What Is a STEM Program?

The STEM program through the Department of Homeland Security attempts to attract and bring in international university students to the United States to study programs related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. The creation of the initiative is in response to the estimates that nearly 80 percent of all career positions in the United States by 2018 will require technology skills. The U.S. government and Department of Homeland Security hope to use STEM programs and other initiatives to encourage the best and brightest students from all over the world to study in the U.S. and remain to put that expertise into practice.

The Need for STEM

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2018, there will be just over an additional million positions in STEM fields. Similar projections, however, note that there will not be enough qualified graduates in these fields to fill all of these positions.

Projections also estimate that only 16 percent of bachelor’s degrees in the United States in 2020 will be related to STEM. In an effort to bridge that gap, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed programs that help to encourage international students to attend universities in the United States to obtain degrees in the STEM fields. For a complete list of STEM-Designated Degree Programs, maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, visit http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm.

Additional programs are often utilized to encourage international students who have obtained STEM related degrees in the United States to remain in the U.S. and use their knowledge and skills in the positions within the country. One example is the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which is designed to give international university students 12 months of practical training in a STEM related field either before or after graduation.

STEM Careers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, occupations in the STEM fields are typically in the higher paying category of all career options in the United States. In fact, the national annual salary in the U.S. was reported by the BLS as $43,460, and the average annual salary of STEM careers was reported as $77,880.

There are a number of different possibilities for careers in the STEM fields, and many are related to the technology of the computer industry. Computer software engineers, systems engineers, computer support specialists, network administrators, and computer systems managers will all require advanced skills in technology. Additional positions include some that are science related, including physicists. Across all fields of engineering, there will be a shortage of qualified engineers in every industry from chemical engineering to nuclear engineering. Mathematical positions include everything from economics to cryptography. For additional information, please review the BLS statistics on STEM related fields at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2011/ted_20110615.htm.

Careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will continue to be essential for operation of practically everything in today’s society. By encouraging students to pursue these fields of study, the U.S. DHS hopes to bridge the gap between the number of positions and lack of qualified candidates to fill those positions in the near future.