Tech is the ‘Big Thing’ now, as Technology drives innovation in virtually every aspect of our existence – healthcare, education, finance etc. You will agree with me that automation has solved a lot of problems, and automation is a reality, only because of the power of Technology and the minds of innovative technologists.
Gartner made a prediction that about 80 percent of project management tasks (e.g., data collection, tracking and reporting) will be the assigned to AI by 2030.
However, there are some soft skills that computers cannot be assigned to, like: teamwork, cooperation, creativity and adaptation to change, to name a few. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that the prevalence of automation has created a growing demand for workers with social skills. Having a strong set of soft skills helps employees become more versatile and open up more opportunities for growth in today’s job market.
This strong demand for soft skills has led to the creation of new curricula to help prepare those aspiring to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to meet the evolving needs of today’s workforce. The roles within STEM fields have changed and are calling for more well-rounded professionals with backgrounds and skills tied not only to technical studies but also to the arts, creating the need to infuse Arts in STEM – thus STEAM.
Today, we will be explaining the differences and similarities between STEM and STEAM.
What Is STEM Actually About?
STEM-focused curricula aim to equip professionals with the skills and knowledge necessary for relevance in a global economy across various disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as subspecialties like statistics, biology, psychology, economics, agriculture and aeronautics.
While STEM jobs contribute to advancing the economy through innovation, fast-rising technological changes continually create demand for new jobs within the STEM field, making some previously required skills and tasks obsolete, according to findings from the National Bureau of Economic Research. As such, STEM represents a dynamic set of fields, and it is important for students to gain subject-matter knowledge while also developing the flexibility and well-roundedness needed to adapt to changes as they occur.
What Is STEAM?
The changes, as well as the growing emphasis on soft skills across industries and roles, are creating the need for curricula that integrate STEM with the arts.
STEAM is an educational discipline that helps children to spark an interest and lifelong love of the arts and sciences from an early age. Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math are similar fields of study – as they all involve creative processes and none of them uses just one method for inquiry and investigation.
STEAM also empowers teachers to employ project-based learning that crosses each of the five disciplines and fosters an inclusive learning environment in which all students are able to engage and contribute. As opposed to traditional models of teaching, educators using the STEAM framework bring the disciplines together, leveraging the synergy between the modeling process and math and science content, for example, in order to blur the boundaries between modeling techniques and scientific/mathematical thinking. Through this holistic approach, students are able to exercise both sides of their brain at once.
By integrating the arts into STEM, STEAM-focused curricula incorporate the study of the humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design, new media and more. Students who explore and master any of these subjects can make themselves more marketable in today’s workforce, as 57% of senior leaders value soft skills more than hard skills, according to a recent LinkedIn report.
What Is the Difference Between STEM and STEAM?
The difference between STEM and STEAM lies in the way scientific concepts are approached. STEM focuses strictly on the hard scientific, technological, engineering or mathematical skills to drive progress or create a new concept- like the ‘JET CLUB’ of those days. In STEAM curricula, students leverage both hard and soft skills to solve problems.
Obviously, before there was STEAM, there was STEM. The key innovator credited with updating STEM to STEAM by adding the arts is Georgette Yakman, an engineering and technology teacher, and the founding researcher of the STEAM educational framework in 2006.
However, the change was not about just “adding another thing” to STEM. Yakman explains that: “STEAM is about more than converging the fine arts and design thinking into STEM fields. The liberal arts are, the ‘who & why,’ the reasoning, to the ‘what & how’ of STEM.”
STEM Career Opportunities Are Growing
The STEM worker shortage is at a crisis level in the U.S., according to two out of five Americans surveyed by Emerson, a technology and engineering company. The same survey found the number of roles that require STEM expertise is growing at a rate that exceeds the current workforce capacity. A Deloitte study found that the skills gap within the manufacturing industry alone could leave an estimated 2.4 million jobs unfulfilled between 2018 and 2028.
Projections show employment for several professions within this field will continue to grow rapidly. For example, the BLS reports employment opportunities for information security analysts will grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026, and other STEM occupations on the rise include mathematicians and statisticians, with a projected growth of 33 percent over that same period.
STEM Career Paths
STEM covers a broad range of career opportunities, many of which have high projected growth and earning potential. Pew Research Center reports that students trained in STEM fields typically experience higher earnings, whether or not they work in a STEM occupation. Pew states that the median earnings for STEM college-educated, full-time workers is $81,011, which is $20,183 more than other college majors.
Is Engineering a Growing STEM Industry?
Engineering is a STEM field that offers a variety of career paths, including civil, systems, biomedical, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, materials and mechanical. Engineers design, test and create products and services used every day, such as roads and smartphones.
The BLS reports that a number of industries employ engineers, including manufacturing, engineering services, government, construction and computer-systems design. Manufacturing is the largest of these industries, which employed more than 578,000 engineers in 2016, according to the BLS. This employment included jobs in the production of computer and electronic products, transportation equipment, and machinery.
The BLS also projects 139,300 new jobs will be available for engineers from 2016 to 2026 across 18 engineering occupations. According to the BLS, about 23 percent of new engineering jobs will be for civil engineers — professionals who design, build, construct and maintain the infrastructure of roads, buildings, bridges and water-supply systems. The earning potential for civil engineers is high, with a median annual wage of $86,640 in 2018, according to the BLS.
What Type of Career Can You Have in STEAM?
The Washington Post found that 92 percent of high-level employees in leadership positions, such as chief executives and product engineers, have a bachelor’s degree, and 47 percent hold a graduate degree. However, the types of degrees they hold may come as a surprise. Only 37 percent had degrees in engineering or computer technology, while the remaining 63 percent had degrees in a wide range of fields, including business, accounting, health care, and the arts and humanities.
“Interdisciplinary collaboration is the new normal,” says Gordon. “Many of the world’s top engineers and scientists have an appreciation for the arts or are artists themselves. Their interests and talents cannot be contained in a sole discipline.”
STEAM careers are highly diverse and include professions such as architect, sound engineer, graphic designer, conservator, product designer, urban planner and archaeologist.
STEM vs. STEAM: Which Is the Better Career Path?
Despite the differences in STEM vs. STEAM, there is opportunity for growth across all occupations in the science, technology, engineering, art and math fields. It is important for students to choose a curriculum based on their individual skills, career goals and interests. If there is one lesson to take away from the emergence of STEAM, it is that aspiring STEM professionals should develop both hard and soft skill sets to make them stronger applicants and performers in the job market.
As projects become more complex and technology continues to transform the nature of jobs, training for soft skills is a top priority, according to LinkedIn. New curricula devoted to training skills, such as leadership, communication and collaboration, will help professionals of all types succeed in the age of AI and technology, as these are skills that machines cannot learn, automate or take over from humans.
Learn More To Advance Your Engineering Career With Soft Skills
If you’re interested in taking on a more critical, hands-on role within the engineering field, consider developing the soft skills that will make you a stronger leader. The Online STEAM course for children and the Online STEAM Training for teachers has proven to help students and teachers gain relevant STEAM skills and exposure. You can even host a STEAM-themed party for your kids!
What are you waiting for?