STEM/STEAM Teacher: Education, Salary, and Outlook
STEM is an acronym used in the education field, meaning Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These fields are emphasized in many school systems to make American students more competitive around the globe. In a push to encourage ingenuity and development, a fifth discipline, the arts, was added, to encourage creativity and ingenuity, turning STEM into STEAM. As expressed by one of the early founders, Georgette Yakman, STEAM is “Science and Technology, interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, all based in elements of Mathematics.”
STEM teachers have an exciting opportunity to shape the future of innovation in these fields. Encouraging students, especially young women, to pursue science and technology education is a reason that educators choose this career. STEM teachers blend these disciplines together in classes that aren’t just science, technology, or math, but that instead incorporate all these elements to solve problems collaboratively.
At a glance: STEM/STEAM teacher career
STEAM classes focus more on group work and creative problem-solving, using what students have learned in math, physics, or engineering courses. As more school districts embrace the STEM and STEAM course path, the demand for qualified STEM teachers is expected to grow.
STEM/STEAM Instructor Job Description
The specific job duties for STEM teachers vary by the school district and by grade level. STEM teachers who wish to teach at the high school level may require greater technical knowledge than those who teach at the middle school or elementary school level. Most STEM/STEAM teachers are required to perform the following job duties:
- Facilitate and improve the school’s science and technology programs
- Provide leadership in the development and implementation of the curricula for technology, engineering, and science programs
- Ensure that topics taught in the classroom meet state and national standards and requirements
- Maintain current knowledge of developments in the STEM/STEAM model and science and technology overall
- Collaborate with other schools in the district to support STEM/STEAM programs and initiatives
- Plan and execute programs to actively engage students, parents, and the community
- Plan and conduct weekly science lab lessons for students at an age-appropriate level, with safety measures in place
- Plan and oversee technology curricula
- Provide leadership for professional development for other STEM/STEAM instructors and paraprofessionals in the school to promote learning and teaching best practices
- Supervise and ensure the safety of students in the class
- Exhibit strong written and verbal communication skills
- Develop course syllabi or curricula overview on an as-needed basis
- Use a variety of technological applications and online resources
- Enhance productivity and learning opportunities through technology
STEM/STEAM instructors develop strategies, skills, tools, and techniques in order to effectively teach science, technology, engineering, and math to students.
Qualities of a good STEM/STEAM teacher
The best teachers, no matter the subject, are the ones who have a passion for watching young minds grow. For STEM/STEAM teachers, the ability to encourage students to use different skills to solve problems and collaborate is essential. STEAM is about blending the technological skills with creative thinking, using the scientific and engineering principles taught in the lecture portion of the program.
If you’re someone with strong knowledge in science and technology and have the ability to help guide students in productive group work, then a career as a STEM/STEAM teacher may be right for you. These types of courses emphasize thinking out of the box and allowing students to explore and problem-solve on their own, as opposed to the factual presentation of the subject matter, so this format may not be the best fit for traditional-style teachers.
STEM/STEAM teacher in-depth
Education requirement for STEM and STEAM teachers
Many school districts require a bachelor’s degree in education, plus a state teaching certificate. Requirements for STEM and STEAM teachers vary by state, so a major in science, technology, or engineering may also be required.
For those who wish to pursue a STEM/STEAM position at the high school level, a master’s degree in STEM or STEAM education may be especially beneficial.
Certification requirements for STEM/STEAM teachers
Certifications for STEM/STEAM teachers vary by state, but here are some of the more common ones:
- Bachelor’s degree in education or STEM/STEAM field
- Student-teacher hours completion
- State teaching certificate
- National Certificate for STEM Teaching from the National Institute for STEM Education (NISE)
- AdvancED’s STEM Certification
- Professional Curriculum Writer Certification from STEAM.edu
The average salary for STEM/STEAM teachers
Across the board, teacher’s salaries tend to vary by region of the country and the size of the school system, and STEM/STEAM teachers are no different. The average salary, as reported by major job search sites, rests in the upper $40k range.
Projections for STEM/STEAM teacher employment
The job growth for high school teachers is on par with the national average, at about 4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the agency notes that as careers in STEM increases, the demand for STEM/STEAM teachers, in particular, is expected to grow faster than for teaching positions in other subjects.
Challenges and opportunities for STEM/STEAM teachers
As with all teaching positions, STEM/STEAM teaching can often be a labor of love. Some other reasons to enjoy a job as a STEM/STEAM educator include:
- Helping prepare students for “real world” jobs, including creative problem-solving and collaboration
- Allowing those passionate about science and technology to pursue trends and innovations in these disciplines
- Helping students develop skills in high-demand careers
- Creating and developing the curricula for STEM/STEAM education in your school district
Although the opportunities for STEM/STEAM teachers are many, there are drawbacks to the position, as well.
- Teacher salaries often depend on the affluence of the school district; some positions in poorer areas may not pay as well as other parts of the county.
- Some school districts may not have a STEM/STEAM program in place, meaning you’ll have to develop it on your own.
- Many teachers have to deal with unmotivated or poorly behaved students.
Growth opportunities and professional development track for STEM/STEAM teachers
Many STEM/STEAM educators start with a bachelor’s degree but may be able to earn more with a Master’s in math and science education or a Master’s in educational leadership. STEM/STEAM teachers may also move from the classroom to a more administrative role, creating programs for an entire school district, training new STEM/STEAM teachers and working with staff development, or moving to teach at the college level.
Some STEM/STEAM teachers may opt to move into an administrative role in the school district, becoming an assistant superintendent or superintendent of schools. These positions typically require at least a master’s degree in educational leadership, and larger school systems may also require a doctorate degree.
Continuing education for STEM/STEAM teachers
Continuing education for STEM/STEAM teachers includes remaining abreast of developments in the science and technology fields, in order to ensure that students are receiving up-to-date information in the classroom. STEM/STEAM teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree may wish to pursue their master’s or doctoral degrees. Some school systems pay more for advanced degrees or may have bonus systems for teachers who earn them.
Other continuing education opportunities for a STEM/STEAM teacher may include taking additional courses in science or technology to enhance their teaching abilities.
Professional associations for STEM/STEAM teachers
Joining professional STEM/STEAM teacher’s organizations can give educators a greater depth of knowledge in their field, as well as the opportunity to network with others and bounce ideas off one another. Collaboration in the STEM/STEAM classroom and collaboration with other teachers is at the core of STEM/STEAM knowledge. Here are some professional organizations for STEM and STEAM teachers, and each state may have its own local associations as well.
- American Educational Research Association
- American Physical Society – Students and Educators
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
- American Chemical Society – Division of Chemical Education
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
- National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
While these societies are open to all STEM teachers and those in STEAM fields, a few specialized associations promote diversity in STEM fields:
- Association for Women in Science focuses on women achieving equality in science technology
- MAES promotes education and leadership among Latino scientists and engineers
- National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers
- SACNAS, Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science
Best of the web for STEM/STEAM educators
Keeping your STEM/STEAM curricula fresh and finding new projects for your students can be as simple as selecting a few well-curated blogs to follow. Other ways to ensure that you’re at the forefront of technology teaching and science developments include following STEM-related social media, like Twitter.
Blogs for STEM/STEAM teachers
- Wired Science Blogs – These make science fun and approachable for younger students.
- It’s OK to Be Smart – This blog teaches science as more than facts and emphasizes the creative process that is part of scientific discovery and examines the “aha” moments in scientific learning.
- For Girls in Science – This is one of the better blogs for educators, encouraging girls and young women to pursue their STEM/STEAM-related interests. It celebrates successful STEM/STEAM women and has links for extracurricular activities such as science camps.
- Defined STEM – For educators, this blog offers curriculum tips, teaching strategies, classroom assessments, and assessment tips.
Twitter accounts STEM/STEAM educators should follow
Even if you aren’t an active Twitter user, you can still find some professional insight by following these STEM/STEAM-related accounts: