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Studying STEM Subjects At Postgraduate Level
STEM subjects – Science (including Natural Science), Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – are regularly in the media and being promoted as great study options, with many employers actively looking for STEM graduates for all sorts of varied careers. Many governments want to encourage more students to study STEM subjects as they estimate that in the future more highly skilled people will be required to work within STEM industries. This has resulted in many excellent funding opportunities available for students, especially women, on postgraduate STEM courses, as well as great job prospects for STEM graduates. All of this adds up to make STEM an ideal field to go into.
What is STEM?
A STEM subject is any course that is considered as either a Science,
Technology, Engineering or Mathematics course. For a course to be considered a STEM course it can be in one of these areas or have an interdisciplinary approach covering more than one area. For example, at the postgraduate level, a course might cover a little of all four areas such as an MSc in Computer Science or it might clearly be a single STEM subject area such as a MSc in Engineering, Masters in Natural Science or Mathematics.
What is a postgraduate STEM program?
There is a huge number of STEM postgraduate programs to choose from and many offer a wide range of transferable skills that are in high demand at all sorts of industries and organisations. A postgraduate course in Astronomy might seem like it will only lead to a career stargazing, but the scientific analytical skills and systematic approach you learn easily transfers to all sorts of research and business analytical careers not to mention the chance to work with all sorts of space agencies. A Masters in Robotics Engineering is another STEM course that although at first glance seems rather niche, can in fact lead to a huge range of careers as the increasing use of robotics in daily life combined with an understanding of Artificial Intelligence, and can lead to working for a large number of customer goods production companies. An MSc in Virtual Reality can offer a similar range of opportunities.
Completing a postgraduate course in a subject, such as Statistics would place you in high demand from all sorts of governmental agencies and businesses, because all organisations require statisticians to understand and interpret data and reports. Other popular STEM subjects include Nanotechnology, Bionics, Cyber Security and IT Networking. There are also postgraduate courses in teaching STEM subjects to children.
Let's take a look at some of the universities that specialise in STEM subjects in the UK, Europe and the USA. Most universities offer at least some courses that are considered STEM subjects, and there are many institutions with a strong reputation in one or more STEM area. However there are only a few universities across the US, UK and Europe that offer an excellent education across all STEM subject areas.
In the United Kingdom the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford both have an excellent reputation in many STEM subject areas, as does the University of Edinburgh and University College London. When looking at university rankings according STEM subjects many of the top UK universities perform well across the board, for example you can see from these tables of top UK universities for Computer Science and Engineering that a lot of the same institutions rank highly in both fields.
Top 10 Universities for Computer Science in the UK
Here is a table of the top 10 UK universities to study Computer Science in 2019, this includes Artificial Intelligence, Computer Generated Visual & Audio Effects, Computer Science, Games, Health Informatics and Software Engineering.
Top 10 Universities for Engineering in the UK
Here is a list of the top 10 Engineering schools in the UK.
In Europe, the ETH Zurich, EPFL Lausanne and the Ecole Polytechnique ParisTech all have excellent reputations in STEM subjects.
Meanwhile, in the United States the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has an excellent reputation for all STEM subject areas, as does the California Institute of Technology and the US Military, Naval and Coast Guard Colleges.
Top 10 Universities for STEM Subjects 2018 in the USA
Here are the top 10 ranked universities for studying STEM subjects in the United States.
How to choose your STEM university
When researching STEM subject areas you will find that most rankings by subject areas are divided by specific STEM subject area, so a university that rates highly for Engineering postgraduate courses, may not rank as highly for IT postgraduate courses. This means that if you are using rankings that are divided by general subject areas such as STEM subjects all placed together, you should delve a little deeper into the rankings and their methodology. You may find an excellent course for you is at an institution that doesn't rank well in general STEM rankings if this particular university doesn't offer Engineering or other large STEM subject area.
How much does a STEM postgraduate program cost to study?
The cost of studying a STEM postgraduate program can vary in large amounts between specific subject areas, institutions and between countries. At the University of Oxford, tuition fees can vary for home students from £7,730 for a DPhil in Organic Chemistry to £11,160 for an MSc in Computer Science or £17,745 for an MSc in Energy Systems and £32,330 for a MSc in Mathematical and Computational Finance. Meanwhile, at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, tuition fees are usually charged at the standard rate of CHF 580 (approx. £470) per semester for all students. Tuition fees in the United States tend to be higher for STEM subjects compared to universities internationally, unless you are resident in the US or have made a commitment to attend a US military college and join a branch of the US military. For example the California Institute of Technology currently estimates that tuition fees for 2019 will cost graduate students $50,487 per year.
Funding for STEM programs
When searching for funding for your STEM postgraduate course you are likely to come across plenty of funding opportunities are aimed specifically at schools educating children in STEM subjects, particularly financial incentives for female students, so there is a little extra sifting required. There are lots of STEM scholarships and bursaries aimed at STEM students. In the UK, start by searching for funding with the department of the university you have applied to, and also check out organisations such as the UK Research Councils or the Royal Academy of Engineering. The US government is also keen to increase the numbers of STEM graduates and the US government offers funding and financial aid to some STEM students. In Europe, the UK and the United States, many companies and businesses in STEM fields offer funding to students who will then go on to work for them or are already employed by them. Many countries in Europe, such as The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, offer discounted or zero tuition fees for many postgraduate STEM courses, and this means that students then only need to find for funding for their living expenses. As well as looking for STEM-related bursaries and scholarships, make sure you also consider all of the usual funding options like governmental loans, private loans, using your savings and working while studying to fund your postgraduate STEM course,
Women in STEM
Many governments around the world are trying to improve recruitment of students onto STEM postgraduate courses in general, and many countries are also trying to improve the recruitment of women into STEM subject areas in particular. In the UK, around 13% of the employees in STEM-related industries are women and in the US around 24% of employees are women. This means that in many countries employers are actively targeting female STEM graduates join their companies and there are often extra funding opportunities for women wishing to study STEM postgraduate courses. Many universities offer additional mentoring programs to female STEM students, and there are plenty of networking groups on social media aimed at women in STEM fields to participate in.
What qualifications do you need?
You don't necessarily need to have a STEM undergraduate degree to study a STEM postgraduate course, but it usually helps. There are conversion courses available for some subject areas, such as Psychology, however, more STEM postgraduate courses, such as Mathematics, require an undergraduate degree with a substantial element of Mathematics. Other postgraduate STEM courses, such as Engineering, require students to have completed an undergraduate degree in a directly related subject as the postgraduate course is aimed at those students who are on track to become qualified and registered Engineers. Some postgraduate STEM courses are aimed at those already working in the field and are looking to specialise their career further. This means that some postgraduate STEM courses require students to have both a related undergraduate degree and substantial work experience.
So, what STEM-related graduate jobs can you go into once you have successfully completed your postgraduate STEM program? There is a huge range of careers that students can go onto after studying a STEM postgraduate course. Information Technology, Cyber Security and IT Networks are all areas that require increasing numbers of graduates. Organisations in these areas also require Database Engineers, Data Analysts and Data Engineers. Outside of Computing, businesses that deal with any consumer product require scientists and engineers to design and test products. Logistics and supply chain systems require analysts and engineers to manage and design the systems that the company uses. Increasingly the military and government require all sorts of STEM graduates to analyse data and manage systems. STEM graduates are needed in places like NASA and the European Space Agency, and also every school and university requires STEM graduates to teach STEM subjects to the next generation of STEM students.
Average salaries by subject area in the UK in 2017 for 16 to 64-year-olds – Working Age Population
Average salaries by subject area in the UK in 2017 for 21 to 30-year-olds – Young Population
*LEM – Law, Economics and Management
**STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
***OSSAH – Other Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities (including Languages)