What is STEM and why is it important?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but it is more than an acronym. By grouping together these fields, ‘STEM’ accounts for the increasing overlap between them, and the value of interdisciplinary collaboration.

STEM jobs are hugely varied and encompass a wide range of skills. These include: problem solving, computational thinking (breaking things into smaller parts to better address bigger problems), scientific method (hypothesis, testing, analysis and iteration) and engineering design principles (ask, research, prototype, test, feedback and improvement). STEM skills also include the ability to gather and interpret data, and develop solutions based on this. 

STEM is globally important to many of the biggest issues of today, from climate change, to global poverty and inequity, feeding a growing population sustainably, ensuring adequate healthcare and creating and maintaining a good quality of life.

STEM jobs are growing rapidly and entirely new job sectors are emerging and disappearing as we increasingly shift from an industrial to a digital society. The National Skills Commission predicts that employment in STEM occupations in Australia will grow by 12.9% by 2025 compared to average job growth of 7.8%. And by 2030, it’s predicted Australian workers will spend 77 per cent more time using science and mathematics skills.

While STEM jobs are growing and diversifying, enrolments in STEM degrees are declining, especially for women and minorities. The latest STEM Equity monitor stats show STEM enrolments for women are just 35% – but for many reasons including equitable design, bias in data and access to work – we need to ensure more girls are considering STEM as a study path.

National Skills Commissioner Adam Boyton says: “The resilience of STEM occupations and the importance of these skills to the economy means there are likely to be better employment prospects in the short- to medium-term as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Why are STEM jobs growing more rapidly than other careers?

STEM provides foundational skills that can be used across many different job sectors and career areas – and they may not be what you think. There’s a huge range of careers across many different industries, including areas as diverse as retail, law, agriculture, inclusive design, tech, banking, mining, manufacturing and so much more.

At Careers with STEM, we can show you straight-up STEM careers areas – like this A-Z of STEM careers, A-Z of health jobs, a list of all of the computer science jobs we can think of, a glossary of gaming gigs and this What is Engineering? video.

We also have a back catalogue of Careers with STEM magazines, available to read online for free.

STEM jobs are changing all of the time, and some of the biggest areas of innovation are where STEM careers intersect with other sectors. At Careers with STEM, we focus on how you can add STEM to ‘X’ – where X is the area you are most interested in, your passion, goal, or another field.

What is STEM + X?

STEM jobs can include creative roles and can be in creative industries, from music and arts to design, games, and traditionally humanities areas, such as language, law and history. If you think you’re most interested in Being Creative, check out some of these inspiring careers.

If you’d like to work to create a better world, look at combining STEM with your passion to Building a Smarter Future, and engineer the solutions we need to build smarter, more sustainable societies. 

Passionate about creating Social Change? Find out how to use tech skills to make a better world, how science drives sustainability and addresses global poverty, and how engineers are working to improve equity and accessibility around the world.

Social justice + technology
In our increasingly tech-driven world, it makes sense that technology will play an instrumental role in our attempts to do better and be better. Read more about using tech skills for social good here. Image via iBobbly.

Interested in food, health, nutrition or medicine? Get insights into using STEM skills to Develop Healthy Communities.

Want to work on society’s big issues? If you’re interested in Solving Global Problems like climate change, food security, pandemics and natural disasters, there’s a bunch of STEM careers open to you.

You can also navigate through careers in cyber security, space or defence.

What are the paths into STEM?

If you’re wondering what area of STEM is best for you, we can help with that too. Check out our quizzes, from trivia to keeping your STEM skill sharp to discovering your ‘STEM + X’, finding out if a STEM apprenticeship is for you, discovering what type of programmer you could be and so much more – there are more than 100 quizzes to choose from!

Starting out in high school? You can also find information on choosing electives, Years 11/12/13 or study pathways into university to help you on the path to your ideal career/degree/study.

And Vocational Education and Training (VET) study options, including STEM Apprenticeships and Traineeships.

Sign up to get regular updates and inspiration to turbo charge your start in STEM study paths.

What if I have done some study but am looking for the next step?

Read the STEM graduate’s guide to getting a job here. Image: Shutterstock

If you are already studying or looking for a job, check out Graduate Outcomes. You’ll find deep dives into some of the biggest and best STEM employers, information on graduate programs and internships, and further study options from micro-credentials to postgraduate degrees.

Sign up for our Grad Outcomes newsletter for regular updates.

What’s a day in the life of a STEM professional like?

UX Designer
Sophie Gardner is a UX designer at tech giant, Google. For Sophie, UX Design offers the perfect blend of creativity, sociology and technology. Read more about her STEM study + career journey in her full profile.

There are more than 500 STEM role models on the site. You can find them via your ‘X’ interest or sort by:

Want more?

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok, and check out our YouTube channel for regular videos and webinars where you can hear from STEM professionals and ask your questions live and more.

I’m a teacher – is there anything you can help me with?

If you are a teacher, check out our guide to using Careers with STEM in class, plus the Teachers Hub where you’ll find free posters, activities, coding resources and much more.

You can also sign up to our monthly Education Insider email for regular STEM education updates, and subscribe to get your print copy of Careers with STEM each term for just $25/year.

Discover 118 STEM careers with this colourful STEM career poster! Perfect for the science classroom. Download or order it at the Careers with STEM shop.