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STEAM. It’s an acronym you’ve probably heard. But did you know that those five little letters are important to you whatever you plan to do in your career?

We’ll tell you why – but first, let’s answer the question “what are STEAM subjects?”

STEAM fields are sciencetechnologyengineeringart, and mathematics, or applied mathematicsSTEAM is designed to integrate STEM subjects into various relevant education disciplines. These programs aim to teach students innovation, to think critically and use engineering or technology in imaginative designs or creative approaches to real-world problems while building on students’ mathematics and science base. STEAM programs add art to STEM curriculum by drawing on design principles and encouraging creative solutions: Source: Wikipedia

STEM stands for:

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Art
  • Maths

At school or college, the list of STEAM subjects is pretty big:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Design and technology
  • Maths
  • Information and communications technology (IT or ICT)
  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • Geography

STEAM subjects are important because they form the basis of a huge number of careers. Some of these jobs might be obvious – like research scientistdoctorengineer and accountant. But others – such as software developer, pilot, architect – are not so obvious.

That’s why it’s so important to think carefully about your career plans when choosing your subjects for grade 10. STEAM subjects also give you loads of transferable skills which you can apply in any career.

Take a look at this video to find out why you should consider a STEAM career:

STEAM careers are creative

Many STEAM careers need creativity as much as the more analytical skills traditionally associated with STEAM subjects. Most STEAM roles are about coming up with solutions to problems – and problem-solving is often about thinking creatively or “outside the box”.

Take architecture – it’s a core STEAM career. Architects use complex maths every day. And yet it’s one of the most creative careers out there. It’s a perfect examples of where maths and creativity come together.

At the same time, STEAM subjects require research, attention to detail and a critical approach which is useful in any profession or subject. This means STEAM and arts/humanities subjects complement each other well as skills gained in one can improve your approach to the other.

What careers can STEAM subjects lead to?

The breadth of careers STEAM subjects can lead to is actually pretty breathtaking.

Here’s a mix of the everyday – and the out-of-the-ordinary. We’ve even included a guide to the school/college subjects you must study to go into each profession:

  • Space scientist: From astronauts and rocket scientists to meteorologists and climate scientists, space scientists study the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as outer space and the things in it. Must study: Physics.
  • Doctor: General practitioners see patients locally to diagnose illnesses, while consultants specialise in a particular area of medicine, and surgeons carry out operations. Must study: Biology.
  • Civil engineer: Design the buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Must study: Maths.
  • Accountant: Prepare and look at companies’ accounts: that is, the money they spend and receive. Must study: Maths.
  • Web Developer: Use computer programming languages to build and improve websites and online apps. Must study: Maths.
  • Marine biologist: Studies sea creatures, from their behaviour and the way they interact, to the impact of humankind. Must study: Biology.
  • Automotive engineer: Design and improve land vehicles like cars, lorries and vans. Must study: Maths.
  • Chemical engineer: Make and improve medicines, household products like detergents, and cosmetics, which involve the use of chemicals. Must study: Maths.
  • Architect: Come up with the designs for buildings and other things in the built environment, from bridges to football stadiums. Must study: Maths.
  • Statistician: Use information to draw conclusions about the real-world. Must study: Maths.

What’s great about STEAM careers?

Good employment prospects

Today, South Africa and many other countries face a skills shortage in STEAM. This is bad news for the country. If this continues, there will not be enough people in fields such as engineering, medical research and even healthcare to meet our needs and keep the economy going.

The upside is it’s good news for STEM graduates as it means there are plenty of jobs for those with STEM qualifications.

STEAM skills are flexible

If you studying engineering, you end up in engineering – right? If you study computer science, you have to be a programmer?

Not necessarily. While it’s true that STEAM subjects – whether studied at university or through a TVET college – lead towards a particular career, the skills you pick up are very transferable. That means you can apply them to lots of different jobs.

‘Great transferable skills mean all learners should consider studying 1+ STEAM subject’

Here are some of the skills you’ll pick up by studying virtually any STEAM subject:

According to research, analysing and investigating is the fourth-most sought after skill by employers.

You can make a difference

The sheer breadth of STEAM roles means there’s bound to be something you care about. Here are just some of the ways you could make a difference by pursuing a STEAM career:

  • Protect wildlife as a biologist.
  • Tackle global warming as a climate scientist.
  • Develop new treatments for disease as a chemical engineer.
  • Help treat and cure patients as a doctor or nurse.
  • Develop greener ways of powering vehicles as an automotive engineer.

You can earn a lot of money

Adzuna’s research, which was conducted in August 2018, compared the average salaries of jobs that require applicants to have specific STEAM degrees. Coming in at the top of the results, chemical engineers earned average salaries of R603,999 if they held bachelors or master’s degrees in the subject. Graduates with civil engineering and computer science degrees came in at second and third place, earning average salaries of R577,579 and R546,259 respectively.

Graduates that have degrees in mathematics and life sciences are offered average take-home pays of R389,887 and R313,400.

Degree Average Salary
Chemical Engineering R603,999
Civil Engineering R577,579
Computer Science R546,259
Information Technology R521,206
Aeronautical Engineering R515,776
Pharmacy R507,978
Mechanical Engineering R507,619
Electrical Engineering R505,425
Statistics R448,891
Mathematics R389,887
Life Science R313,400


Do I have to go to university?

No. TVET and Universities of Technology also require STEM subjects for some qualifications,
Other STEM careers do require a university degree, such as doctor, nurse, research scientist, and marine biologist.

Our tips

  • Think about what you’d like to do in your career so you know how STEM subjects can help you. Take a look at our post “What job should I do?”
  • Take at least one STEM subject, even if you’re considering a non-STEM career, or are planning to study for an arts or humanities degree at university.


Image credits

  1. Pixabay

2. Freepik 

3. Freepik




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