Insights from the Girard School of Business and the School of Science and Engineering

There’s no doubt the United States faces a shortage of people educated to take on a career in big data or other fields that require an education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). That’s created a situation where there are many opportunities for careers in big data and other STEM areas for those who complete a graduate degree program. However, for some, the interest and aptitude may not be there by the time they reach college age because they received little to no STEM education in childhood.  It’s a challenge that needs addressing. According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, almost 80% of all high school students in the United States don’t meet benchmark readiness for one or more college courses in math and science.

Careers That Need STEM Workers 

Many careers rely on workers who have been educated in STEM fields. These are careers in data science, a technology field that has emerged to address the need to apply mathematical and statistical ideas for the processing of big data.  In the area of technology and careers in big data, data scientists are needed to analyze data and extract actionable information.  Here is an example of the growth in STEM in three technology-related careers and how the number of jobs is projected to increase according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by 2026.

  • Computer and Information Research Scientists jobs could increase by 19% (22.8% in Massachusetts)
  • Software developers could increase by 24% (26% in Massachusetts)
  • Database administrators could increase by 11% (9% in Massachusetts)

Also, seven  of the top 10 biggest STEM occupations are technology and computer-related, according to the BLS. Clearly, the demand is there. It’s meeting that demand that has been the issue. Many experts believe it starts when students are young.

The Importance of Childhood STEM Education 

“If young students aren’t exposed and engaged [in STEM courses], they might develop a mental block and not do as well as they can,” said Karmyn Norwood of Lockheed Martin in an interview. Lockheed Martin is investing in STEM programs for children starting in kindergarten. Norwood said students must develop confidence at an early age in STEM.

The U.S. Department of Education has made “improving STEM instruction in preschool through 12th grade” the first step in its plan to increase the number of STEM workers in the U.S.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) points out that interest in science begins before children even set foot in school when they develop a natural curiosity about how the world around them works. Quality elementary education programs can enhance that natural curiosity. The NSTA writes, “High-quality elementary science education is essential for establishing a sound foundation of learning in later grades, instilling a wonder of and enthusiasm for science that lasts a lifetime, and in addressing the critical need for a well-informed citizenry and society.”

Most of the issues that will challenge the children of today will need STEM education to solve. This includes better systems for improving food distribution, water supply, and the impact of global climate change. These problems will need expertise from those who choose a career in big data. The ability to analyze large data sets may hold the key to solving many complex modern challenges, both for society and for businesses. And that ability begins with children in elementary school.