Want a better career? STEM online programs can help you get there

(BPT) - As the job market increasingly calls for STEM professionals (science, technology, engineering and math), more online programs are emerging that can help students study for such careers.

While some educational institutions are struggling to figure out how to effectively teach science-based classes and labs in times of social distancing, a select few have created programs that allow for even lab work to be completed primarily at home.

That's a win-win for employers and employees alike. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that careers related to STEM will display the highest rate of growth — 10.9% between 2016 and 2026 — to produce a million new jobs. Not only are those jobs available in a variety of fields, ranging from engineering and social sciences to medical fields and technology, but 75% of the top-20 highest-paying careers in the U.S. are in STEM fields.

In 2020, of course, COVID-19 spurred an even greater need for skilled employees with expertise in health and technology.

Consider these suggestions when exploring how such a job trajectory may fit with your goals, regardless of your age, career background or level of social isolation.

Research online learning opportunities. In recognition of the need to train and educate more STEM workers, institutions such as Arizona State University offer courses of study that can be completed online. You can secure additional certifications, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in a STEM field while seldom (if ever) having to leave your home for your coursework. How is that possible? ASU Online allows students to complete most lab work remotely by delivering high-grade tools and equipment directly to their homes and offering innovative virtual reality lab simulations.

ASU now offers more than 85 STEM programs online tailored toward real-life, in-demand careers; including 21 new programs released in fall 2020, such as Astronomical and Planetary Sciences — the only online program of its kind worldwide.

Bring all your skills to the table. You may have studied for or worked in non-STEM-related jobs in the past. That knowledge, group of skills, and range of experiences are a benefit, as you can apply many of them to a new role in a STEM field. It’s true that past projects or accomplishments that have a quantitative or scientific focus could be particularly helpful as you move forward, but most STEM roles also need people with different assets such as emotional intelligence, acumen in diversity/inclusion, interpersonal communication skills and critical thinking skills. Don’t rule out a career change just because you started in a different field or direction; instead, stack your credentials and start thinking of yourself as a “master learner” capable of pivoting within your career path as needed.

Create an action plan. Evaluate your background and skills, and determine what you need to add to your resume to achieve your target STEM job. You may be surprised to discover you have fewer gaps than you think, and a STEM position may be well within your reach with additional training, certification or a degree. If you need help forming a plan or exploring different options, ASU offers its online students a full range of support services.

Learn more about the 85 STEM degrees available online through ASU at asuonline.asu.edu.

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