Finding fulfillment in a career path is challenging. It's hard to know what you actually want to do in the first place, and then it's even harder to find something that pays well, makes you feel like you're having an impact on the world and offers some kind of work-life balance. These are all qualities frequently attributed to overall job satisfaction, which is at an all-time low in the United States.
But there's one huge sector of jobs that could offer all of these things. Working in science, technology, engineering or math has never been more appealing, and it's benefits are only growing. Jobs in STEM are not only some of the most lucrative, they're in high demand and they're shaping the future of how we live, work and interact with one another.
Here are seven reasons why STEM is such an enticing path at any age or stage in your career.
1. There are plenty of open jobs, and there will only be more in the coming years.
As of May 2014, there were more than 8.3 million jobs in STEM-related fields in the U.S. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available for computer scientists alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, based on how many people are studying these subjects now, only 400,000 people will be trained to fill those roles. This discrepancy between number of people trained and number of jobs available is such a concern that the Obama administration has created an initiative to get more students interested in STEM at a young age.
2. The jobs pay really well.
So well, in fact, that they make up the highest paying jobs in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are a number of jobs in STEM-related fields that pay annual salaries in the $100,000 to $250,000 range. The average salary for all STEM occupations is $85,570, which is still almost $38,340 more than the average salary of all jobs.
Overall median salary is high in these roles, and so is the average salary for students just coming out of college. Across the board, college graduates who majored in math, chemistry, computer science or engineering saw salaries in the $50,000 to $65,000 range in their first job, which is higher than the mean salary of $48,127 for all graduates with a bachelor's, according to CBS News.
3. You can find a STEM job in any industry.
Mixing chemicals in a lab and writing lines of endless code may appear to be the only options for a future in this job sector, but as our world continues to become more tech-dependent, STEM jobs are moving into every industry.
Seventy-four percent of college graduates with STEM degrees aren't working in traditional STEM jobs, according to CNN Money, and there are a number of alternative career paths to pursue. If you love music, there are people analyzing music behaviors and patterns for streaming sites like Pandora and Spotify. If you love fashion, there are graphic designers turning ideas into outfits on the runway. Whatever industry you might be interested in, there is some element of computing woven into it that is opening up new opportunities.
4. Jobs in technology and science have the power to change the world.
In the coming years, science and technology will be leading the way to find solutions to some of the world's biggest problems, ranging from global poverty to clean water access. From apps that can donate meals to the hungry to technologies that can better diagnose deadly diseases, jobs in these fields have the potential to drastically change our society for the better. Being a part of that is a huge bonus in looking for one of these jobs, and it fulfills the desire to feel like you are making a difference.
5. There are more jobs available than people trained to fill them.
Each year, 3.2 million jobs in STEM aren't filled simply because there aren't enough people trained to work in all of these roles. With such a high demand and so few qualified applicants, if you're searching for one of these positions, and you have the skill set, you're at a huge advantage. You have the abundance of choice and a highly desirable area of expertise and ability. This puts you in a better position to negotiate for a higher salary and choose a job that really fits you best.
6. You'll always learn something new.
If you work in STEM, your field is constantly changing. The technology we use today is drastically different from last month, last year and 10 years ago. Working in a science and tech-focused job means learning to adapt to new technologies and developments all the time. It keeps you learning new things throughout your career, despite staying in the same type of job or company. A main driver of satisfaction in jobs is feeling challenged, and learning new skills keeps your mind sharp and engaged.
7. Your work is shaping the future.
Because jobs in these fields will continue to drive major changes in our world, working in them will make you a part of that change. From medical advances to space exploration and developments in computer technology, all of these areas are going to greatly influence what our world looks like in the coming years. Choosing to work in STEM makes you an immediate part of creating the future.