STEM Programs: How to Choose the Right Major
The job market has expanded with tons of career options in recent years, leaving many young people at a loss of which direction to go.
It can be confusing to be a young high school student and figure out a path to take. If your child is gifted in the arts of math or science, it’s not a bad idea to encourage a STEM career.
A multitude of adults these days think children should set their sights on jobs in the STEM field. It’s an acronym that encompasses science, technology, engineering, and math.
According to a report from the Pew Research Center, more than 30% of Americans said they would encourage high school students to pursue jobs in a STEM-related field. However, with a wealth of STEM programs to choose from, what major should your child choose?
There are a ton of different STEM occupations, and thus STEM program options, that your child can consider. Let’s explore some essential questions to consider as you explore STEM education.
1. Will This STEM Major Interest Your Child?
Does building, staring at the sky, or collecting rocks interest your child? Select STEM programs that appeal to your child already or opt for new ones that they have yet to try.
When you follow your child’s interests or spark new ones, you support their learning by building on what they can do or already know. This can give them a better idea of what they are passionate about when looking at STEM majors.
There are so many possibilities for kids these days. One way of finding the kids’ interests is in a STEM box. These are mothy subscription boxes that get sent to your house, including every STEM subject. You can find our list of the best STEM boxes here.
2. What Activities Can Your Child Partake In?
Seek out STEM programs that encourage your child to discover and explore. Ensure they’ll be active by getting messy, digging, making shadows, building, mixing, or rolling balls.
There are even summer programs that work to help kids become STEM students, combining learning and fun. When your child is actively involved in playing with materials and objects, they learn a lot about how things work around them.
3. What Activities Can Your Child Figure Out?
Keep an eye out for STEM programs that allow your child to find solutions to their problems. They should give your child the opportunity to do things differently for a different outcome.
It’s okay if they don’t accurately or entirely grasp the scientific concepts.
What’s important is that they discover and explore using the skills required to reason like a scientist. These types of activities allow your child to test theories, learn STEM concepts, discover the solutions that work best, and experiment.
4. What Can Your Child Talk About?
Select STEM programs that spark intellectual discussions between you and your child. When you ask them to describe what they are doing, their thought process, and their observations, you build their STEM skills.
Upon asking your child, ‘why did you try it that way?’ or ‘why do you think so?’ you might be pleasantly surprised by their ideas. This will help to encourage their critical thinking, a skill they’ll take with them throughout their lives and into their college higher education.
5. What Can Your Child Write About or Draw to Share Their Discoveries?
Select STEM programs that include making models, writing, or drawing. Your child might use pipe cleaners to create a butterfly they saw or build a block structure of your home.
These fun crafts are the early foundation for STEM disciplines, without necessarily being STEM activities.
Furthermore, you can document their actions by using your smartphones to take videos or photos then have them share their experiences with friends and family members.
6. What Are Your Child’s Abilities?
Consider what your child thrives in when looking at the right major for them. The main principle here is that it’s probably unwise for them to become an undergraduate student in something that they’re weak in.
For instance, if they’ve barely passed their math course from the onset, STEM programs that major in math or subjects such as physics or mechanical engineering may not be the best move.
Types of Stem Programs
There are many STEM curriculum options for your child to explore! Let’s look at the main branches:
Science in STEM
It includes topics such as chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, and geology. A student who pursues a science-related career can become a medical professional, meteorologist, agriculturist, zoologist, or biological technician.
According to the BLS, increased demand for a degree that can work in social science, life, and physical occupations has an expected growth rate of 5% by 2028.
A student can follow scientist role models through other avenues or on social media. For instance, astronaut Christina H. Koch and Adam Savage of MythBusters maintain active Twitter accounts. Additionally, the legendary ‘Science Guy’ Bill Nye joined TikTok.
Another one of my favorites is Vsause. They make a STEM box called Curiosity Box for kids that my son and I reviewed. You can find our review here.
In today’s digital era, kids don’t need to remain tethered to textbooks when learning about science.
With hands-on STEM programs available for all age groups, learners can study topics such as chemical reactions, the scientific method, and simple machines.
Consider a summer STEM program or taking field trips to local state parks, planetariums, and natural history museums.
For a list of STEM camps, check out our list we put together, Best STEM Camp for Kids – Our Top Picks.
Technology in STEM
It encompasses hands-on science applied to daily life. Although technology can merge with other fields, such as engineering, people usually use the term to define computer-related careers.
While a software engineer designs and develops new systems and programs for computers, computer programmers code software that a software engineer plans. Kids may also be interested to learn that video game designers are also classified as computer scientists.
According to the BLS, professions for information technology and computer are expected to grow by 11% by 2029, which is considerably faster than the national average growth rate for all occupations.
Additionally, technology jobs garner lucrative salaries. For instance, a report indicates that the median annual wage for computer and information research scientists was $122,840 as of May 2019. Nowadays, kids as young as pre-K can delve into the basics of computer science and coding.
Online coding resources make it easy and exciting to pick up foundational skills through game design and partaking in puzzle-based challenges.
Engineering in STEM
Much like technology, engineering utilizes scientific principles to solve problems in the real world. Usually specializing in specific fields such as biology, physics, or chemistry, engineers plan and design items kids encounter every day.
KiwiCo has a ton of kids’ activities and engineering experiments sent to you every month. Make sure to check out our full hands-on review of KiwiCo.
They include electrical systems, bridges, medical equipment, and roads. Environmental, aerospace, civil, and biomedical engineering are just a few of the exciting degree programs and career options for engineers.
The BLS reports that total engineering professions are expected to grow by 3% by 2029 as they are fruitful and help society evolve. Kids use their intrinsic creativity to engineer new projects.
By engaging them in simple machines and other DIY projects, parents can combat the unwillingness or encourage the tendency by infusing fun.
Engineers usually claim a strong background in other STEM fields such as math and technology. Well-rounded STEM programs for kids can foster interest in a vast assortment of career arenas.
Math in STEM
A student learns math when they start counting and continue developing their skills through high school. While younger kids start with the basics of subtraction, division, addition, and fractions, advanced subjects include probability, geometry, and calculus.
A solid foundation in math prepares learners for a wealth of job opportunities.
As an essential component of a boatload of other STEM professions, math factors into engineering careers such as environmental and aerospace engineering, science jibs like astronomy, and computer-related occupations such as data science.
Additionally, a math enthusiast can work in highly sought-after occupations such as operations research analysts, actuaries, and statisticians, with a growth rate of 27% by 2029. Math STEM programs can apply to intriguing subjects that kids encounter daily.
Fun YouTube channels and game-based learning can make math fascinating to learn and reinforce classroom lessons.
For additional out-of-classroom fun, kids can incorporate fundamental math principles into their favorite sports by graphing teams’ performances or touring local landmarks to gain a better understanding of how architects use math.
The Bottom Line
Parents and teachers can make learning fun with STEM programs by encouraging children to follow their curiosity. For instance, kids that delight in video games can practice coding, and those with a fascination for astronomy can directly engage with NASA TV.
Likewise, students who struggle in math and other subject areas may find those fields more fun if they can learn them through interactive activities such as games.
Overall, exploring STEM programs is the key to fostering a lifelong love for learning and an interest in educational career paths.
Be sure to check out our article, Why Should You Consider STEM Programs for High School Students?