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 health care. 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 “S.T.E.M.”
So what are the most promising STEM fields as we move into the future? Successful Student has compiled 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.
S.T.E.M. Degree Subjects
1 Sustainable and Renewable Energy
See our school ranking in the 22 Best Sustainable and Renewable Energy Colleges.
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.
|Solar Photovoltaic Installers can expect to earn a median salary of just over $39,000 per year, while Wind Turbine Service Technicians see median salaries of over $50,000 per year.||The top two jobs listed as the “Fastest Growing Occupations” for the Bureau of Labor Statistics are Solar Photovoltaic Installers and Wind Turbine Service Technicians, with 105% and 96% growth expected between 2016 and 2026, respectively.|
2 Industrial and Organizational Psychology
See our school ranking in the 32 Best Online Industrial Organizational Psychology Colleges.
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.
|The mean annual wage in 2017 was $102,530.||14.1 %|
3 Drug Design
See our school ranking in the 15 Best Drug Design Colleges.
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.
Scientist interested in drug design can often pursue any life science and expect to find a corresponding pharmaceutical company to embark on a career with. 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 even 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.
|The median salary is $80,000 per year.||13% until 2026.|
4 Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology
See our school ranking in the 14 Best Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology Graduate Programs.
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.
|The median salary was $92,000.00 in 2016.||13% growth to 2026.|
5 Behavioral Economics
Behavioral Economics is the study of behavior as it relates to money. It’s a kind of hybrid field of economics and psychology. Studies may include the psychological reaction to pricing of certain products. These studies can be useful in creating an attractive price point, and a more effective marketing campaign for companies. Behavioral Economists can find careers in research, consulting, and academia.
|Behavioral economists are bulked into the market research analyst career field for reporting purposes with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2016, the median pay for market research analysts was more than $62,000 per year.||23% to 2026.|
One of the leading and most interesting behavioral economist is Dan Ariely, professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He believes that the majority of us predictably and repeatedly make incorrect judgments and decisions in our lives, and that Behavioral Economics could help us to improve some of our patterns. To that end, he and his team have conducted various research projects and written and published several books.
6 Game Design and Game Art
See our Game Design, Game Art, Animation and Graphic Design rankings:
- 57 Best Video Game Design Colleges
- 10 Best Video Game Colleges Online
- 10 Best Game Design Programs at Christian Colleges
- 15 Best Animation and Graphic Design Colleges Online
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.
|The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups Game Designers and Animators together into the Multimedia Artists and Animators category, and lists the median salary as $70,530 in 2017.||8% growth from 2016 to 2026.|
7 Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence
See our school ranking in the 25 Best Artificial Intelligence Colleges.
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.
|Artificial Intelligence careers are considered to be under Computer and Information Research Scientists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary was $111,000.00 for 2016 for Computer and Research Scientists.||19% increase from 2016 to 2026.|
8 Data Analytics and Business Intelligence
See our ranking 10 Best Online Data Analytics Programs.
A degree in Data Analytics, also known as Business Intelligence, 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”.
|In 2016, mathematicians and statisticians with a Master’s degree earned a median salary of $81,950.00.||33% growth in employment between 2016 and 2026.|
9 App Development
See our ranking the 20 Best App Development Colleges.
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. As of June 2017, that number has grown to more than 180 billion, 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.
|Software Application Developers see a median salary of over $104,000 per year.||24% from 2016 to 2026.|
10 IT Security and Cyber Security
See our ranking the 15 Best IT Security Colleges Online.
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.
|Median wage in 2017 for information Security Analysts was over $95,510.||28% from 2016 to 2026.|
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.
|The median pay of Mechanical Engineers was $85,880 for 2017.||9% to 2026.|
12 Drone Training
See our ranking the 15 Best Drone Training Colleges.
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.
|Drone Pilots median salary is $51,516.00, according to PayScale.||The commercial and military usages and implementations for drones in the coming years will be significant – a 2013 report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates drones will be responsible for creating over 100,000 new jobs by 2025.|
13 Virtual Reality
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.
|The median wage as of 2016 was $82,860.||Computer and Information Technology, which includes Virtual Reality (typically under the umbrellas of Computer Science, Computer Programming or Software Development) is expected to see growth of 13% from 2016 to 2026.|
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.
|While the BLS does not specifically mention Mechatronics professionals, they fall under either Electronics Engineers or Mechanical Engineers, with median salaries of $96,000 or $84,000, respectively.||Electronics Engineering is expected to grow 7% and 9% between 2016 and 2026. Mechanical engineering technicians are estimated to experience growth of 5% between 2016 and 2026.|
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 arena requires a background in statistics, mathematics, and typically some sort of computer modeling techniques or computer programming.
|A median annual wage of nearly $80,000.||27% to the year 2022.|
16 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 business, operations research, industrial engineering, analytics, mathematics – any number of fields.
|2017 median pay was $81,390.||27% to the year 2026.|
17 Computational Linguistics
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.
|BLS reports that within software engineering, which would encompass computational linguistics, professionals earned a median salary of just over $102,000 per year. According to glassdoor.com, computational linguists can earn an average of just over $91,000 per year.||24% to the year 2026.|