encryption methods in order to protect confidential information, an important area we all can relate to. Statisticians enjoy collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, as well as writing surveys. Again, logical problem-solving and communication skills are valued and put to use on a daily basis.

According to Monthly Labor Review (May 2011), STEM occupations make up 8 percent of U.S. employment, or around 8 million jobs. Included in this figure are managerial and teaching occupations, which are not always viewed as STEM related, but need to be considered. Other related jobs, such as sales representatives for wholesale, manufacturing and sales of technical and scientific products are important, yet also overlooked when students are planning for a STEM career during college. If you are a logical thinker, can creatively problem solve and you are able to communicate orally and through written skills, take a deeper look at the STEM careers. You will not be disappointed in what you might find.

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