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.
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.
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:
STEM/STEAM instructors develop strategies, skills, tools, and techniques in order to effectively teach science, technology, engineering, and math to students.
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.
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.
Certifications for STEM/STEAM teachers vary by state, but here are some of the more common ones:
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. Average salary outcome with a general teaching degree in science is around $50K (master’s degree average outcome is $53,979, doctorate degree average outcome is $51,661, and a bachelor’s degree outcome is $58,158).
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.
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:
Although the opportunities for STEM/STEAM teachers are many, there are drawbacks to the position, as well.
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 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.
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.
While these societies are open to all STEM teachers and those in STEAM fields, a few specialized associations promote diversity in STEM fields:
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.
Even if you aren’t an active Twitter user, you can still find some professional insight by following these STEM/STEAM-related accounts: