If you were asked to draw a scientist, what would it look like? An image resembling Einstein, perhaps? Same question; but this time an engineer. Would you draw a man with a spanner? And would a computer scientist look like a guy who's keen on science fiction and junk food, working alone in a dark room?
Well, the stereotypical image of the engineer or technologist is in desperate need of a refresh. Scientists, programmers and engineers can come from all walks of life; young and old, male and female - but this is rarely reflected in the images we see around us.
In fact, the diversity of career options open to anyone with a STEM degree is enormous - attracting a huge variety of candidates from different backgrounds. An architect would have designed the room you wake up in, an engineer would have crafted the aerodynamic curves of the bus you catch to school, an animator would have used their maths skills to build the films you watch - and a physicist somewhere is using their knowledge to send you to space for a holiday. The possibilities are endless and the skills needed are varied.
If you're a STEM graduate, one of the biggest and newest opportunities out there is around data science. Data scientists have been termed the 'new rockstars' of technology, as the world's biggest companies are using data analytics to help them maintain an innovative edge in the digital data era. STEM graduates who are able to display the combination of analytical, algorithmic, coding and communication skills required of a data scientist are already being courted by companies far outside the traditional circle of employers. For example, a large UK retailer uses MATLAB® to analyse terabytes of data for improved promotional forecasting and price optimisation of the reduced to clear process. Furthermore, simulation and analysis of the supply chain has provided more accurate demand forecasts and led to improved supplier agreements. All this is done through data analytics.
Science, technology, engineering and maths are based on the principles of asking 'Why?', 'How?' and a lot of 'What if...?' So, if you've ever pondered these questions, taken something apart to find how it worked, then a career in STEM could be the next logical step in your investigation of the unknown. But how do you get there?
A crucial step in getting inspired, and equipping you with the skills you will need to eventually enter the workforce, is to get hands on with technology. Your school or university may already facilitate this. The use of Raspberry Pi computers in lots of schools, for example, is a great way to try your hand at programming and feel the excitement of not just using, but creating, technology.
Extra-curricular projects including code clubs and maker communities are another great way to investigate technology - encouraging creativity and collaboration - vital skills for any future STEM employee. And events like the Big Bang Fair are a fantastic means of going 'beyond the textbook' and seeing the excitement of these subjects first-hand. Get inspired and sharpen up by participating in student competitions and on-line challenges such as MathWorks Cody™.
STEM can offer a wealth of possible career choices - and inspire some of the most exciting and innovative professions. Follow a career in STEM and suddenly 'I read about that' becomes 'I made that'. And, part of the brilliance of a career in STEM is that often it won't feel like a job at all. In STEM there is often no such thing as a typical day. From the cars we drive to the medicine we take, every product or service in the world relies on an element of science, technology, engineering or maths to get it there.