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What is the hardest part about having a career in a STEM field?

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Robert’s Answer

The biggest challenge (well, for the average person) in the STEM fields is that if you aren't good enough, nobody wants you. You know those complaints about there not being enough workers/students in the STEM fields? While those are truly valid complaints in a few STEM fields, in most (including chemistry) what it really means is that there are not enough star players to go around. There are plenty of unemployed chemists, and chemists working in other fields and not using their chemistry training, often because they couldn't find a job they could do competently. Most often this happens when people just do enough to get by in their training, and don't really learn their stuff. STEM fields are incredibly cumulative, so if you don't learn the basics you can't understand most of the more advanced stuff. I caution you that if you feel you are not actually learning most of what you are being taught in your training, up your game, change training program (usually school or at least teacher), or change field. I have seen too many students struggle to complete a Chemistry degree and then find nobody will give them a chance, or if they are given one that they can't do the job. If you are competent in a STEM field, though, (well, except for a few wildly over-subscribed fields, mostly in biology, like marine biology and ecology) everyone will want you (they may not want to pay you a fair wage, though).

If you ARE good at the field, other things can be hard - like a lack of colleagues you can identify with, a lack of respect because of how others perceive you (or some would say how you come across), glass ceilings, long hours, high stress, and clueless managers. But most of those things can be avoided, and they won't change more generally if people don't confront them. If you can do STEM well, and like it, I think it is a great place to be, but don't assume that just because you have a STEM degree you will easily land a job you like and can live with. Good luck!

Robert recommends the following next steps:

Ask to talk with an alumnus of your (potential/future) training program about the job search process, and the job market. At a college, the alumni office or career center can help you find such a person in your field.

This is very true. Unless you're studying computer science or other very few in-demand fields, prepare yourself for a very tough job market and possibly switching career paths. Paulina Panek

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Charles’s Answer

Brynna, this is an exciting question! I'm so glad you're curious about STEM.

The hardest part about a career in STEM is finding the time to explore emerging technologies. Here's the great news: When you commit to learning more about tools and services needed to create smart cities of the future, certain trends will begin to catch your attention.

For example, drones and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will deliver supplies (like blood) to first responders and help them save lives after an emergency. It takes software, engineering, wireless internet connections and lots of coordination to pull that off. Once you read up about a topic you're curious about, hopefully you start to picture yourself participating. That's when the fun really begins.

Here's a link to learn more about drones:

I hope you accept the challenge of exploring a career in STEM. It starts by deciding to be a continuous learner and you are on the right path!
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James’s Answer

The hardest part of STEM careers is the self disclipine rrequired to intensely focus while calmly resolving issues. Rewards of success far outweigh any difficulty encountered.
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Seun’s Answer

For me I believe it's deciding where exactly you want to focus on. The Stem field has so many exciting opportunities and so many aspects that you can dive into. I have an engineering background and now I am in Cyber security and I have love for both. I would say knowing your interests and always keeping yourself educated on the industry, this way it helps you decide where your interests lie. For Stem there are new areas to focus on every time, things are changing and it is such a great time to be in this field.
I hope this is helpful

Seun recommends the following next steps:

Constantly educating yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone