As an employer, career counselor, educator or job seeker, how do you know if a job or career field is classified as STEM—science, technology, engineering or math—or not STEM?  STEM knowledge and skills are needed in more careers and jobs than you might think. The National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal government agency, uses a broad definition of STEM that includes psychology and the social sciences such as political science and economics.  Also included are core sciences and engineering such as physics, chemistry and mathematics.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses a more limited definition that generally excludes social sciences and focuses on mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer and information sciences, and engineering.  DHS/ICE has expanded its list of STEM fields to include pharmaceutical sciences, econometrics, quantitative economics, veterinary sciences, and others.

A growing number of experts believe, however, that STEM jobs require knowledge of practices and processes that overlap and intersect the four disciplines.  STEM occupations classified by the NSF tend to focus more on the professional occupations and neglect that many blue-collar and technical jobs also require considerable STEM literacy, skills and knowledge.  So these jobs, while technically considered non-STEM, do indeed require STEM competencies such as analytical skills and critical thinking.  Construction, manufacturing and healthcare, for example, include STEM jobs such as carpenters, electricians, mechanics and nurses.  

According to the Brookings Institution’s report, The Hidden STEM Economy, many people believe a bachelor’s degree is required to get a STEM job.  Not true. The majority of STEM jobs do not require a four-year degree.  Workers with STEM knowledge obtained from a post-secondary certificate or associate's degree have many STEM job opportunities that pay an average wage of $53,000, almost 10 percent higher than non-STEM jobs available to people with similar education backgrounds.

Employers generally agree there is a shortage of STEM workers for a wide variety of their jobs that wouldn’t normally be thought of as STEM jobs but yet require a variety of STEM skills.  Bayer Corporation released a report on October 21, 2013 that included a survey of 150 talent recruiters from Fortune 1000 corporations.   Approximately “68 percent of those who cannot find an adequate number of qualified STEM job candidates report their companies have a significant number of open, unfilled STEM jobs for four-year STEM degree holders, while nearly 48 percent report vacancies for two-year STEM degree holders.”

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