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The Best STEM Degrees for Careers of the Future

We have done the research and found The Best STEM Degrees for Careers of the Future. These subjects are based on the potential salaries and projected growth rates in their respective career fields.

Think of the progress that has been made in the areas of technology in the last thirty years. We have arrived at an age when technology is constantly at our fingertips.

We are surrounded by wind farms, solar panels and electric cars.

People are living longer than ever before, thanks to advancements in medicine and healthcare. Travel is faster and cheaper than ever. Most of these advancements are in thanks to the innovation and dedication in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or "STEM". What are the most thriving STEM fields as we move into the future?

Successful Student has created this list based on career stability, longevity, growth rate, and the need that these fields have for current and future employees.

These STEM fields are arranged by subject, and are not in any order of importance. The data for pay and job growth was collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unless otherwise specified.

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The Best STEM Degrees for Careers of the Future

1. Environmental Science

Environmental Scientist

Careers in clean energy are some of the fastest-growing in our economy right now and, most likely, into the future. Clean energy careers can include any associated with conserving and sustaining energy, developing alternative energy sources, recycling or reducing pollution.

Some of the sectors of sustainable and renewable energy are: renewable electricity generation (like wind, water, solar or geothermal), energy-saving homes, buildings, and manufacturing, and sustainable transportation. Specifically, some of those careers might include wind turbine technicians, solar installers, clean car engineers, sustainable builders, and sustainability professionals.

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2. Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Industrial and Organizational Psychology is a field that studies the psychology involved and human behavior in various work environments.

Specifically, the field involves studying the behavioral patterns of individuals, groups and organizations, and uses the results to resolve problems and issues within the workplace.

Some of the concepts and targeted areas studied within this field include recruitment, placement, training, performance, motivation and quality of work life.

Working in this arena requires knowledge of career development, consumer behavior, individual assessment, and task analysis, among others. These specialized psychologists may be called upon to coach employees, identify development needs, optimize work life, or develop criteria to evaluate performance, among other things.

The Industrial and Organizational Psychologist can be distinctly beneficial in any work environment, making this a career field that is open for opportunity. I-O Psychologists can work as an employee for a company, or work as an outside consultant.

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3. Drug Design


Drug design, also referred to as rational design or rational drug design, is a career in which new medical treatments are created and developed to resolve various biological issues.

At its core, a drug is a small molecule that either inhibits or activates the function of a biomolecule, which ideally results in a therapeutic benefit or improvement.

Because drug design involves molecules and their reactions to various targets, often computer-aided modeling is used. Most scientists are motivated into the drug design arena by the chance to discover a new medicine or treatment - imagine forging the path to heal Alzheimers, arthritis or cancer.

The design of these medicines often take a considerable amount of time, effort and resources - including a team of scientists. Microbiologists, medical scientists, botanists and organic chemists are some of the qualified individuals to work on these teams of developers. These medical scientists often thrive through careers in the pharmaceutical industry.

New drugs can take up to ten years for research and development, testing and approval. During that time, major pharmaceutical companies employ hundreds of medical scientists and spend over $1 million per day targeting new chemicals, proteins or vaccines that they hope will then move to clinical testing and eventual distribution.

4. Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology

landscape photography of a green field under a cloudy sky

Atmospheric scientists, sometimes also known as climatologists, make a career of studying the earth's climate, weather and atmosphere in general. With the information they glean from their studies, the scientist create weather maps, graphics and reports regarding forecasts and climate changes the earth has experienced or may be heading toward.

Typically, atmospheric scientists work indoors with the data that has been collected - in weather labs, stations or offices. Occasionally, these scientists are known to venture outdoors to study the weather in person. These scientists are also typically tasked with the weather warnings we all depend on in times of inclement weather or disasters, like floods, hurricanes or tornadoes.

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5. Behavioral Economics

man on front of vending machines at nighttime

Behavioral Economics is the study of behavior as it relates to money.

It's a hybrid field of economics and psychology. Behavioral Economists study how and why people and companies behave the way that they do.

Studies may include the psychological reaction to pricing of certain products.

These studies can be useful in creating an attractive price point, and more effective marketing campaigns for companies.

Behavioral Economists can find careers in research, consulting, and academia. Students interested in Economics and Psychology are most suited for these programs.

6. Game Design

person using computer playing FPS game

Gaming design has become a quickly growing career field for those with a Game Design or Game Art degree. The job description typically involves working in a team to create and develop either video games or the consoles themselves.

As video games have become a $30 billion industry, more and more people are playing games - opening more and more doors for growth in the game design industry.

As the gaming industry continues to balloon, more and more universities are offering specialized courses in game design - typically offered through the computer science and/or graphic design departments, and often these degrees are available online.

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7. Computer Science

Computer Science

Computer Science is one of the most popular online degrees, because of the high salary potential, and the important concentrations that are available. Concentrations include Blockchain Development and Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence, a branch within computer science, is a discipline regarding machine learning that is usually of a conceptual nature, like understanding surrounding environments, commands or questions and responding appropriately. Think of Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa - prime examples of artificial intelligence. Companies implementing and studying AI include Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM and Facebook - all seeking to solve current problems or overcome existing hurdles using intelligence in computers.

These companies have also formed the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society to ensure ethical and transparent work on AI. To date, AI has beaten the best human competitors in chess, checkers, Scrabble, Jeopardy!, and No Limit Texas Hold-Em, to name a few achievements. AI is being implemented across so many fields of study, including not just smart phones and computers, but also healthcare, manufacturing, robotics and transportation.

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8. Data Science

Data Analytics

A degree in Data Science (Data Analytics), also known as Business Intelligence when used in business, qualifies a candidate for a broad array of opportunities. The main priority of data analysts, regardless of the industry, is to gather, organize and maintain large quantities of data, and turn it into facts, figures, even equations, that can be used by an organization to predict trends, create forecasts, and even make operating decisions.

When the data is studied for business purposes, it's known as Business Intelligence. Because the demand for people with the skills to study and consolidate data is so large, often strong data analysts are able to command impressive salaries and job benefits right out of the gate as entry-level analysts. This service can be hugely beneficial for nearly any company, as all operate with data and large quantities of information.

Companies now realize the value of past performance to predict future performance, and are hiring specialists to delve deeper into what has been collected and achieved through their past. Colleges are also beginning to see the emergence of data analysis as an important career field and are responding accordingly, some even offering new majors in a field called "Big Data".

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9. App Development

App Development

Apps, placed at nearly everyone's fingertips through smart phones and computers, have experienced a massive surge in the past ten years. They are used to make life simpler, to help us connect and communicate, to share information, to capture memories, to navigate new territory, to play an instrument, learn a language, stay informed about the world around you, and so much more.

Sometimes easy for the consumer to forget, there is a team of software developers behind each application, dreaming of, creating and perfecting. In June of 2008, 10 million apps had been downloaded from the Apple App Store.

That number has grown to more than 180 billion in the present, showing enormous potential for growth and career opportunities.

App developers can work for large technology organizations like Google or Apple, or may also work independently, developing apps and selling them.

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10. Cyber Security and Information Assurance

Picture of Anonymous Avatar

Information, and its existence and movement through the internet, has proved to be mainstream in today's environment, and Information Technology Security (IT Security) is how that information exists securely. The information may be public, personal, commercial, governmental or private, but the security needed to keep it safe keeps our society functioning.

This is a field that is ever-evolving, as threats and the methods hackers and thieves use to hijack information get smarter and faster. The need to securely maintain systems is a top priority, making IT Security a field experiencing a significant surge in demand.

To that end, all major companies and most companies in general maintain strong IT Security specialist teams to protect their systems from being hacked. Because the internet is here to stay and so, unfortunately, are associated security threats, IT Security will provide many decades of well-paying career stability.

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11. Robotics


Robotics is used to join artificial intelligence with machines (robots) and "teach" them to react and respond to their environment, with only computer programming as a guide.

The use of robots is becoming more and more prevalent and society and technology advances enough for them to be effective. For example, technology has advanced enough that Robots are often sent into dangerous situations (like to defuse a bomb), and at the same time are also being implemented in highly repeatable labor roles in the manufacturing arena.

Robotics work doesn't stop there though - engineers are creating ways for robots to infiltrate the health care industry, to serve as receptionists, guides and helpers, we have even evolved the technology enough that robots are feasible for domestic or household use.

Today's technology and robots are capable of speech recognition, social intelligence, personality, artificial emotions and gestures. To that end, the careers available in robotics are extensive and far-reaching. Some include robotics engineer or technician, software developer, or even sales engineers.

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12. Drone Training

Drone Training

A Drone, also known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), is an aircraft that is flown remotely. Drones can range from small and personal "toys" costing around $100, to high-quality imagery drones, used for mapping and typography, to military aircrafts used for surveillance and attacks that can cost over $20 million.

Drones can be as small as a human hand or may have up to 130 foot wingspan. Some drones can be equipped with still shot cameras, video cameras, even missiles. Commercial drone pilots will find opportunities in industries such as the forestry service, oil and gas, real estate, search and rescue, farming, film, land surveying, and many more career fields.

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13. Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality Game Designer

Virtual Reality is a fairly new concept, and the field is considered to be cutting edge. To that end, the market is experiencing a shortage of qualified VR candidates to fill the roles available.

The market sectors looking to hire VR professionals include educational services, information, retail, professional scientific and technical services, and manufacturing.

But the largest companies looking for VR experience include companies like Google, Facebook, Samsung and Oculus, while even smaller companies like architecture and engineering firms, and even construction companies are seeing benefits from using VR. It's not just for fun and games anymore.

14. Mechatronics


Mechatronics, a field of engineering, focuses mainly on designing and producing equipment that is automated. The equipment can be for a variety of purposes: manufacturing, in offices, in laboratories, etc.

The individuals who make careers in the mechatronics world can choose to pursue either the technician or engineer route - engineers to design and develop and technicians to create and maintain the equipment.

Required education depends on the route taken. It is typical for a technician to have an Associate's degree, while engineers need a Bachelor's degree to get started.

15. Sabermetrics

man holding two white baseballs

Sabermetrics is a specialized field of statistics, specifically pertaining to the sport of baseball. Sabermetricians study the statistics associated with the players, the game and the sport, and the term "Sabermetrics" has been derived from "SABR", the acronym for the Society of American Baseball Research.

The field of Sabermetrics requires a background in statistics, mathematics, and typically some sort of computer modeling techniques or computer programming.

16. Operations Research

Operations Research

Operations Research (OR) is an interesting field of professionals dedicated to improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of businesses and organizations with techniques like computer modeling, optimization and statistical analysis.

For example, airlines use operations research to plan routes, plane size, flight times, trip frequencies, etc.

Companies like Walmart or Amazon utilize Operations Research for shipping, loading, deliveries, etc.

Even hospitals and treatment facilities use OR to plan things like facility layouts, staff requirements and patient flow. Basically, Operations Research provides insight for making decisions.

To get involved in the OR arena, individuals might have a degree in operations research, industrial engineering, analytics, or mathematics.

17. Computational Linguistics

Computational Linguistics Machine

The field of computational linguistics deals with the human language aspect of computer systems. Siri, Google Translate and Amazon Alexa are all examples of the work of computational linguists - speech recognition, machine translation and grammar checking being key aspects of these and other technological advancements.

Individuals with interest in this area should have a strong background in both computer programming and language, and a sometimes unknown skill: math and statistical analysis.

People who choose to pursue computational linguistics may choose to commit to one of many career fields. Some possibilities include: artificial intelligence engineer, machine learning engineer, linguist, data scientist or computational linguist.

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