What Are the Top STEM Programs In the US? (And Why You Should Pay Attention)

Many companies are struggling to attract a gender balance in their workforce where only 18% of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) graduates are women. This means attracting females into STEM must begin at middle school and high school to fully leverage the pipeline of women and minority candidates in STEM. Taking a long-term strategic approach to attracting more women into STEM at a younger age will ultimately lead to more women enrolling in STEM programs in college with the goal of balancing the gender gap.

Any time a company is focused on hiring more women in STEM that lasts for a limited period of time, you will find no level of sustainability for women in higher levels of leadership. In order to attract and retain women in top leadership positions in STEM-related fields, their needs to be a long term strategy. Nokia is one such company where they are publicly committed to diversity in their workforce by training their people on gender balance best practices. They work closely with Greenlight for Girls to inspire girls and young women to choose a career in STEM.

STEM Career Paths

We now live in a world that sees cutting edge technology and advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the forefront of innovation. STEM is forecasted to drive jobs in the future where we see more investment in STEM looking to transform and diversify economies as a solution for growth and sustainable development. A key challenge, of course, is attracting women into STEM where traditional thinking sees jobs in the sciences, information technology, engineering, and mathematics as more suited to men. Overcoming this bias means corporations must provide more support for women in STEM.

A career in STEM is widely viewed as critical to the economy yet traditional gender bias inhibits many talented women from pursuing a career in STEM. Yet a career path for women in STEM is wide-ranging and well paying with a plethora of future opportunities. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest-growing occupations are in STEM-related fields presenting women with more opportunities than ever before with the median salary in mathematics at $101,900 per year, the median salary for a software developer is $103,620 a year, and nurse practitioners are topping out the pay scale with a median salary of $107,030 a year.

Roles in the field of Mathematics are the fastest growing in STEM careers with 28% more jobs expected by 2026. Many engineering careers are also growing with an additional 32,000 new jobs expected by 2026 due to the obsolescence of the US infrastructure which is in dire need of updating.

Science career paths are also growing exponentially especially since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic with biomedical research being at the forefront with the race to find a vaccine. The increased need for scientific research and expertise should see a growth of at least 10% by 2026 if not more. In addition to the obvious careers in medicine, health, and disease, studies in biomedical science offer programs for women in biomedical engineering, biomedical engineering technology, biomedical science, and biomedical informatics.

Recruiting Women Into STEM

It requires a strong commitment from leaders, educators, lawmakers, and women’s organizations to actively recruit and support girls and women in STEM careers. Bringing more women into STEM is undoubtedly seen as being essential to economic competitiveness and the future of technological innovation. Attracting women in STEM is critical to balancing the gender and pay gap in underrepresented groups to create a more diverse workforce. 

Candidates with STEM backgrounds are the most sought after today with companies looking to fill these highly coveted technical positions. The popularity in Zoom and other video conferencing technology means organizations are able to get in front of college students using this platform looking to enter the workforce as they graduate. 

Recruiting recent graduates in STEM is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. It is imperative we capture and nurture an interest in STEM careers for women at an earlier stage of their education. For instance, the College of DuPage offers various programs, events, and professional development opportunities and everything else related to STEM for females from a young age. They provide instructional and outreach programs to students to prepare them for careers in STEM with innovative and creative events designed to engage the younger generation. For instance one of the events they run is “Get Your Geek On” – a day-long extravaganza offering interactive and simulation activities for all ages and interests. They provide a Women in STEM careers day aimed at 8th-12th grade girls providing them the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities and interact with positive role models to encourage them to pursue STEM careers.

Greenlight for Girls started with one e-mail sent to less than 100 people across the world, with one question – “Do you believe there is something we need to do to encourage girls in science?”  Now they run events in 34 countries boasting of 48,000 participants supported by 8,000 volunteers. Their global partners include Black & Decker, Cisco, AIG, Vodafone to mention a few. The founder Melissa Rancourt is an engineer and true science geek. Who had the vision to encourage girls of all ages and backgrounds to develop an interest in STEM.

The Fun Academy creates inspiring solutions to attract women in STEM such as the Future Astronauts Program and the STEM Alliance Week organized by the office of Congressman. This program is run in collaboration with Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) aimed at promoting careers in STEM and brings together a collaborative network of business partners, affiliates, and educators to foster an interest in STEM.

Female Role Models In STEM

Even though more women are rising to the top levels in corporations, they are still marginalized in the corporate world with only 25% of women in senior leadership positions, and 6% serving as CEO, in spite of the fact that women outnumber men in all levels of education. Women tend to be underrepresented at every level, however, there is still a glass ceiling, particularly in STEM-related fields.

The 2019 study of Women in the Workplace conducted by McKinsey & Company reveals that a step up for women to a management role is the biggest obstacle women face on the path to leadership. Women account for 48% of entry-level hires and only 38% of first-level manager roles. This early inequality is what has a long term impact in the pipeline which means fewer women are in the running for promotion or hire at higher levels of leadership. Yet there are numerous Women role models in STEM who have reached the pinnacle of their careers which proves that if young women have a talent for the sciences, there is nothing stopping them because it can be done. 

The lack of female role models has been a significant roadblock for women pursuing a career in STEM despite women having made significant advances in their field of expertise. Although there are many women who have reached notoriety in STEM, these women serve as role models to girls and young women that they can succeed in STEM careers beyond the obvious biological sciences and medicine. They prove it can be done!

The Top Ten Colleges Offering Degree Programs In STEM

If you are considering a career in STEM, check out these highly regarded top schools.

Colorado School of Mines

One of the best STEM schools in the US is the Colorado School of Mines located in Golden Colorado offering both graduate and undergraduate degrees. Their degree programs focus solely on science, engineering math, and technology supported by standout research facilities including a nuclear science and engineering center, an advanced mechanics laboratory, and an ultra-fast science research lab.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. Their educational system emphasizes applied science and engineering based on laboratory instruction.

California Institute of Technology

Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering Institute offering six academic divisions with a strong emphasis on science and technology teaching and research using innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions and pressing societal challenges.  

Michigan Technological University

Michigan Technological University, based in Houghton, focuses on technological research, inventions, coding opportunities, and testing of new technologies. The university boasts nearly 300 thousand square feet of research lab space along with 18 research centers or institutes. They offer 120 graduate and undergraduate programs primarily focused on STEM fields, such as bioinformatics, geophysics, materials science and engineering, systems engineering, chemistry, geology, and mathematical sciences.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

(Interestingly, two other commonly searched topics on Lyst last year were “resale” and “rental.” While The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology offers, Bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. programs in such fields as biomedical engineering, chemistry, geological engineering, computational sciences and robotics, physics, and nanoscience. 

Missouri University of Science and Technology

The Missouri University of Science and Technology offers diverse education ranging from liberal arts and business to military science, physical science, engineering, computing, and biological sciences. Missouri S & T offers cutting-edge labs such as a nuclear reactor, experimental mine, and mobile diagnostic facility.

Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Montana Tech stands out for its commitment to programs in STEM offering undergraduate degrees in geophysical engineering, petroleum, metallurgical, and mining engineering. Engineering features such research projects as a pit boat project, a power grid project, and a lunar robotics project.

Arizona State University – Polytechnic

Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus offers technology and science programs in the biological sciences, applied quantitative science, applied math, exploratory math, robotics engineering, and more. The campus boasts unique features such as a flight simulator, solar farm, and algae lab.

Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech is known for its extensive amount of research with access to numerous interdisciplinary research institutes and centers. Undergraduate and graduate program options span a wide range of studies in STEM, including algorithms, computational data analysis, biomedical engineering, human-centered computing, medical physics, and robotics.

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology emphasizes science and engineering in all of its programs, requiring all students to take courses in physics, calculus, and chemistry. Degree options include petroleum engineering, geochemistry, hydrology, earth science chemistry, and math.

Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College is one of the premier engineering, science, and mathematics colleges in the US where their graduates become leaders in their field. The college offers nine engineering, science, and mathematics-based majors.

Stepping into a STEM career is one of the fastest ways for women to excel in STEM-related fields where they can make an impact on diversity, innovation, and future technologies, earning more than working in other industries as they pursue their passion and make a mark on the world.

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