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An education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) cultivates an environment for critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and innovation. STEM coursework challenges students to apply their knowledge and understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts while thinking outside the box to devise their own solutions.   

You’ve enjoyed taking classes in STEM, but how do you know if pursuing a STEM degree is right for you? We spoke to Kelly Bidle, Ph.D., Dean of College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Rider University, who shared her insight into the importance of STEM programs, skills required, and considerations to determine if a degree in STEM is a good fit for you.

STEM Skills

What skills are required for those seeking a degree in STEM?

“Like most fields, there are a broad set of skills required in almost any profession which include strong communication (both written and oral), teamwork, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence,” said Bidle. “For STEM fields, analytical and data-driven thinking are also key.”

At Rider, STEM students acquire and test their skills through an engaged learning approach. “Rider has always believed that learning by doing is key to success in the sciences,” Bidle said. “Our students get into the research labs and fields early in their course of study so they can apply what they learn in the classroom with active, hands-on learning.”

STEM Programs

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in STEM, Rider offers degree programs in computer science, cybersecurity, health sciences, exercise sciences and behavioral neuroscience, and more traditional offerings such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, marine sciences, environmental science, and mathematics. 

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Finding Resources

Knowing where to find the right information and resources for your STEM studies is critical. Bidle encourages STEM students to take advantage of all the research, field, and internship opportunities offered while engaged in a STEM program. 

“Get to know your professors early and learn about their research. Get into the laboratory or computer labs and start diving into different research projects to truly identify what you have a passion for,” Bidle said. 

To show its commitment to science and technology and provide additional resources to its students, Rider is completing work on a $7 million expansion of its Science and Technology Center. This new addition will house modern laboratory facilities, a modern greenhouse, and teaching spaces for software engineering, cybersecurity, and anatomy and physiology. 

“We recognize that many future jobs are going to require a good deal of knowledge in computer science, coding, and cybersecurity,” Bidle said. “We are investing heavily in these fields and growing our programming in artificial intelligence, robotics, and software engineering.”  

Benefits of a STEM Education

Most STEM occupations require postsecondary education, with some needing graduate degrees to compete in a competitive job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 99 percent of STEM positions, such as engineers and software developers, typically require at least a bachelor’s degree. 

STEM knowledge and technical skills are in high demand and often come with attractive salaries. Although wages vary widely, the median annual wage of a STEM job in 2020 was $89,780significantly higher than the national average of a non-STEM occupation annual salary of $40,020.

BLS also identified STEM jobs as among those seeing the highest percentage of job growth, including positions in computer science, information security, data scientists, mathematicians, statisticians, and engineering.

“Our students have been going into several different medical fields (physician, nursing, physical, and occupational therapy), scientific fields (research, scientific teaching, environmental consulting), as well as homeland security, IT analyst, and software engineering,” said Bidle. “Many of our students also go on to earn post-baccalaureate degrees in graduate and professional fields.”

Bidle says she’s seen an increase in enrollment in the sciences over the past five years, due in part to their introduction of new and modern programming. “We hope this trend will continue and that our students enter the workforce prepared and ready for jobs we haven’t yet imagined.”

RELATED: 12 Scholarships Designed for STEM Students

For more information about furthering your education in STEM, visit Peterson’s college search for available programs.