STEAM Careers for the 21st Century

4 Min Read  •  STEAM Education

Let’s face it: the world is changing more rapidly than ever.  There’s no way that we could possibly know what kind of jobs or career paths will exist in the next decade, much less the next 5 years. Since the beginning of education, part of our focus as teachers has been preparing students to enter the workforce.  But that’s a challenge for 21st century teachers because the jobs our students will enter haven’t been invented yet.  That’s why exploring STEAM careers is worth the time.  Not just because these careers are quickly emerging, but because the STEAM process itself allows students to explore through curiosity, play and hands-on learning.


Often, one of the arguments against using STEAM education as a teaching approach is that it’s “taking away” from preparing our students for jobs in the STEM fields.  But this argument falls flat when you consider that STEM itself is integrative in nature.  It’s about making connections across Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  And in each of these fields, applicants are considered more prepared and desirable if they are also creative thinkers, collaborators and effective communicators – the 21st century skills that are embedded within all art forms.

This is not an “us vs. them” mentality.  Rather, it’s a shift to consider that STEM and STEAM are two sides of the same coin.  The job market of the future requires flexibility, innovation, and connections.  These are skills that are grounded in integration, which is exactly the point of both STEM and STEAM education models.


There are many lists of STEM careers available, but surprising little has been shared about possible STEAM careers.  And while STEM and STEAM are often linked hand in hand, there are some key distinctions.  STEAM is intentional about connecting the arts in and through the STEM areas.  It’s not just about “making the product look pretty”.  Instead, the arts are an integral part of the work as a whole.  Both the actual arts themselves and/or the skills the arts build.

Here’s a list of 25 STEAM careers that are exciting for students to explore:

  • Mechanical & Civil Engineer
  • Architect
  • Website/App Designer
  • Modern Urban Planner
  • Orthopedic Technologist
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Product Designer
  • Animator
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Sound Engineer
  • Video Game Designer
  • Medical Illustrator
  • Astrophysicist
  • Audio Developer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Broadcast Technicians
  • Fashion Designer
  • Interior Designer
  • Photographer
  • Sports Announcer
  • Pilots
  • Astronaut
  • Conservators
  • Archeologist
  • Scientific Imaging

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It’s one thing to be aware these kinds of jobs exist, but it’s a whole new world when students can explore each of these careers.  Here are some ideas for getting students really excited:


Why not translate some of these STEAM career fields into actual jobs your student can do in the classroom?  For each group project you have students working on throughout the year, each person in the group could take on a STEAM career role.  For instance, one person could be the group’s graphic designer, creating the artwork for the finished presentation.  Another could be the product designer that provides the sequence of the presentation to the graphic designer.  Yet another could be the conservator who curates each element for the product designer.

There’s a lot of flexibility and possibilities here.  You could have the same jobs for each project, or you can rotate some of them out.  Obviously, not all careers are going to work for this idea (you probably won’t have a forensic psychologist), but you could definitely have a standard rotation of options.  To really make this pop, create a card for each position, laminate it and then have students randomly pull one for each project.


You could make this a whole project on it’s own.  Have students randomly select one of the careers from the list and research what is involved with that career choice, examples of companies and/or people who are currently working in that position and what a typical product or day might look like.  Then, they can present their work in either a group presentation, a career day or even through tech tools like Buncee, Sway or Flipgrid.


This one could piggyback off of the research project, or could be done as an outreach/afterschool program.  Based on the student research, or as an extension, explore if there are any people in your community who are in these careers.  If so, reach out and see if they would be willing to present at a STEAM career day in your school.  If there’s no one in your own community, see if there are people in these careers at larger corporations who would be willing to share their experiences in a Skype Call with your students.  You can find a lot of folks through your own professional learning networks in places like Twitter chats or social media groups.  There’s nothing more powerful than seeing and hearing from people who are actually doing this kind of work now.

The future is here and the question isn’t are we ready.  The question is, are we open to all the possibilities?  Because we can’t predict what’s to come for our students.  But we can prepare them for whatever is around the corner through strong creative and connective skills.  Which is exactly what STEAM education provides.


Looking for more about STEAM Careers?  Try these articles and resources:

Art and Science Careers

Emerging Careers in STEAM

7 Dream Jobs that Require Math

About the Author

Susan Riley is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. This is the world’s largest online resource for educators interested in integrating the arts. She has presented at events and authored articles for many educational organizations including The US Department of Education, Palmetto State Arts Education, Edutopia, Education Week, Americans for the Arts, ASCD, and NPR. She regularly presents at national and international events each year. She is the author of three books and is a sought-after collaborator for innovative educational projects around the globe. Susan brings creativity, practicality, dedication and passion to the education landscape. She is well-respected for her pioneering work in the fields of Arts Integration and STEAM education with a standards-based approach. As an educator who taught for 10 years in public schools, as well as served in central office leadership, she understands the fast-paced change, challenges and promise of 21st century schools. As an entrepreneur, she has successfully taken what was once a simple education blog and developed it into a rapidly-growing and highly-respected educational institution. Her team of 15+ teachers, leaders and coaches support over over 500,000 educators each month worldwide. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan

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