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What is a STEM degree and how to choose yours

08 Mar, 2024
What is a STEM degree and how to choose yours

In today's rapidly evolving world, securing a degree in the field of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics - is a great investment in your future.

In this guide, we explore the types of STEM degree programs available, and how to choose the best fit for your skills and goals.

Table of Contents

What is a STEM degree?

STEM degree types

Are STEM degrees worth it?

How to choose the right STEM degree for you

What are the entry requirements for a STEM degree program?

What is a STEM degree?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Students who pursue a STEM degree program are exposed to a field of study that concentrates on one or more of those disciplines.

STEM disciplines span many academic departments, meaning there are a wide range of available majors for students. STEM degrees often have an interdisciplinary, hands-on educational approach.Alongside subject knowledge, STEM degrees also foster a host of transferable skills that can be used by anyone in any role in any industry. They include problem-solving, critical thinking, team work and project management.

As the demand for skilled professionals in today's fast-paced technological world grows, STEM graduates are becoming increasingly sought after. By earning a degree in one of these disciplines, you could enter the workforce prepared for a variety of in-demand and high-paying STEM careers. Few fields offer better job prospects than STEM, with strong industry growth predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and STEM majors procuring the highest starting salaries.

STEM degree types

Whether you have a passion for research and discovery in a lab setting, enjoy the technical side of coding and programming, or take pride in designing and building structures, there is a STEM degree that satisfies a diverse range of interests and skill sets. Here, we look at the four categories of STEM degrees and some of the STEM occupations they can lead to.

Science degrees

Science is a vast field with numerous areas of focus. There are three main types of science degrees – with lots of subsections and specializations within them. These are biology, chemistry and physics.

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Whether you're interested in understanding the fundamental nature of matter and energy or are more fascinated with examining life and its processes, there is a science degree out there for you to discover.

Example science degrees and corresponding job roles:

  • Astrophysics (Astrophysicist)
  • Biochemistry (Biochemist)
  • Biomedical Science
  • Ecology (Ecologist)
  • Environmental Science
  • Genetics (Geneticist)
  • Neuroscience (Neuroscientist)
  • Nuclear physics (Nuclear Physicist)
  • Zoology (Zoologist)

Technology degrees

Technology is at the forefront of current global discussions, with topics such as the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence taking center stage. From immersive virtual reality experiences to interactive chat bots and innovative video games, the technology sector thrives on constant evolution, presenting an ideal landscape for individuals seeking to influence forthcoming global systems and tools.

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Pursuing a technology-related STEM degree opens pathways to diverse job opportunities, ranging from software engineering and IT project management to data science roles. By delving into this field, students can acquire the expertise needed to contribute significantly to shaping the future technological landscape on a global scale.

Example technology degrees and corresponding job roles:

  • Computer Science (Web Developer)
  • Computer Systems/Information Systems (Computer Systems Engineer)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI Engineer/Machine Learning Engineer)
  • Cybersecurity/Information Security (Cybersecurity Specialist/Information Security Analysts)
  • Game Design (Games Designer)
  • Information Technology
  • Software Development (Software Developer)

Find out more about the best US universities for Computer Science

Engineering degrees

Engineers are an integral part of our society, and their expertise is highly valued in a wide range of industries.

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Some of the most sought-after engineering degrees include chemical, mechanical, environmental, electrical, and civil. Chemical engineers are responsible for developing new materials and processes, while mechanical engineers design and optimize machinery and devices. Environmental engineers focus on sustainability and waste management, and electrical engineers work with power systems and electronic devices. For those interested in designing or overseeing the construction of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and buildings, a degree in civil engineering is the perfect starting point.

Example engineering degrees and corresponding job roles:

  • Aerospace Engineering (Aerospace Engineer)
  • Biomedical Engineering (Bioengineer)
  • Chemical Engineering (Chemical Engineer)
  • Civil Engineering (Civil Engineer)
  • Mechanical Engineering (Mechanical Engineer)
  • Electrical Engineering (Electrical Engineer)
  • Environmental Engineering (Environmental Engineer)

Find out more about Engineering pathways with Kings

Read more about the best US universities for undergraduate Engineering degrees

Mathematics degrees

The realm of mathematics extends far beyond numbers and equations; it is a world of logical reasoning and critical thinking that offers an impressive array of degrees for aspiring scholars.

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Students have several options for their specific field of study, as Mathematics can mean anything from Pure Mathematics to Actuarial Science to Statistics.

One of the most commonly taken Math degrees is Applied Mathematics, which is often chosen by those hoping to pursue careers in engineering, science, and computers. Applied Math majors take the concepts learned in the classroom and apply them to real-world situations, in sectors across a wide range of industries.

Example mathematics degrees and corresponding job roles:

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Accounting and Finance (Accountant)
  • Data Science (Data Scientist)
  • Computing and Mathematics
  • Statistics (Statistician)
  • Actuarial Science (Actuary)

Find out more about Mathematics degree pathways with Kings

Are STEM degrees worth it?

For many people, the answer is yes. Here are just some a few of the benefits that you’ll likely get as a STEM graduate:

  • A significantly higher than average salary: people employed in STEM occupations earn over double the median income according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (USBLS).
  • Excellent career prospects: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in STEM fields is projected to grow by nearly 10% between 2019 and 2029 (BLS. 2021).
  • Occupational Practical Training (OPT) extension: an additional benefit for international students studying in the US is the possibility of extending their stay by an additional 24 months.

How to choose the right STEM degree for you

The first step in selecting the most suitable STEM degree for you involves a comprehensive understanding of your aspirations. Think about what you want to achieve by studying for a STEM degree, and whether you’d like to pursue a career in a specific field.

If you are an international student, you also need to consider whether you’d like the opportunity to stay in the US to work post graduation. The Department of Homeland Security maintains a list of university degree programs that it regards as providing a STEM education. These programs are labeled STEM-designated and their graduates have the opportunity to work in the U.S. longer than other F1-visa holders, because they can apply to extend Optional Practical Training (OPT) for up to an additional 24-months.

Currently, there is no central database cataloging every individual STEM OPT program in the US. You must consider each degree independently.

Director of Student Success & Academic Advisement at Kings Brittney Figueroa also advises that "it's a good idea to check your country’s job classifieds for entry-level openings and advanced level openings to see what you could be doing after you graduate, and to see what credentials are needed."

In addition to academic factors, it’s important to consider other aspects when choosing your STEM degree program and university, such as geographical location, financial implications, and lifestyle preferences.

What are the entry requirements for a STEM degree program?

Entry requirements for STEM courses vary by degree level, and by university. The more competitive/highly regarded the institution, the more likely it is they’ll demand more in terms of academic results and test scores. Most universities require a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

The basic eligibility requirements for enrolling in STEM courses in USA include:

  • Twelve years of secondary education from an institute in your home country for bachelor courses in STEM.
  • A 3-4 year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in your home country for master’s courses in STEM.
  • English proficiency test scores through TOEFL/ IELTS/ PTE/ Duolingo and equivalents with the minimum required scores.
  • SAT/ACT is no longer a requirement for bachelor’s courses in most universities but the student can still send them for better evaluation.
  • GRE/GMAT scores (for graduate courses)
  • Letters of Recommendation (academic and professional)
  • Personal essay

Find out more about USA University requirements

Need help with deciding which STEM Program to apply to?

At Kings, we offer a range of programs designed to help international students gain access to the very best US universities and still graduate in 4 years.

Through our Guaranteed Outcome programs, students begin a bachelor’s degree at one of our partner universities in Boston, New York, California, Oregon and Wisconsin.

They are supported extensively by our specialist on-campus teams as they adapt to US college life. They learn more about the US education system, improve their GPA, and gain a host of new skills and experiences.

After 2 years they are then able to transfer to a Top 50 or Top 100 university, from where they will graduate - as a STEM major if this is their area of interest. Our expert advisors will guide each and every student through the entire transfer process from target university identification, course selection to transfer university applications.

Kings advisors are passionate about securing the best possible acceptances for our students, which is why so many progress to the very best US universities.

Find out more

For graduate students, Kings offers a range of exciting US graduate pathways to get a master's degree across some of the most popular and in-demand disciplines.

Whether you are looking to fast track your career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects or business, our range of university partners will offer you an unrivaled US graduate education.

Find out more

If you would like to receive more detailed information about Kings and our university pathway programs, please get in touch with us at

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