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What is a STEM Degree?

Perhaps as you’ve been researching your options for college degrees, you’ve come across a puzzling buzzword phrase: STEM degree. Are you wondering what, exactly, people mean when they talk about “STEM education,” “STEM careers,” “STEM classes” and “STEM degrees?” Read on for an in-depth discussion of the fascinating STEM acronym.

What the Letters in the STEM Acronym Stand For

The National Science Foundation specifically defines what a STEM education is:

  • The S stands for “science.”
  • The T stands for “technology.”
  • The E stands for “engineering.”
  • The M stands for “mathematics.”

Putting that all together, the acronym is a useful way of referring to the current body of available high-tech and scientific knowledge.

STEM Academic Degree Programs Acknowledged by the US Government

Government employees at as many as 15 federal agencies are involved with STEM education programs. The federal government of the United States typically spends between $2.8 billion and $3.4 billion every year on various aspects of STEM education. The majority of this money is allocated for financial aid to college students, and some of it is also spent on educating elementary and high school students.

Because federal authorities perceive STEM education to be so important, the US government takes an active role in defining which degree programs are considered to be part of a STEM education. The United States has initiated an effort to bring foreign students into the country to take STEM classes. Under the OPT (optical practical training) program, the US government is allowing foreigners to live in the USA and work at STEM jobs during and after their schooling. Foreign STEM students can work in the USA for as long as 2 years after graduation.

This initiative made it necessary for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the Department of Homeland Security to take an interest in specifying which degree programs are considered STEM programs and which are not. Homeland security maintains a PDF list of STEM academic degree programs you can consult for further information. A few programs of interest on the list are animal health, food science, food technology and processing, soil microbiology, environmental studies, naval science and operational studies, nanotechnology, aeronautical and aerospace engineering technology, environmental control technologies, artificial intelligence, manufacturing engineering technology, welding engineering technology, petroleum technology, chemical engineering technology and industrial safety technology. There are many others.

Which Are the Best Colleges and Universities That Offer STEM Degrees?

US News maintains a list of the best-ranked universities that confer significant numbers of STEM degrees. Their methodology is weighted in favor of colleges that grant the highest overall percentages in STEM-related majors. They used the US Department of Homeland Security’s list of degree programs for comparison purposes when evaluating the data.

General STEM Degrees

There are some educational institutions that are making non-specific STEM degree programs available that allow students to take classes in a variety of science, tech, engineering and math topics. There are also STEM education programs that are specifically designed to educate future teachers who desire to help their students become proficient in mathematics or the sciences.

We hope you found this information on the topic of STEM education to be enlightening and informative. If you’re thinking of going to college and earning your degree, you really can’t go wrong by majoring in one of the STEM courses of study. A general STEM degree is also a smart choice of majors that will prepare you well for a variety of lucrative career paths.

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