What sort of education will you need to become a STEM professional? The answer is, “Depends!” It depends on your destination. If you want to be in some professions like engineer, mathematician, scientist, you probably need at least a bachelor’s degree from a college or university. If you are interested in any of several other kinds of technical jobs like programmer, operations technician, linesman, electrician, welder, then a community college or trades program is required.
One thing to think about regardless of what direction you take is career mobility. If you have your heart set on a college-required STEM job, it is also helpful to understand what other applied jobs may be available. If you are set on a technical occupation, it is very good to still prepare yourself generally with a STEM education that gives you flexibility for the future. Often STEM professionals in the applied areas return to school to seek advancement or higher positions in an organization.
HIGH SCHOOL PREPARATION: Generic
No matter what your aim, here are some general recommendations for anyone headed to a STEM career:
• Take all the Mathematics classes you can. Mathematics is a fundamental requirement for all STEM professionals whether it be Wildlife Biologist or Welder.
• Take English writing and reading courses. No matter if you are headed to a university or a trade school, an ability to read technical information and write clearly is an absolute must!
• Take courses that help you understand computer applications. All professions depend on some kind of computer software. Being comfortable with applications is a must.
• Take courses that make you observe, record, think and report. These scientific principles are important for any problem solver in STEM professions. Courses like Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Geology, or most science classes fit this definition.
• Take an applied course in metals, woods, electronics, or applied engineering. This will help you determine if you are a hands-on type person. Who knows, you may be headed for a college program and find that a technical option is more to your personality!
You can read a viewpoint on how to think about what to do as a high school student here: https://blog.collegevine.com/should-i-focus-on-getting-a-stem-specific-education-in-high-school/
HIGH SCHOOL PREPARATION: University bound program
Along with the recommendations above, there are specific recommendations for those entering college expecting to take degree programs in the sciences, mathematics, computer science, or engineering.
In general, a typical high school core curriculum looks something like this:
- English: 4 years
- Foreign Language: 2 to 3 years
- Math: 3 years
- Science: 2 to 3 years, including lab science
- Social Studies and History: 2 to 3 years
- Art: 1 year
See Eastern Oregon’s course requirements at: https://www.eou.edu/admissions/freshman/
Always consult with the college or university you are interested to apply and check their course requirements.