As we’ve discussed on this blog before, pursuing an education in a STEM field can be a fantastic path to follow to build a rewarding, creative, and lucrative career. But, what exactly is “STEM,” anyway?

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at STEM fields, and what branches of study fall under the STEM mantle. We’ll also explore what you can do with an education in any one of these fields.

The Four Facets of STEM

First off, “STEM” is not really a word; it’s an acronym. STEM is short for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.”

Although these four fields are different in many ways, they are often grouped together. This is because there is a lot of overlap in terms of the skills each discipline demands. Unfortunately, there’s another common perception that haunts all four of these fields, too. Namely, that they’re boring.

Many students resist the idea of studying subjects like math and engineering. When they picture working in these fields, they might think of being stuck behind a computer, doing complicated and tedious math problems for hours and hours.

Part of the problem is that we don’t really talk much about the practical applications of STEM. So, let’s break each one down, and see just what studying these fields can help you accomplish.

“S” is for “Science”

We can roughly break science down into two primary fields: formal science, or natural science.

The former field has a lot of practical applications in terms of technology, like computer science and the development of artificial intelligence. In contrast, natural science is the study of the natural world. This can be done from many different angles, including:

  • Biology: the study of living organisms and systems
  • Geology: the study of the earth’s physical structure, substance, and history
  • Astronomy: the study of space and the physical universe
  • Chemistry: the study of the substances that compose matter, and how they interact
  • Ecology: the study of how organisms interact with their surroundings

…these are just a few examples. Pursuing the study of a science field can enable you to make fantastic discoveries, and even to play a part in unlocking some of the greatest mysteries of the universe.

“T” is for “Technology”

The study of technology overlaps with other branches of STEM, like computer science and mechanical engineering. Generally, though, technology is important because it helps develop the tools and procedures necessary to conduct work in other STEM fields.

Computer programming, IT, and web development are all examples of technology fields. As our world becomes increasingly tech-centric, professionals who can work to develop and build new technologies will be in high-demand.

“E” is for “Engineering”

Engineering covers just about any career path that involves designing and building structures. This can refer to architectural engineers who design buildings, or civil engineers who design highways, bridges, and other infrastructure. It can also refer to mechanical engineers who design complex machines, or any number of different engineering paths.

Engineers are critical to every facet of our society. They design the structures in which we live and work, our transportation lines, and the devices we use to communicate.

Do you remember spending a lot of time building fantastic contraptions with Legos or K’nex as a kid? Can you spend hour after hour on games like Sim City or Civilization? If so, engineering may the path for you.

“M” is for “Mathematics”

As the final STEM grouping, mathematics might be the most intimidating branch of the whole STEM tree for many readers. Then again, there are plenty of people out there who excel at math…or might excel at it, if they viewed it from the right angle (no pun intended).

Math plays some role in every STEM field, but paths like data analysis, finance, and statistical analysis are especially math-focused. These jobs can be challenging, but they’re also among some of the highest-paying jobs out there.

People who love math tend to do so because they view math problems like puzzles. After all, an algebra equation for which you need to find a solution is basically just a puzzle that you need to solve. So, if you love to solve puzzles, then math may be the right field for you.