STEM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM majors are an area of concern for the United States government, because not enough students entering college are going into STEM degree areas -- nor are there enough STEM teachers and other professionals in this area. This may mean that the United States is not producing enough workers in STEM fields to meet market demand.
According to the United States Department of Education, college enrollment data indicated that in the 2003 to 2004 school year, more than one-third of the students enrolled in STEM degree programs were temporary residents, expected to leave the United States after completing their education. Nearly one-half of the students graduating with a master's degree in engineering were international students, residing in the country on a temporary student visa.
The low number of American students entering STEM fields may be because such individuals are ill-prepared for the rigorous work that earning a degree in those fields would require. In 2009, only 34 percent of eighth grade students in the United States were scoring at the proficient level on a math assessment test given nationally. More than 25 percent of students scored below the basic level on the same exam. In 2010, only 43 percent of tested graduates were prepared for college-level math classes, and only 29 percent were prepared for college-level science classes when given an entry exam at their insitution for higher education. This education gap at the elementary and secondary levels must be closed before American students will enroll in STEM programs.
The career outlook for those who have STEM degrees is positive. According to UNCF, a high level of workers in STEM fields will reach the age of retirement between 2021 and 2026. That leaves the field open for STEM-educated college graduates to take their place. This, in combination with the ever-expanding field of technology, will lead to the demand for workers being greater than Americans qualified to fill those positions.
Because the fields of science and technology are always changing, a definitive list of degree paths for STEM students doesn't really exists. STEM degree paths include all topics that relate to natural sciences, computer sciences, health sciences, human resources, mathematics, physical sciences, economic sciences, construction, manufacturing and aeronautic sciences.