In this article, we will delve into the exciting world of STEM and explore the top 10 most popular career fields for students. But first, let’s unravel what STEM really means. STEM is an acronym which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – four disciplines that form the cornerstone of innovation, development, and problem-solving in the modern world.
As we continue to rapidly progress in technology and scientific discovery, the value and popularity of STEM careers has skyrocketed in recent times. STEM careers allow individuals to be at the forefront of innovation – devising cutting-edge solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from climate change to the development of sustainable energy sources and breakthroughs in healthcare. There has never been a better time to pursue a career in STEM, with a gamut of exciting opportunities and the potential to make a real difference in the world around us.
One of the main reasons STEM careers are so popular is due to the high demand for skilled and knowledgeable professionals in these fields. As a result, pursuing a STEM career often equates to job stability, competitive salaries, and endless growth opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in STEM fields will grow by 10.8% between 2021 and 2031. In comparison, non-STEM occupations are expected to grow only by 4.9% during the same period.
In this blog article, we explore the 10 most popular STEM career fields for students, delving into the reasons behind their popularity, the educational pathways to entering these fields, and the array of exciting opportunities that await those who choose a career in STEM.
Career Categories in STEM
STEM careers are diverse and offer exciting opportunities in numerous sectors. Let’s explore the most popular STEM careers for students.
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Computer Science
- Data Science and Analytics
- Biomedical Engineering
- Environmental Science
- Aerospace Engineering
- Statistics and Applied Mathematics
1. Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering is a broad field within engineering that focuses on the design, analysis, development, and testing of mechanical systems. This discipline requires a deep understanding of core engineering principles such as materials science, mechanics, kinematics, and thermodynamics. Mechanical engineers play a vital role in creating and refining products and systems that have a direct impact on our everyday lives, including transportation systems, medical devices, robotics, and many other types of machinery.
Mechanical engineers typically work in one or more of the following areas: product design, research and development, manufacturing, testing, and systems maintenance. In product design, for example, engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) tools to create and optimize the design of a product or component. In research and development, they conduct experiments and simulations to better understand the performance of mechanical systems. In manufacturing, mechanical engineers work to ensure that products are made to specific standards and with high levels of efficiency. They also work in testing, where they are involved in the process of validating the performance of a product or system before it goes to market, and in maintenance, where they ensure that products and systems continue to function properly over time.
How to become a mechanical engineer
To become a mechanical engineer, individuals must obtain a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or a closely related field. Some universities and colleges also offer specialized programs or concentrations in areas such as automotive engineering, aerospace engineering, or robotics within the mechanical engineering program.
Steps to become a mechanical engineer include:
- Obtain a high school diploma, with an emphasis on mathematics, physics, and chemistry
- Pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or a related field
- Gain practical experience through internships or co-op placements
- Consider obtaining a master’s degree or Ph.D. in mechanical engineering for research or advanced positions
- Become licensed as a Professional Engineer (P.Eng) by a provincial or territorial engineering association in Canada
Job outlook and salary of a mechanical engineer
The career outlook for mechanical engineers in Canada is positive, with a steady demand for skilled professionals in various industries such as automotive, aeronautics, energy, and manufacturing.
According to Talent.com, the average mechanical engineer salary in Canada is $121,420 per year or $62.27 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $75,000 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $125,846 per year.
2. Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineering is a diverse field in the realm of engineering that mainly focuses on the study, design, and application of electrical and electronic systems. This discipline encompasses a wide range of technologies and industries, playing an integral role in the development, operation, and maintenance of devices or systems related to electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. Electrical engineers may work on designing electronic gadgets, electric power stations, wiring and lighting installations, telecommunication systems, or developing intricate systems for controlling industrial processes.
An electrical engineer’s responsibility typically involves designing electrical systems and hardware, overseeing their production, and ensuring their safe and reliable functioning. They also troubleshoot electrical equipment and systems, providing technical guidance, and generating relevant documentation. Moreover, electrical engineers continuously engage in expanding their knowledge to harness the latest technological advancements and cater to the ever-evolving needs of the modern world. Their expertise is sought in industries like automotive, aerospace, power generation, telecommunication, manufacturing, and tech startups.
How to become an electrical engineer
To become an electrical engineer, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a closely related field. Some professionals also opt for graduate-level education, such as a master’s or doctoral degree, to specialize in a specific area or pursue a career in research and academia.
To become an electrical engineer:
- Obtain a high school diploma with a strong foundation in mathematics, physics, and chemistry.
- Complete a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a related field from an accredited university or college.
- Gain practical experience through internships, co-op programs, or entry-level positions in the field.
- Pursue professional licensing and certification, such as the Professional Engineering (P.Eng) designation in Canada, if required by the employer or for career advancement.
- Attend workshops and conferences, or join professional organizations to stay current on industry trends and advancements.
Job outlook and salary of an electrical engineer
Electrical engineering remains a consistently high-demand profession, with promising career prospects fuelled by the ever-growing need for advanced technology, sustainable energy solutions, and smart infrastructure developments.
According to Talent.com, the average electrical engineer salary in Canada is $136,315 per year or $69.90 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $91,841 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $139,618 per year.
3. Civil Engineering
Civil engineering is a field within the STEM industry that is focused on the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of various infrastructures. These infrastructures include, but are not limited to, roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, airports, buildings, and municipal services like water and sewer systems. Civil engineers are responsible for ensuring that the structures they design are functional, safe, sustainable, and capable of withstanding natural and environmental elements such as weather and natural disasters.
In their daily work, civil engineers collaborate with various specialists, such as architects, construction managers, and other engineering professionals, to deliver efficient and effective infrastructure projects. They start by conducting research and analyzing data to plan projects, then develop detailed designs and specifications. They are also responsible for evaluating materials and construction methods, overseeing and directing construction crews, as well as managing budgets and deadlines. Additionally, civil engineers have a critical responsibility in ensuring compliance with local, regional, and national regulations and standards throughout the entire construction process.
How to become a civil engineer
To be a civil engineer, one must have the appropriate education and licensure. Below are the steps required to become a civil engineer:
- Obtain a high school diploma, focusing on courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects
- Complete a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, which usually takes four years
- Acquire relevant work experience through internships and co-op placements during university
- Pursue professional licensure such as Professional Engineering (P.Eng) designation in Canada, through the national professional engineering body (e.g., Engineers Canada)
- Consider earning a master’s degree or PhD for career advancement opportunities
Job outlook and salary of a civil engineer
The career outlook for civil engineers in Canada remains promising, as they are in demand to plan, design, and manage infrastructure projects in various sectors, including transportation, water, and energy which are crucial to the country’s growing economy and population.
According to Talent.com, the average civil engineer salary in Canada is $120,847 per year or $61.97 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $85,007 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $123,108 per year.
4. Computer Science
Computer Science is a diverse and rapidly evolving field that integrates theoretical, mathematical, and technical aspects for understanding, developing, and expanding computer-based systems. It encompasses a wide range of topics, such as algorithm analysis, programming languages, data structures, software engineering, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, networking, cybersecurity, and databases. Professionals in computer science are dedicated to solving complex problems, creating innovative software and hardware solutions, and enhancing the overall functionality and speed of computer systems.
A computer scientist typically conducts research, develops new technologies, and designs innovative tools and systems relevant to the industry. They can work on a variety of projects, spanning from creating cutting-edge software, building secure networks, or working on machine learning and AI. By staying updated with the latest technology trends and advancements, they are able to create digital tools, applications, or innovations that make a significant impact on various sectors such as healthcare, finance, education, or entertainment.
How to become a computer scientist
To become a computer scientist, it is essential to have a strong foundation in mathematics, statistics, and programming. Formal education in this field typically starts with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related field.
Steps to become a computer scientist:
- Obtain a high school diploma with a focus on subjects like mathematics, physics, and computer science (if available).
- Pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a closely related field.
- Gain practical experience by participating in internships, coding competitions, or working on projects.
- Consider pursuing higher education, such as a Master’s or Doctorate in Computer Science, which can provide opportunities for specialized roles and research positions.
- Continuously stay updated with the latest technology trends and advancements in the field through seminars, workshops or online courses.
Job outlook and salary of a computer scientist
Due to the increasing demand for expertise in technology across various industries, the career outlook for computer scientists is expected to remain positive and see consistent growth over the coming years.
According to Talent.com, the average computer scientist salary in Canada is $95,000 per year or $48.72 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $60,000 per year , while most experienced workers make up to $150,000 per year.
5. Data Science and Analytics
Data Science and Analytics is a field which focuses on interpreting and analyzing large volumes of data to make more informed and strategic decisions. By combining various disciplines such as computer science, mathematics, and statistics, data science and analytics professionals develop algorithms and models to extract valuable information from raw data. These professionals play a crucial role in uncovering hidden patterns, predicting trends, and discovering useful insights that can help businesses, governments, and organizations operate more effectively and make better decisions.
A Data Scientist or Data Analyst combines statistical techniques with programming skills to collect, clean, analyze, and visualize data. They work with an interdisciplinary team, which may include business analysts, domain experts, and software engineers, to understand the problem at hand, define appropriate metrics, and identify possible solutions. Additionally, they create machine learning models to predict outcomes, optimize processes and provide actionable recommendations, ultimately driving the success of the organization.
How to become a data scientist
To become a Data Scientist or Data Analyst, you will need a strong educational background in mathematics, statistics, computer science, or a related field. Some specific steps to follow include:
- Earn a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Statistics, Mathematics, Engineering, or a related field
- Develop strong programming skills (Python, R, or SQL are commonly used in the industry)
- Gain experience working with databases, data cleaning, and data visualization tools
- Enhance your knowledge of machine learning algorithms, statistical modeling, and Big Data frameworks
- Consider pursuing a Master’s degree or specialized certification in Data Science, Analytics, or a related field
- Build a strong portfolio of projects showcasing your data analysis and modeling skills
Job outlook and salary of a data scientist
The career outlook for Data Science and Analytics professionals is highly promising, as the demand for skilled data-driven problem solvers continues to grow across various industries worldwide.
According to Talent.com, the average data scientist salary in Canada is $137,692 per year or $70.61 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $102,668 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $141,455 per year.
6. Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical Engineering is an interdisciplinary field that combines engineering principles, biology, and medicine to design innovative solutions for improving human health and solving problems related to healthcare. Biomedical engineers develop cutting-edge medical equipment, devices, and software, as well as create more effective and less invasive treatments. The field involves knowledge and understanding of various subjects like human anatomy, molecular biology, medical electronics, biomechanics as well as the application of mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering principles.
Biomedical engineers have a wide range of responsibilities, which may include designing and creating medical devices such as prosthetics, implants and imaging equipment or developing new medical procedures to improve patient care, such as cardiovascular systems and joint replacements. They also perform research, conduct tests and experiments, and analyze biological data to enhance the effectiveness of medical treatments. Furthermore, biomedical engineers collaborate with healthcare professionals to ensure the safe and efficient use of medical devices and technologies while observing regulatory standards and compliance.
How to become a biomedical engineer
To become a biomedical engineer, a strong foundation in both engineering and life sciences is required. Typically, a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or a related field is the minimum requirement, though some professionals pursue graduate degrees or specialized training in their area of interest.
Steps to become a biomedical engineer:
- Obtain a high school diploma with a focus on mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology.
- Pursue a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, or a related field.
- Acquire practical experience through internships, co-op programs, or hands-on projects.
- Consider pursuing a Master’s degree or PhD in biomedical engineering or a specialized area to enhance your career opportunities.
- Obtain necessary certifications or licenses, such as Professional Engineering (P.Eng) designation in Canada, depending on the job requirements and location.
Job outlook and salary of a biomedical engineer
The outlook for biomedical engineering careers is generally positive, with increased demand for professionals in the field driven by advancements in technology, an aging population, and a focus on improving healthcare solutions worldwide.
The average salary of biomedical engineers in the United States is $91,410 per year or $43.95 per hour.
Healthcare is a broad field that includes numerous disciplines and professionals who provide preventive, curative, and rehabilitative services to maintain and improve people’s health. This field encompasses various fields such as medical, dental, nursing, allied health, and pharmacy. Healthcare practitioners work in diverse settings, including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, research institutions, and public health organizations.
Healthcare professionals have a wide range of responsibilities depending on their specialization. Primary responsibilities include diagnosing and treating illnesses, injuries, and other medical conditions. They may also collaborate with other professionals to provide holistic care, conduct research to improve healthcare services, promote health education, and design public health policies. Healthcare professionals must adhere to ethical principles, maintain patient confidentiality, and keep up-to-date with advances in medical knowledge and technology.
How to become a healthcare professional
To become a healthcare professional, one must acquire the necessary education and training specific to their desired field. Here are some general steps:
- Obtain a high school diploma with a focus on science and mathematics courses.
- Pursue a bachelor’s degree (e.g., Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences) relevant to the chosen healthcare profession.
- Complete a relevant graduate program or professional degree, if necessary (e.g., Doctor of Medicine, Master of Science in Occupational Therapy) in schools like medical school, dental school etc.
- Obtain the required certification or licensure in your province or territory.
- Pursue continuing education opportunities to maintain licensure and stay updated in your field.
Job outlook and salary of a healthcare professional
The career outlook for healthcare professionals in Canada is positive, as the demand for healthcare services continues to grow due to factors such as an aging population and advancements in medical technologies.
According to Indeed, the average salary for a physician in Canada is $376,831 per year. The average salary for a registered nurse is $57.65 per hour. The average salary for a pharmacist is $49.67 per hour.
8. Environmental Science
Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on understanding the natural world and its interactions with human activities. Professionals in this field study the impact of human activities on the environment in order to inform policy development, promote sustainable practices, and find innovative solutions to environmental problems. They work on a wide range of issues, including climate change, pollution, habitat restoration, and resource management.
Environmental scientists are responsible for conducting research, collecting data, and analyzing environmental situations to identify and implement solutions to complex environmental challenges. They work in a variety of sectors, including government, industry, and nonprofit organizations. Tasks may range from carrying out field surveys and running laboratory experiments to developing environmental regulations and consulting with businesses to implement sustainability initiatives.
How to become an environmental scientist
To pursue a career as an environmental scientist, a strong foundation in science, mathematics, and communication skills is necessary. The most common educational pathway is to complete a bachelor’s degree in environmental science or a related field.
- Earn a high school diploma with a strong focus on science and mathematics.
- Pursue a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, environmental engineering, earth science, or a related field.
- Gain field experience through internships or volunteer work.
- Consider obtaining a graduate degree in a specialized area of environmental science for career advancement.
- Obtain professional certification, such as the Canadian Certified Environmental Practitioner (CEP), for added credibility and to enhance job prospects.
Job outlook and salary of an environmental scientist
The career outlook for environmental scientists in Canada is positive, as increased public and government awareness of environmental issues keeps the demand for qualified professionals strong.
The average salary of environmental scientists in the United States is $71,360 per year or $34.31 per hour.
9. Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering is a specialized field in engineering that deals with the design, development, testing, and production of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and other aerospace-related systems and equipment. The field is divided into two main branches: aeronautical engineering, which focuses on aircraft and their systems, and astronautical engineering, which deals with spacecraft and their systems. Aerospace engineers are responsible for analyzing and creating innovative solutions to diverse problems in aviation and space exploration technology, ultimately contributing to advancements in the global aerospace industry.
Professionals in this field work on various aspects of aerospace systems, such as aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, avionics, and materials. They are employed in the aviation, space exploration, and defense industries, working on projects that range from designing next-generation commercial airplanes to developing cutting-edge satellite technologies and planning space missions. Additionally, aerospace engineers may collaborate with other professionals, such as mechanical, electrical, and software engineers, to ensure the seamless functionality and efficiency of these complex systems.
How to become an aerospace engineer
To become an aerospace engineer, one must typically pursue a degree in aerospace engineering or a closely related engineering discipline. Here are the essential steps to follow:
- Obtain a high school diploma, focusing on STEM subjects
- Pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, or a related field
- Consider obtaining a master’s or Ph.D. in aerospace engineering for research or advanced positions
- Gain practical experience through internships, co-op programs, or entry-level positions
- Obtain a professional engineering (P.Eng) license for increased career opportunities
Job outlook and salary of an aerospace engineer
The career outlook for aerospace engineers in Canada remains promising, particularly due to ongoing demand for advancements in aircraft design, satellite technology, and space exploration endeavors. As global interest in sustainability, communication, and innovative travel solutions grows, aerospace engineers will likely continue to play a vital role in shaping the future of aerospace technology.
The average salary of aerospace engineers in the United States is $118,830 per year or $57.13 per hour.
10. Statistics and Applied Mathematics
Statistics and Applied Mathematics is a branch of mathematics that deals with the collection, interpretation, analysis, presentation, and modeling of data. In this field, professionals conduct research, design experiments, develop models, and analyze complex relationships between variables to make predictions or extract useful information for various industries. They utilize various statistical techniques and mathematical algorithms to help businesses, governments, and other organizations make data-driven decisions, optimize processes, and understand trends.
Professionals in this field are called Statisticians or Applied Mathematicians. They work in a variety of sectors, such as finance, healthcare, marketing, sports, education, and government. Their primary responsibility is to analyze data, make inferences, and help stakeholders make informed decisions. By applying mathematical theories, models, algorithms, and statistical methods, they solve real-world problems, predict future occurrences, and optimize processes for better efficiency and productivity. They may also be involved in the development of new and novel mathematical models, techniques, and simulations to address various industry-specific challenges.
How to become a statistician or mathematician
To become a statistician or applied mathematician, a strong foundation in mathematics and statistics is essential. Here are the typical educational requirements and steps to enter the field:
- Obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, Statistics, or a related field.
- Gain practical experience in data analysis or applied mathematics through internships, research projects, or part-time employment.
- Pursue advanced degrees like a Master’s or Ph.D. in Statistics, Applied Mathematics, or a related discipline for better job opportunities and career growth.
- Develop expertise in programming languages (such as R, Python, or SAS) and statistical software.
- Obtain relevant certifications, like the Associate Statistician (AStat) or Chartered Statistician (CStat) designations.
Job outlook and salary of a statistician or mathematician
The career outlook for statisticians and applied mathematicians is promising, as the demand for professionals skilled in data analysis and mathematical modeling continues to grow across various industries.
Crucial Skills for Success in STEM Careers
Though each STEM career has unique requirements, specific skills are essential for success across these fields. These include:
- Analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities
- Strong foundational knowledge in math, science, and technology
- Programming and coding skills
- Teamwork and communication
- Creativity and innovation
- Critical-thinking skills and attention to detail
Nurturing a Passion for STEM in Children
Encouraging children to explore their interests in science, technology, engineering, and math early in life can lay the foundation for STEM career success. Consider these strategies for fostering their passion:
- Create a supportive learning environment: Encourage curiosity, experimentation, and research while providing access to adequate resources and opportunities to explore STEM fields.
- Introduce them to real-life STEM role models: Highlight individuals who have made significant contributions in STEM areas or arrange meetings with working professionals to inspire your child.
- Engage in STEM-based extracurricular activities: Enroll your child in workshops, clubs, or camps focused on mathematics, science, robotics, or computer programming to build essential skills and interests.
- Stay informed about STEM career opportunities and resources: Keep updated on educational and professional opportunities available for your child and encourage continued growth and learning.
In conclusion, a range of STEM careers are available for your child to explore and pursue in various fields. Understanding the opportunities and nurturing their passions can help create a successful and rewarding future in these continuously growing and in-demand fields.
Richard Zhang, M.Ed., is an educator and a software developer with a Masters degree in education from University of Toronto and an immense passion for education and learning. Until the pandemic, Richard owned an award-winning learning centre in Toronto. For 15 years, he has taught and mentored hundreds of elementary, middle school, and high school students succeed in academics. He is also an app developer specializing in web and mobile application in educational and business sectors.