The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known collectively as the STEM subjects – are in high demand academically and professionally. Nearly one in three bachelor’s degrees and one in five master’s degrees are awarded in a science and engineering subject, the National Science Foundation’s STEM Education Data and Trends reported. Although most STEM majors intend to work in STEM occupations, just 35 percent actually do. While there are many fields that employ workers with STEM degrees, one of the most rewarding areas is education. If you want to use your STEM background to work in education, you can look for roles in teaching, instructional design and educational leadership and administration.
Teaching With a STEM Degree
By the time you complete a graduate degree program in a STEM subject, you have a great deal of advanced knowledge in your field. Why not share that knowledge with others in a teaching role at the elementary school, secondary school or college level?
Although you certainly don’t need a graduate-level understanding of astrophysics to teach elementary school science or a master’s degree in math to teach pre-algebra to middle school kids, having a strong math foundation will help you in a teaching role and fulfill the requirements for content-area knowledge that exist in many states. The advanced knowledge you have of your STEM discipline may be more at home in a college setting, teaching undergraduate students.
The problem that candidates with a graduate STEM degree often run into when shifting to an education career is that, despite having a master’s degree, they need more career preparation. Although you have learned plenty about your subject, you don’t have the skills and experience to manage a classroom or strategically develop lesson plans that match the ways students learn. You also can’t qualify for a teaching license or certification until you complete the required coursework and classroom experience.
Depending on your state, you may have the opportunity to get started in a teaching role with a provisional certification and supervision while you complete the requirements for alternative route certification, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although earning a master’s degree in teaching or education is one way alternate route educators commonly choose to meet certification requirements, you may be able to enroll in a certificate or non-degree teacher education program.
Even if you want to teach at the college level and don’t need a teaching certification, you may still need more education. A master’s degree is often sufficient to teach at a community or junior college, but STEM professors at universities often need a doctorate.
Jobs in STEM Instructional Design
Preparing students for success in the STEM subjects begins long before they reach college. Elementary and secondary schools are becoming more concerned than ever with integrating the foundations of STEM disciplines into their curricula and getting students interested in studying these subjects at an early age. To do that, they’re relying on instructional designers and curriculum specialists who are knowledgeable about teaching and learning in the STEM subjects.
Roles in instructional design focus not on teaching in the classroom, but instead creating the curriculum standards and curating or developing course materials and lessons used in the classroom. In specialized STEM curriculum creator roles, you may be responsible for planning only the curricula pertaining to STEM subjects or for integrating STEM lessons into the overall curriculum.
Although your advanced knowledge of STEM is an asset in planning curriculum standards and materials, you may need more than a STEM background to land this position. Formal studies in instructional design or curriculum writing may be necessary. Many employers require at least some prior work experience in education, but the extensiveness of those requirements can vary. While some schools look for candidates with five or more years of full-time teaching work in the classroom, others will accept as little education work experience as one year of part-time tutoring or volunteering in after-school programs.
In recent years, the United States Department of Education has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in STEM education to help more students develop the skills needed to pursue a STEM degree and ultimately work in these promising fields.
STEM-Related Roles in Educational Leadership
Thanks to the development of STEM schools at the primary and secondary education levels, degrees in STEM subjects are becoming more relevant to high-level roles in educational leadership. For jobs like principal of a STEM school, a background in a STEM field is more of an asset now. That said, understanding the workings of teaching and learning is still crucial to succeed in these educational administrator roles, even in STEM education. You will likely need some level of studies in educational leadership as well as some experience working in the classroom.
Although you may think of specialized STEM schools as having more to do with magnet schools, charter schools and private schools, some of the most distinguished STEM schools in the United States are traditional public school systems.