STEM fields

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STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.[1] The term is typically used in addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools from kindergarten through college to improve competitiveness in technology development. It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns and immigration policy.[1]

MINT (mathematics, information sciences, natural sciences, and technology) has a similar meaning.[2]

In the United States[edit]

In the United States, the acronym began to be used in education and immigration debates in initiatives to begin to address the perceived lack of qualified candidates for high-tech jobs. It also addresses concern that the subjects are often taught in isolation, instead of as an integrated curriculum.[3] Maintaining a citizenry that is well versed in the STEM fields is a key portion of the public education agenda of the United States.[4] The acronym has been widely used in the immigration debate regarding access to United States work visas for immigrants who are skilled in these fields. It has also become commonplace in education discussions as a reference to the shortage of skilled workers and inadequate education in these areas.[5]

National Science Foundation[edit]

Many organizations in the United States follow the guidelines of the National Science Foundation on what constitutes a STEM field. The NSF uses a broader definition of STEM subjects which includes subjects in the fields of Chemistry, Computer and Information Technology Science, Engineering, Geosciences, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Social Sciences (Anthropology, Economics, Psychology and Sociology), and STEM Education and Learning Research.[1][6] Eligibility for scholarship programs such as the CSM STEM Scholars Program use the NSF definition.[7]

It is the only American federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences.[8] Its disciplinary program areas include scholarships, grants, fellowships in fields like Biological Sciences, Computer & Information Science & Engineering, Education and Human Resources, Engineering, Environmental Research & Education, Geosciences, International Science & Engineering, Mathematical & Physical Sciences, Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, Cyberinfrastructure and Polar Programs.[6] A list of NSF's STEM degree fields can be found on the NSF site.

Immigration policy[edit]

Although many organizations in the United States follow the guidelines of the National Science Foundation on what constitutes a STEM field, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has its own functional definition used for immigration policy.[9] In 2012, DHS or ICE announced an expanded list of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) designated-degree programs that qualify eligible graduates on student visas for an optional practical training (OPT) extension. Under the OPT program, international students who graduate from colleges and universities in the United States are able to remain in the country and receive training through work experience for up to 12 months. Students who graduate from a designated STEM degree program can remain for an additional 17 months on an OPT STEM extension.[10] The expanded list released by DHS in 2012 full list can be found at

STEM Eligible degrees in US Immigration An exhaustive list of STEM disciplines does not exist because the definition varies by organization. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lists disciplines including:[11] Physics, Actuarial Science, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, Computational Science, Psychology, Biochemistry, Robotics, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electronics, Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Information Science, Civil Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Astrophysics, Astronomy, Optics, Nanotechnology, Nuclear Physics, Mathematical Biology, Operations Research, Neurobiology, Biomechanics, Bioinformatics, Acoustical Engineering, Geographic Information Systems, Atmospheric Sciences, Educational/Instructional technology, Software Engineering, and Educational Research.


STEM generally supports broadening the study of engineering within each of the other subjects, and beginning engineering at younger grades, even elementary school. It also brings STEM education to all students rather than only the gifted programs. In his 2012 Budget, President Obama renamed and broadened the "Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP)" to award block grants to states for improving teacher education in those subjects.[12]

In 2006, the United States National Academies expressed their concern about the declining state of STEM education in the United States. Its Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy developed a list of 10 actions federal policy makers could take to advance STEM education in the United States to compete successfully in the 21st century. Their top three recommendations were to:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration also has implemented programs and curricula to advance STEM education in order to replenish the pool of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who will lead space exploration in the 21st century.

American Competitiveness Initiative In the State of the Union Address on January 31, 2006, United States President George W. Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative. Bush proposed the initiative to address shortfalls in federal government support of educational development and progress at all academic levels in the STEM fields. In detail, the initiative called for significant increases in federal funding for advanced R&D programs (including a doubling of federal funding support for advanced research in the physical sciences through DOE) and an increase in U.S. higher education graduates within STEM disciplines.

The NASA Means Business competition, sponsored by the Texas Space Grant Consortium, furthers that goal. College students compete to develop promotional plans to encourage students in middle and high school to study STEM subjects and to inspire professors in STEM fields to involve their students in outreach activities that support STEM education.

The National Science Foundation has numerous programs in STEM education, including some for K–12 students such as the ITEST Program that supports The Global Challenge Award ITEST Program. STEM programs have been implemented in some Arizona schools. They implement higher cognitive skills for students and enable them to inquire and use techniques used by professionals in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical fields.

The STEM Academy is a national non-profit status organization dedicated to improving STEM literacy for all students. It represents a recognized national next-generation high impact academic model. The practices, strategies, and programming are built upon a foundation of identified national best practices which are designed to improve under-represented minority and low-income student growth, close achievement gaps, decrease dropout rates, increase high school graduation rates and improve teacher and principal effectiveness. The STEM Academy represents a flexible use academic model which targets all schools and is for all students.[13]

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a leading provider of STEM education curricular programs to middle and high schools in the United States. The national non-profit organization has over 5,200 programs in over 4,700 schools in all 50 states. Programs include a high school engineering curriculum called Pathway To Engineering, a high school Biomedical Sciences program, and a middle school engineering and technology program called Gateway To Technology. PLTW provides the curriculum and the teacher professional development and ongoing support to create transformational programs in schools, districts, and communities. PLTW programs have been endorsed by President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as well as various state, national, and business leaders.

STEM Education Coalition[edit]

"The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition[14] works to support STEM programs for teachers and students at the U. S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies that offer STEM related programs." Activity of the STEM Coalition seems to have slowed since September 2009.

Boy Scouts of America[edit]

The Boy Scouts of America have announced the roll out of an awards program in the spring of 2012 to promote more interest and involvement in the STEM disciplines. The NOVA and SUPERNOVA awards are available to Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Venturers as they complete specific requirements appropriate to their program level in each of the four main STEM program areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).


America COMPETES Act of 2007: The America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69) became law on August 9, 2007. The act responds to concerns that the United States may not be able to compete economically with other nations in the future due to insufficient investment today in science and technology research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development. The America COMPETES Act is intended to increase the nation's investment in science and engineering research and in STEM education from kindergarten to graduate school and postdoctoral education.

The act authorizes funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories, and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science over FY2008–FY2010. Robert Gabrys, Director of Education at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, articulated success as increased student achievement, early expression of student interest in STEM subjects, and student preparedness to enter the workforce.

In January 2014, the U.S. House Research and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing to examine STEM education programs run by the private sector. In 2014, the U.S. federal government plans to spend $3 billion on STEM education programs through a variety of federal agencies.[citation needed]


November 2012 – White House announcement before congressional vote on STEM Jobs Act puts president in opposition to many of the Silicon Valley firms and executives who bankrolled his re-election campaign.[15] The Department of Labor identifies fourteen sectors that are "projected to add substantial numbers of new jobs to the economy or affect the growth of other industries or are being transformed by technology and innovation requiring new sets of skills for workers."[16]

Advanced Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Financial Services, Geospatial Technology, Homeland Security, Information Technology, Transportation, Aerospace, Biotechnology, Energy, Healthcare, Hospitality and Retail.

The Department of Commerce notes STEM fields careers are some of the best-paying and have the greatest potential for job growth in the early 21st century. The report also notes that STEM workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and training in STEM fields generally results in higher wages, whether or not they work in a STEM field.[17]

Women in STEM[edit]

Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (United States) are often underrepresented in these fields, holding less than 25% of the jobs.[18] Studies have been conducted to explain this pattern, such as mechanisms in recruitment and hiring processes.[19] On average, women in STEM fields earn 33% more than those in non-STEM professions. They also experience a smaller wage gap compared to men.[20] However, women can be found as leaders in top professions around the country. These include the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).[21][22]

In the United Kingdom[edit]

The National STEM Centre of the UK houses the largest open collection of resources for teachers of science, design and technology, engineering and mathematics in the United Kingdom. Alongside contemporary resource materials, including print, multimedia, and practical resources, is a growing archive collection which showcases several decades of curriculum development.[citation needed]

Resources for use with early years to post-16 students are freely available in both physical and electronic ("eLibrary") collections. These materials include:[citation needed]

To foster colleagues work with the resource collections, an online Community is freely available. The Community include options for teachers to collate links to resources from the eLibrary or elsewhere on the web in ‘My lists’, and share their own materials and ideas in ‘Groups’.[citation needed]

Further information on how to access the eLibrary, as well as how to register with the National STEM Centre, is available from the National STEM Centre.[23]


There has been significant debate about whether the emphasis on STEM curriculum is the proper approach and substantial skepticism of the claims of its advocates.[24] Some have suggested STEM could inadequately achieve the economic goals intended,[25] and others have added additional subjects or qualifiers.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ "Wiedeking: "Education is the strongest profit-yielding form of investment"". Porsche. 2009-03-11. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  3. ^ "STEM Education in Southwestern Pennsylvania". The Intermediate Unit 1 Center for STEM Education. 2008. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  4. ^ Morella, Michael (July 26, 2012). "U.S. News Inducts Five to STEM Leadership Hall of Fame". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  5. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (November 7, 2011). "Bill Clinton Lays Out His Prescription for America’s Future". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  6. ^ a b Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) (nsf12599)
  7. ^ ISTEM – College of Southern Maryland
  8. ^ "What We Do". The National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Jennifer G. Roeper (May 19, 2012). "DHS Expands List of STEM designated-degree programs". Fowler White Boggs P.A. Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  11. ^ "STEM Designated Degree Programs". U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. April 2008. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  12. ^ Jane J. Lee (14 February 2012). "Obama's Budget Shuffles STEM Education Deck". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Bybee, R. W. (2010). "What is STEM Education?". Science 329 (5995): 996–996. Bibcode:2010Sci...329..996B. doi:10.1126/science.1194998. PMID 20798284.  edit
  15. ^ Declan McCullagh (November 28, 2012). "Obama opposes Silicon Valley firms on immigration reform". CNET. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  16. ^ "The STEM Workforce Challenge: the Role of the Public Workforce System in a National Solution for a Competitive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce". U.S. Department of Labor. April 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  17. ^ STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future | Economics and Statistics Administration
  18. ^
  19. ^ Glass, C., & Minnotte, K. L. (2010). Recruiting and hiring women in STEM fields. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 3(4), 218–229. doi:
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ National STEM Centre. Retrieved from
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ The Business Journal
  28. ^ Oregon Public Broadcasting
  29. ^ Newsweek
  30. ^ Philly Inquirer
  31. ^ CNET
  32. ^ Wired
  33. ^ Virginia Tech and Virginia STEAM Academy form strategic partnership to meet critical education needs | Virginia Tech News | Virginia Tech
  34. ^ eSTEM Academy, retrieved 2013-07-02
  35. ^ Arbor Height Elementary to implement "eSTEM" curriculum in coming years, West Seattle Herald, 4-30-2013, retrieved 2013-07-02

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