Types of STEM Degrees
The cost of a degree depends strongly on the kind of program you’re pursuing and the area of STEM on which you’re focusing. Certificate programs and associate degrees generally cost less than graduate or postgraduate programs, but an undergraduate degree in a field such as astronomy may cost considerably more than an online BS in computer science. Below, we’ll examine the most common types of degrees and what students can expect to learn from each type of program.
- K-12 Teacher
- Elementary Media Specialist
- Associate Degree
An associate curriculum covers the basic mathematical and computing topics required for entry-level jobs in the field; students may also be prepared to enter a bachelor’s degree program.
- Computer Support Specialist
- Radiologic Technologist
- Bachelor's Degree
While coursework varies according to discipline, most undergraduate STEM programs focus on building the foundational skills and theoretical knowledge required for mastery of a subject. Some include specialized learning tracks or concentrations.
- Nuclear Engineer
- Systems Administrator
- Master’s Degree
Master’s programs allow students to focus on specialized aspects of a discipline, combining independent research with advanced coursework. They may also include laboratory, thesis, or teaching components.
- IT Specialist
- Doctorate Degree
PhD program requirements vary considerably between disciplines and can range from research team development to completing a teaching practicum or performing extensive fieldwork. Students typically defend a dissertation.
- Quantitative Analyst
STEM Degree Concentrations
STEM is a broad category encompassing many subfields of science, technology, engineering, and math. The specific major you choose will have an impact on your funding options. While there are many general STEM scholarships and grants available, high-demand areas such as engineering and statistics tend to receive more external funding. Additionally, STEM scholarships for undergraduates are usually less competitive than graduate awards, regardless of a student’s concentration. STEM subfields include:
- Math: This curriculum is heavy in applied and theoretical mathematics, statistics, advanced calculus, and probability. It prepares students for careers in academia or business. Some graduates seek teaching positions, while others become statisticians, financial analysts, or mathematicians.
- Computer Science: Students explore the mathematical foundations of computer science, including logic and proofs, in addition to programming languages and concepts. Common career choices for graduates involve software development and systems analytics.
- Engineering: Depending on the engineering subfield, coursework may cover concepts like fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and structural analysis. Graduates can choose from a range of engineering careers in diverse fields, including cybersecurity and petroleum engineering.
- Information Technology: IT curriculum emphasizes hands-on learning and prepares students for positions in system administration, software design, and related fields by covering topics in network construction and programming.
How Much Does a STEM Degree Cost?
In addition to your degree type, several other factors influence the cost of a program. Shorter programs, such as accelerated online degrees, are often less expensive than traditional on-campus ones. However, some distance learning programs are offered through for-profit schools that are notorious for frequently hiking tuition rates. In contrast, many nonprofit colleges are able to keep tuition stable and relatively low because they receive regular state and federal funding. Most nonprofit schools are also public institutions, including many state universities, and offer a larger range of degree options. Private colleges have fewer programs but are often viewed as more prestigious. They’re also more expensive, deriving the bulk of their funding from tuition and private donations instead of government contributions.
Financing Your STEM Degree
There are several ways to finance your education, but certain methods save you more money than others. Most students are eligible for some form of federal financial aid, including grants, work-study arrangements, scholarships, and student loans. In contrast to private loans, federal student loans offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment plans. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form lets students see what types and amounts of federal aid they qualify for. However, to limit your student debt by as much as possible, STEM scholarships should be your first source of aid.
Unlike student loans, scholarships do not need to be repaid. They are monetary awards given to students who demonstrate academic, athletic, or artistic excellence, and there’s no limit to how many you can apply for or accept. While there are specific STEM scholarships for every concentration, you may be eligible for many different types of scholarships.
Types of Scholarships
No matter your background or educational aspirations, you’ll be eligible for certain scholarships. Some are need-based and awarded to students who demonstrate financial hardship, while others are merit-based and reward exceptional performance in a range of fields, from academics to leadership. Still others are offered to specific groups or underrepresented populations, such as scholarships for women in STEM or disabled students. The table below describes some common types of scholarships and which students are eligible to apply for them.