Student Advice

What to expect studying a STEM subject

Sarah Jones  · Nov 27th 2023

STEM subjects can be the gateway to a whole host of careers in the science and technology space all around the world! Here’s everything you need to know.


In our ever-changing world, where technology and innovation become a key part of our lives, more and more businesses are launching and looking for a skilled workforce with the knowledge of science and technology. Studying a STEM subject may be the perfect way to get yourself a promising career in these industries.


What is STEM?

STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. STEM education is tailored around logical thinking and planning, so you can gain top-tier knowledge of the subject, while gaining skills to help you launch your career in related industries.

What are STEM subjects?

What subjects are classified as STEM vary depend on which country you're in. In the UK, social sciences such as Psychology and Sociology aren't classed as STEM subjects. However, they are in other countries such as the USA.

At a glance, STEM may seem to only include a few subjects, but as subjects advance and distinct areas of study develop, STEM subjects can now include:

  • Astronomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Chemistry
  • Design and Technology
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Geography
  • IT / ICT
  • Maths
  • Robotics
  • Physics

And that's not all! You'll find more specific strands of these subjects that you can go on to study. For example, you might decide to study Civil Engineering, which is considered an Engineering discipline.

What your STEM course will cover will vary depending on the area you are studying – Maths lectures will look very different from Chemistry practicals! You can be sure to expect a mixture of theory principles and the study of research, new and old. You'll learn about where the subject started and how it's being shaped today and beyond. As the years progress, you'll start to specialise in the modules you take, looking at specific areas of the subject that interest you as you get ready to write your dissertation or research project.

National STEM centre

Why study STEM subjects?

So what is so great about STEM? If you already study and find STEM subjects at A-Level interesting, it might be that your passion and skills lie within studying these subjects further. Of course, like every degree, there's lots to gain from your studies.

1. Transferable skills you can take anywhere

From learning how to carry out research yourself to collaborating with other students to undertaking research; you'll learn how to write about scientific theory and report critically on the findings. You'll even have the opportunity to present your study or areas of interest to develop your presentation skills.

STEM subjects will push your logical thinking and problem-solving skills as you take the theory and apply it to real-world situations. Not only is the knowledge you learn on the course useful but so are the personal skills you'll gain from working with other students and your lecturers.

2. Great career prospects and salary

For students who graduated in 2021, many of the STEM subjects, including Biological sciences, Physical sciences, Maths and Engineering, had the highest levels of full-time employment.

Many of the highest-paying jobs are STEM-related careers, with Software Developers hitting the top spot. As STEM sectors are actively growing, every year, there are more and more job opportunities in these science and technology fields. Many of the roles we may not even know of yet!

3. You can make a difference!

What's so great about STEM is there are still so many questions yet to be answered. Innovation waits for no one, and this is your opportunity to be part of the change and make a difference in the way the world works.

STEM related subjects

What careers can STEM subjects lead to?

Many students who study a STEM subject go onto study a postgraduate degree – this may be as a Masters degree or PhD. As many STEM subjects involve research, it's no surprise that students look to further their independent research in a postgraduate degree. If research is the career path you're looking to go down, exploring a postgrad is a great way to do so.

Many postgrad students then head into a career in education full-time as a lecturer at the university or as ongoing research assistants in their specialised area.

For those heading straight into the working world, the careers you are open to will, of course, vary depending on your specific degree. However, you don't need to feel constricted by this!

There are many transferable skills that each degree will give you that you can apply to your future roles. Here are just some of the careers you may consider:

Research Assistants. Use the skills you've gained in designing research projects and undertaking your own controlled studies and apply them to a role as a Research Assistant. You'll likely continue to research in the area you've already explored in your degree, and it's a chance to be part of new innovations in your field.

Data Scientist. From statistics in your Maths degree to using research software like Python and more to report on your practical experiments in Chemistry, you'll have the knowledge and skills that could be applied to a role in data. Data Scientists set up the behind-the-scenes engineering of tools to support a business with their reporting needs. It's a great career for those who love problem-solving and digging deep into algorithms and data.

Data Analystsare the people who take the data and probe it to answer a business' burning questions. "How are sales doing?", "What are the characteristics of our customer?". You'll answer questions like this and more as you collect the data and identify trends and patterns that will help shape the decisions of the business.

Software Developer is a great career for STEM students studying IT or Computer Science. As a developer, you'll dive into the code of a website or app, fixing bugs in the code or helping to design creative new solutions for the company. If you have a passion for computers and code and have a creative flair, this may be the career for you.

Aerospace Engineer will take your knowledge of engineering to new heights! As an Aerospace Engineer, you'll research, develop and design components for space vehicles and beyond. You'll look to solve problems of how to improve fuel efficiency or how do we lighten the load without compromising the mechanics. You could either stay on this side of the earth's atmosphere with aeronautical engineering or head to space with astronautical.

What are the entry requirements for STEM subjects?

As STEM covers a range of subjects, the requirements will differ depending on the course and university.

Admissions tests

For many universities, you may need to sit an admissions test. This will vary depending on the university and the course you decide on, so be sure to check the entry requirements for the individual degree. Some admissions tests you may run into if opting for a STEM subject include the MAT (Maths Admissions Test), the PAT (Physics Admissions Test) or STEP(Sixth Term Examination Paper).

A Levels

For most science courses, you'll need at least one Science A-Level with a grade that matches the course requirements. It's a plus if this is in the scientific field you're looking to specialise in. For most other STEM courses, you'll likely need at least A-Level Maths and perhaps a Science A-Level as well.


You'll need to have completed a BTEC in the same area that you wish to study your degree, such as a science-based BTEC to study a Science degree or an Engineering-based BTEC to study Engineering. For the courses with higher entry requirements, you're likely required to have A-Levels to study a STEM subject at university.


Like most other course requirements, you'll need at least a C or 4 in English and Maths GCSEs. They may also expect you to have strong GCSE grades for Science here too.

International Baccalaureate

You'll need a minimum grade of 5 or 6 for each Higher Level, including Maths and a specific science-based subject.

Scottish Higher

You'll likely need to have studied Maths and/or a specific science subject. Individual courses may specify the minimum grade that you'll need to achieve.

Take some time to look at your options and see if a degree in a STEM subject is the right choice for you and your future!

undergraduate Uni's

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