What is STEM?
STEM subjects are some of the most sought-after degrees from employers. Learn about STEM subjects and what careers a STEM degree can lead to.
- Advice on studying a STEM subject
STEM stands for Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics. It represents the group of subjects that fall within these four areas of study. STEM education focuses on practical learning, to develop the necessary skills in students so they’re prepared for the rapidly-developing real world.
STEM subjects are any subjects that can be classified under the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics. Common STEM subjects include:
- Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
- Biological Sciences
- Biomedical Sciences
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Computer Science
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering
- Information Technology
- Mechanical Engineering
- Paramedic Science
- Pharmacology and Pharmacy
The number of students applying for and being accepted onto STEM degrees at university has been significantly increasing. A UCAS report shared in February 2021 highlighted a 21% increase in the number of students earning a place onto an Engineering course from 2011 to 2020, while acceptances onto Computer Science courses nearly doubled in the same time period.
Learn from leading researchers and professors
While studying a STEM subject you’ll work on different research projects and be exposed to what’s currently being studied within your chosen field. Many universities employ world-class researchers within many STEM disciplines, giving you the opportunity to develop skills from those with vast experience and knowledge.
Growing demand for STEM graduates
The rise of technology and innovation in the modern world has increased the need for graduates with a STEM degree. New industries are developing all the time within STEM which has not only required more STEM-educated people, but has also created new jobs such as security analysts and data scientists. Some of the world’s fastest growing industries, such as artificial intelligence, software development and data analysis, are grounded in STEM subjects.
Develop transferable skills to everyday life
You’ll learn invaluable skills that translate into all areas of life. These will include problem-solving, analytical reasoning and collaboration – all of which you’ll employ in your day-to-day living. You’ll have the chance to really hone these through collaborative research projects and real-world scenarios, whether through uni projects or work experience.
You get to be creative
Many STEM subjects are heavily analytical and can be grounded in numbers and data. But you’ll find that many of these subjects will also need your creative brain. You’ll be presented with scenarios that require you to think outside the box.
Increasing investment in STEM
The Campaign for Science and Engineering have recently set out plans to increase STEM funding. This will involve the UK Government heavily investing in research and development efforts to attract more STEM graduates. This investment will see more employment opportunities for those who’ve studied a STEM subject.
The breadth of courses that fall under STEM subjects means that you shouldn’t be short of career options. Depending on what you choose to study you could become a marine biologist, an aerospace engineer or even a game designer. The demand for STEM graduates also means that graduate-level jobs are often well-paying.
Mimi Nwosu is one graduate making the most of her STEM degree. Having earned a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Portsmouth, she currently works as an Assistant Materials Engineer at Sir Robert McAlpine. In June, Mimi was named as one of the 2021 Top 50 Women in Engineering by The Guardian and the Women's Engineering Society.
We chatted with Mimi about her experience of studying a STEM subject at uni and how that's lead to her current career:
Entry requirements will vary based on what STEM subject you apply for and where you choose to study.
At least one science-based A Level will be needed for most science courses. Some courses will require two, with a minimum grade ranging from A to B. A Maths A Level is a minimum requirement for most Technology, Engineering and Maths courses. You may also need a science-based A Level.
Science-based STEM degrees will require a science-based BTEC, while engineering-based degrees ask that you have an engineering-based BTEC. Technology or Maths degrees will want you to have completed a Maths or science-based BTEC. A Maths or science-based A Level may be needed for higher-entry courses.
A minimum grade C/4 for each of your GCSEs will be needed, with at least two of these being English and Maths. Courses with higher entry requirements will want one of your GCSEs to be in a science-based subject, often with a minimum grade of A/7 or B/6.
You’ll need a Maths and/or specific science-based Higher Level for most STEM degrees. A minimum grade of 5 or 6 for each Higher Level will be specified.
Most STEM degrees will ask that you’ve studied Maths and/or a specific science-based subject. A minimum grade for each is sometimes specified, depending on how limited places on the course are.
As with non-STEM degrees you’ll be able to apply for a student loan to cover your tuition fees. This can be applied for through the student finance company of whichever UK nation you’re from. Below you’ll find further details on student finance if:
- You come from England
- You come from Northern Ireland
- You come from Wales
- You come from Scotland
- You come from a country outside of the UK
As well as general scholarships, bursaries and grants available to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, some are specifically available to students studying a STEM degree:
- Amazon Future Engineer Bursary: to support female students from low-income households that are applying for Computer Science or a similar Engineering course at a UK university.
- Engineering Leaders Scholarships: to support undergraduate students pursuing an Engineering course at a UK university.
- Institute of Civil Engineers QUEST: offer a range of scholarships for those students pursuing a Civil Engineering degree.
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers: offer an array of different undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships and awards for students pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree.
- Royal Aeronautical Society Centennial Scholarships Fund: to support postgraduate students in their final year of an Aerospace or Aeronautical Engineering master’s, or a related aviation-based master’s.
Many universities now also offer scholarships specifically for students wishing to pursue a postgraduate degree in a STEM subject. You can find a full list of these on the university’s website.