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How exactly should I choose a career in STEM?

Being in STEM is something that I would love to do however, I am not sure exactly what career I want. I know I want to do something that can help people, possibly work with machinery, and have a really good pay.

I hate working in teams and I would rather meet up with people initially to discuss plans and then do my work independently. But, engineering does do a lot of team work so I really need to learn how to be efficient with my time.

I have been in multiple STEM programs but one of my favorite projects were creating prosthetic limbs and designing mechanical parts and research.

So, I am interested in biomedical engineering but, I am also interested in aerospace.

Growing up, I never really had much of an interest in planes but I really like learning about space and different theories or possibilities of what the world can look like billion years from now.

I have other interests in career choices such as mechatronics, cyber security, and mechanical engineering.

I have talked to other people of how exactly should I choose my career but they would always tell me to, ¨follow your passion¨. But here´s the thing... I don´t have a passion!

How exactly can I even choose the right career for me when I don´t have passion and I just like STEM?

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Subject: Career question for you


4 answers

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Richard’s Answer

As you know STEM cover 4 major areas of study with multiple options of career paths in each area. Being a high school student leave you 2-3 years to explore options. Take time to discover where your interests lay and remember that career paths have winding roads with no specific speed limit.

Good Luck
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Dan’s Answer

I think you are already doing fine with your current thinking.

1) You don't have to pick a career right now because the answer will become more clear as you progress out of High School and into a college degree program.

2) Most four-year degrees require a series of general courses in the first two years then more specific courses tending to follow in the last two years. Many colleges offer an engineering seminar class in the first year which provides guidance into the different engineering fields.

3) You can discuss your thoughts with your high school guidance counselor as well as with one of the college guidance counselors. These individuals (especially the college engineering folks) are usually pretty experienced with explaining engineering career options.

4) If you have two career options, you may be able to focus on one and minor in the other, thus building credentials for both.

5) Depending on the company, you may be able to focus on the purely technical tasks and work more independently. On the other hand, learning to work with other people is a skill that can be learned and is usually more comfortable and easy once you master the technical tasks. Just as another senior engineer will provide guidance to you when you begin, you are likely to provide guidance to others after you acquire a couple years of experience.

As you take classes, and talk with other students, college advisors, and instructors, you will get the answers to your questions.

BTW... I think you do have a passion - it's STEM. And it will evolve into something more specific by the time you graduate from college. And it will likely evolve even more into different directions over your 30-50 year career. The "career evolution" will be determined by your interests, your strengths/weaknesses as well as opportunities that become evident within your career/company. I went from electrical (hardware) engineering to software development to project lead, to safety engineering to quality assurance and management. I worked with strip chart recorders, steel plant control, payphones, aluminum manufacturing, film processing, locomotive braking systems, and passenger rail/transportation systems. The constant (my passion) across my career was embedded microprocessor control.

STEM and engineering are a lot of fun!

Dan recommends the following next steps:

Ask to talk with an engineering guidance counselor rather than a "regular" guidance counselor. Or ask to meet with one of the engineering faculty.
Once you start taking college classes, go early to your engineering classes and ask for advice from the engineering instructors.
Many colleges will allow you to take classes while you are still in high school so consider taking an engineering class while still in high school. You will get college credits, become more familiar with engineering, and have exposure to other students and instructors. Community Colleges usually are less expensive so they are an inexpensive option to try out different subjects.
Evening college classes tend to include students who already have engineering experience, maybe working full-time while taking part-time classes. These can be excellent sources of knowledge if you make a point to chat with them. Hint: show up for classes early and use that time (plus during break time) to ask them about what they do when working.
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Jason’s Answer

"Following your passion" is a bit overrated. Instead, find something you enjoy, that you're relatively good at, and derive satisfaction from doing well. If I never had to worry about money again, would I still be in cybersecurity? Nah, I'd be a scuba instructor. But here's the thing- the life of a scuba instructor isn't the best. Long hours, zero conventional benefits, low pay, etc. A number of my friends are either currently, or have been instructors in the past (if that tells you how deep I am into the scuba world) and without fail, the only non-miserable instructors are those that picked up teaching in retirement. "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life" is blatantly false. More accurately, "If you take a hobby you're passionate about and turn it into a career, you've just killed your hobby and it's no longer fun."

So ignore those people who tell you to follow your passion. "I just like STEM" is perfect. You don't need to be a rabid enthusiast, you need to be a professional.

That said, you're going to work in a team. That's part of professional life, unless you become a very specialized programmer where you can kind of get away with being a tech-hermit. But that's a LONG way off.

Dual majoring in Mech-E and Comp-E is probably not a great idea. That'll land you somewhere in the realm of embedded systems, which is really more of an electrical engineering specialty.

If you really think you could do some good with advanced prosthetics, Biomechanical Engineering is more up your alley. That said, universities greatly overstate the degree to which your major dictates your career. I have an undergrad in geophysics where I leaned coding and data science, that lead to four years in the military doing some computer stuff, then enterprise ransomware attack assistance, then finally cybersecuity. My STEM degree taught me how to think, but I'll never be a geologist. I'd bet that there are far more advanced prosthetics engineers with degrees in Mech-E, E-E, and Comp-Sci, compared to those in the more specific Biomech-E. Internships and your first job or two will do more to set your career path than anything you study in college.

So in closing, find a degree program you enjoy, are relatively decent at, and derive satisfaction from. It's not what you're locked into forever. Do however use your summers to land internships you find interesting. The people who think, "Huh, that's neat- I think I might be able to make an improvement there" tend to do a lot more than the people who think, "I love [topic]! I want to be there!"
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Atul’s Answer

Reading your post, you want to help people but do not work with people but prefer to work independently.
My recommendations are to do dual major in mechanical with computer engineering degree.
This will enable you to do what you want to do.
However, I am guessing that you are good in Physics, Mathematics and English.
If you want to pursue Biomedical Engineering- make sure you have interest in Chemistry and Biology.

Fyi - in high school, I always did Math problems whenever I was bored. I spent 40 years in software engineering (telecom and cybersecurity).
Good luck.