It’s no secret that in today’s job market, STEM – or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – is in demand. Graduates and school leavers are constantly being reminded of the importance of obtaining tech skills in order to be competitive, with many of the top-paying jobs in the world coming under the STEM umbrella.
It’s not just today’s market where STEM jobs are king, either – its tomorrow’s, too. As technology evolves and we become ever more reliant on the digital world around us, occupations within the STEM field are likely to replace many traditional professions.
So, if you’re looking to get in on the action, we’ve compiled a handy list of some of the highest-paying and most sought-after roles.
Here are the top 10 best STEM careers.
1. Systems architect
Average annual salary: $108,070 / £50,510
As one of the highest-paid roles in the IT industry, systems architecture is a very wise career to pursue. In most cases, systems architects act as a bridge between business and technology, designing, coordinating and implementing the architecture of entire IT systems to the specifications of their employer or client. As a result, the job requires not just a highly advanced knowledge of networks, structures and software, but also a strong sense of commercial awareness and the ability to lead time-sensitive projects.
2. Data scientist
Average annual salary: $90,600 / £34,980
Once infamously dubbed as the ‘sexiest profession of the 21st Century’, there’s no denying that the availability and power of big data has changed the way that businesses work. This, in turn, has led to a huge increase in demand for skilled data scientists and analysts, who can crunch through the numbers and make effective use of the information within.
Most data scientists have a degree in mathematics or statistics, although this isn’t a prerequisite; there are many postgraduate qualifications available in data science. As they can be found in nearly any industry that produces data, some knowledge of your preferred sector could help you land a job, too.
3. Mechanical engineer
Average annual salary: $69,340 / £30,460
No matter what discipline of engineering you pursue, your skills will always be in demand; mechanical engineers are particularly sought after, though, due to their flexibility and the wide range of environments in which they can work.
It’s possible to get into mechanical engineering through an apprenticeship, although many choose to attend a designated engineering school, requisites of which include strong numerical skills, a creative mind, and the ability to reason and solve problems logically. You’ll spend most of your career working with moving parts, too, so an enthusiasm for how machines are built and operate is another must-have quality.
Average annual salary: $60,270 / £23,760
No matter where in the world you choose to work, nursing has always – and will always – be a solid career choice. It’s also now increasingly professionalised, with registered nurses requiring a degree in place of the traditional vocational entry route. This means that nurses now have greater clinical responsibility, with the option – like doctors – to specialise and conduct research in a specific field.
All in all, becoming a nurse is a hugely challenging but rewarding move, requiring dedication, enthusiasm and a unique skillset, with the opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of the people you treat.
5. Software engineer
Average annual salary: $83,880 / £35,360
Software engineers are skilled programmers who design, build and maintain software applications based on the needs and requirements of their clients. They work on an enormous variety of projects across a wide array of industries, making them highly employable across the board, while the very best engineers go on to work for large tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple, creating tools and apps that we use every day.
To become a software engineer, you will require a strong knowledge of programming languages, as well as the ability to approach problems logically and systematically. Most engineers possess a degree in computer science, although this isn’t always a requisite for landing a job.
Average annual salary: $86,880 / £56,260
Despite its reputation as an unglamorous profession, becoming an actuary is actually a highly lucrative and fascinating career move. Essentially combining the use of statistics and mathematical models to predict the consequences of risk, actuaries carry a lot of weight and responsibility in the financial world, especially in insurance, equity and pension practices.
Most actuaries have a degree background in mathematics or statistics, although it is possible at some institutions to study actuarial science as a standalone degree. Once they have graduated, there are entry programmes available at all the top banks and insurance providers.
7. Petroleum engineer
Average annual salary: $101,060 / £42,870
Given that the discovery and extraction of natural oil resources is perhaps the most lucrative business enterprise in the world, it’s no surprise that petroleum engineering is on this list.
Experts in the physical and chemical behaviour of water, oil and gas, petroleum engineers identify potential drilling sites, both on land and offshore. As such, their skills are in high demand with industry giants like Sinopec, ExxonMobil and Gazprom, with their earning potential comfortably in the six-figure range.
You will require a degree in petroleum engineering or in another relevant engineering discipline, provided you complete a relevant postgraduate qualification. There are also numerous industry certifications that can help your application.
8. Cybersecurity expert
Average annual salary: $76,380 / £30,460
Cybersecurity is a relatively broad field, meaning that the term ‘expert’ can be used ambiguously. Generally, though, it refers to a range of roles, such as penetration testing (often referred to as ‘ethical hacking’), digital forensics and security architecture. The best part is that cybersecurity experts are hugely in demand, with businesses of all sizes desperate to protect their data, information and digital practices from malicious attackers.
There are numerous entry paths into the field of cybersecurity, with a degree in an IT subject a good place to start, followed by a postgraduate qualification or certificate in your chosen area of interest. You don’t necessarily need an educational background, though, with up-to-date knowledge of hacking techniques and how to combat them just as important.
Average annual salary: $140,150 / £51,020
As with nursing, medicine is a failsafe career option within the STEM world, with doctors having the potential to earn the biggest bucks of all in the healthcare field, especially if they choose to specialise in high-pressure fields such as surgery and emergency medicine.
Becoming a doctor isn’t easy, though; there’s fierce competition just to get into medical school, with candidates having to demonstrate a wide range of skills to even be considered by the top universities. Once in, though, you’ll have the chance to make a huge difference in people’s lives on a daily basis – and be very well paid in the process.
10. Electrical engineer
Average annual salary: $73,760 / £31,190
Electrical engineers work in a variety of industries, applying their expertise of electrical concepts to all kinds of problems. In recent years, this has increasingly been within the commercial sector, where products that feature electrical components – such as smartphones, laptops and, well, anything with a circuit – require the skills of a qualified engineer.
As a result, there is the chance to earn good money in this field, with a relevant degree usually enough to secure a job with a good company. If making iPhones doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, meanwhile, then there are also opportunities in other areas, such as systems control or energy delivery.
As you can see from this career list, there are a lot of lucrative opportunities in STEM. These jobs are only the tip of the iceberg, too, with countless related roles also available. Moving forward, it’s almost inevitable that new jobs will be created as well – jobs that we can’t even envision yet.
In the meantime, though, these occupations are a great place to start, so brush up on your calculus and maybe enrol on a Python course. In an industry that moves so quickly, it’s never too late for a career change, after all.
What STEM careers would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.