What is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – representing the core subjects normally taught at Higher Educational Organisations. To work in ‘STEM’ you don’t necessarily have to be an expert within each one of those fields, you just have to have a good working understanding of each one. Different STEM jobs require a different ratio of education within each of the above fields, therefore you could find that one STEM job might utilise more mathematics, focusing on crunching numbers and solving problems, whilst another might be more focused on the scientific principles with less data handling.
What are careers in STEM?
Careers in STEM will consist of a combination of skills from the four different STEM areas – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. All of these fields are constantly going through huge technological advancements meaning there will most likely be STEM roles people will specialise in over the next 5 or 10 years which may be completely unheard of right now.
There are hundreds of STEM related job titles out there making it a fairly flexible field with opportunities for career diversification, may you want to add variety or change up your day to day responsibilities. For example, people starting off as a computer programmer may progress into database development, system analysis or software development fields, with many even starting their own enterprise projects to fill a gap in the market for a product or service.
It is estimated that 19% of the UK workforce fell under the STEM careers category in 2019. This number has likely increased considerably over the past three years, as just between 2003 and 2017, STEM occupations increased by 20%, in comparison to 15% for non STEM jobs. Some of the most in demand STEM jobs in the Northern Irish market at the moment fall into the following categories:
- Software Development
- Database Development
- System Architecture & Internet specialist
- Cloud Computing
- Mobile Technologies
- Cross – platform mobile applications
- Computer Games & Digital entertainment
- Cyber Security
- Banking / Financial Services
Why are careers in STEM so in demand?
One of the reasons STEM careers tend to be secure and, hold plenty of potential for development is because they are constantly in demand, meaning a STEM professional should never have trouble with being out of employment or finding another, better suitable position. Northern Ireland is fast becoming an enterprise hub, due to the affordable prices of buying and renting property in comparison to the rest of the UK along with the added bonus of being saturated with individuals who are well qualified within the STEM field thanks to the two renowned Universities located here. All of these things check the boxes for large innovative companies to open up branches across the country, creating numerous jobs across the industry and driving innovation.
STEM jobs and STEM focused businesses are favoured by the government as they have a high potential for overall wealth creation and innovation within the region. With many STEM jobs, particularly those within the I.T sector bringing in significant amount of export based revenue, business models are being created that benefit both employees – due to the bigger than average salaries and comfortable working conditions, as well as the Northern Irish government as money paid through business taxes is then used to supply us with a better quality of public services.
The STEM sector also drives innovation across multiple different industries, opening doors for the creation of new products and processes in vital areas such as I.T, medicine, agriculture and science. The world is in a constant need of innovation for new improved products particularly in the areas of sustainability and renewable resources, therefore investing and encouraging people to enter those fields means that opportunities are created for people to come up with solutions to national problems we may not have a clear understanding of how to fix yet.
For example, throughout the pandemic, we had a sudden surge in demand for services and products that would enable us to effectively and efficiently communicate and share ideas remotely, which had pushed people within the virtual reality sector to start developing platforms that would replicate face-to-face communication virtually. Facebook has started work on their metaverse platform, which is still in development but will soon enable us to replicate the office environment from the comfort of our own homes and collaborate and socialise more authentically.
Why is a career in STEM worth it?
STEM careers can appeal to people from different angles. Some individuals chose to dedicate their studies to STEM so that they can have secure, reliable and well paid jobs in the future. As STEM industries are constantly growing, particularly ones focused around skills in I.T and programming, graduate salaries for software developers stand at a minimum of £25000 a year, oftentimes more. Many choose careers in I.T so that they can do work that they feel is meaningful, impactful, and gives them an opportunity to solve a problem.
The increase in voice recognition devices, such as the amazon alexa or the google nest would not be around without ambitious I.T professionals who wanted to develop something new that would be the catalyst for a new style of interacting with technology in a more intuitive and efficient way. Because we have the basic means necessary to implement solutions, the priority is now to fill roles with people who will be able to dedicate themselves to utilise the technology we have available to us to do so.
Developments in Engineering, allow us to create products that can change our future in terms of sustainability by using renewable resources, such as the recent James Dyson sustainability award winner Carvey Ehren Maigue, who created solar panels that can extract UV light made out of fruit and vegetable food scraps. The constant supply of resources to come up with new ideas, products and solutions is what makes STEM careers worth it. Simply speaking, they can be extremely rewarding, and give you the flexibility to decide what projects you would like to work on.
Northern Ireland’s digital sector is now growing faster than most of the UK with 15% annual growth in comparison to the 13% which is the UK average. Particularly within the tech sector, Northern Ireland has had a median 12.4% increase in jobs month on month in 2021. The data clearly speaks for itself – STEM jobs are booming, and many of those who choose a career in a STEM related field are in for a bright future where job opportunities will be plentiful, and salaries continuously growing.
Many employers within the STEM field are also highly focused on employee retention, providing optimal working environments with plenty of benefits. This can include bonus schemes, comfortable office spaces and quality equipment and generous pension contributions, meaning that individuals working in STEM industries have better working conditions and treatment.