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The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The STEM fields are those academic and professional disciplines that fall under the umbrella areas represented by the acronym.


An exhaustive list of STEM disciplines does not exist, but some common disciplines are[1]

Physics Accounting Actuary Chemistry Mathematics
Computer Science Biochemistry Robotics
Computer Engineering Electrical Engineering Mechanical Engineering
Civil Engineering Aerospace engineering Chemical Engineering
Astrophysics Astronomy Nanotechnology
Nuclear Physics Mathematical Biology Operations Research
Neurobiology Biomechanics Bioinformatics
Acoustical Engineering Geographic Information Systems Atmospheric Sciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the only American federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences,[2] so another way to identify STEM fields is to look at the NSF strategic plan and the fields it supports. It lists its disciplinary program areas as:

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 Polar Programs

(Some cross-cutting programs have been omitted from this listing.)

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."[3]

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

The Department of Labor's O*NET site, which offers about 1,000 occupational descriptions, allows the database of occupations to be searched by eight STEM disciplines:

Chemistry Computer Science Engineering Environmental Science
Geosciences Life Sciences Mathematics Physics/Astronomy

The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its Occupational Outlook Handbook that describes a very wide variety of jobs and careers, and includes forecasts for job growth in those areas. STEM-related careers are some of the best-paying and have the greatest potential for job growth in the early 21st century.

In US politics[]

Maintaining a citizenry that is well versed in the STEM fields is a key portion of the public education agenda[citation needed] of the United States of America. Substantial lobbying is underway in Washington, DC to raise awareness of STEM education issues.

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.

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:

  • increase America’s talent pool by improving K-12 science and mathematics education;
  • strengthen the skills of teachers through additional training in science, math and technology; and
  • enlarge the pipeline of students prepared to enter college and graduate with STEM degrees.

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.

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 Education Coalition[]

"The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition [4][5] 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." A list of organizations that are part of the STEM Coalition can be found on its homepage. Activity of the STEM Coalition seems to have slowed since September, 2009.

America COMPETES Act of 2007[]

Template:Empty section 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 nations 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.


Measures of effectiveness[]

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.


Template:Advert Mentoring is especially important to the STEM fields in order to increase retention of STEM professionals in the United States. MentorNet[6], a non-profit organization based in Sunnyvale, California, focuses on e-mentoring for women and those underrepresented in the STEM fields. MentorNet has matched over 27,000 mentorship pairs since 1997 with over 150 college, university, corporation, society and professional society organizations. Over 8 months, mentors and protégés are guided through a relationship that takes less than 15 minutes per week in communication. The privacy and security of online conversation enables protégés and mentors to be more open about issues in the workplace.

See also[]

  • Hard and soft science
  • NASA RealWorld-InWorld Engineering Design Challenge
  • Pre-STEM
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network
  • STEM Academy
  • NASA Pre-Service Teacher Institute


  1. STEM Designated Degree Programs [ April 2008.
  2. The National Science Foundation. What We Do.
  3. U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration by Jobs for the Future. 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 April 2007.
  4. The STEM Coalition
  5. PMID 20798284 (PMID 20798284)
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Further reading[]

External links[]