Help me find different STEM careers for son

<p>My soon-to-be senior high school son has no idea what he would like to study in college. He is good at many subjects, but believes he will be study something in the STEM fields. Because of his skill and interest in computers (including programming, drawing etc.) I see him working somehow in computers, although engineering is a possibility. I have been searching for a list of computer majors which list exactly what they are and possible future jobs, as well as a list detailing different engineering choices and possible jobs in those fields. (For example what is the difference between Computer Science, IT, Computer Engineering, etc.) Can anyone on CC direct me to this information? Thank you.</p>

<p>this is a nice site for exploring careers in the STEM fields:</p>

<p>[Sloan</a> Career Cornerstone Center: Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine](<a href=“http://www.careercornerstone.org/]Sloan”>http://www.careercornerstone.org/)</p>

<p>Computer Science usually emphasizes software and theory topics. For example, finding the algorithm that uses the least time and space to do something. Or finding a problem that is difficult to solve without knowing the key (cryptography). A Computer Science curriculum will typically include required or optional upper level courses in various software topics (operating systems, databases, networks, software engineering, compilers, graphics, user interfaces, security) and theory topics (algorithms, language and automata theory, cryptography). Some hardware topics (electronics, digital design, computer architecture) and software / hardware topics (embedded systems) may be included, but usually optional.</p>

<p>Computer Engineering usually emphasizes hardware design and some related software topics. Hardware topics (electronics, digital design, computer architecture) and software / hardware topics (embedded systems), as well as lower level software topics (operating systems, networks) are likely to be included. Usually, additional electives in the software and theory areas can be taken.</p>

<p>In some schools, a major called Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, or Computer Science and Engineering combines both of the above (and Electrical Engineering in the case of the first two), either in course requirements, or in having few specific course requirements to allow the student to emphasize the area(s) of his/her interest.</p>

<p>Information Technology or Management Information Systems is often found under business schools, and is usually primarily a business major, rather than a “hard core” STEM major. In some cases, it may include selected Computer Science courses (e.g. databases, operating systems, and/or networks), but more commonly includes “light” versions taught within the business school. A student majoring in such a major may still find it useful to take the Computer Science courses in operating systems, databases, and networks if s/he intends to go into the more technical side of the field (system and network administration).</p>

<p><a href=“http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/internships-careers-employment/1121619-university-graduate-career-surveys.html[/url]”>http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/internships-careers-employment/1121619-university-graduate-career-surveys.html&lt;/a&gt; may give you some idea of the job and career prospects of various majors.</p>

<p>You have no business trying to find your son’s major for him- that is his job (nice to be helpful but remember to back off and let him have the fun of being the expert). That said, it doesn’t matter what he proposes as his major when entering college as many, if not most, entering college freshmen will be undecided or change their major. You can educate yourself by reading the college major info from schools you think may be of interest. Often the departments will explain themselves and give examples of where grads end up.</p>

<p>Regardless of the math/science major he ends up in he is likely to start with the same courses. There is plenty of time for him to explore majors at his college. He will have a wealth of material in the college majors descriptions at the schools he considers. It sounds like he is more interested in the math/comp sci/physics type sciences and not the chemistry/biology ones. He will take intro level courses in those subjects at his college for a major in any science and engineering and his major will emerge based on his experiences. He will learn about many possibilities once he is at his school. Don’t worry prematurely- he has plenty of time to narrow his focus once he is actually away at his college.</p>

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I’m not sure what you meant by ‘engineering’ since there are many kinds but computer science is often in the School of Engineering at the U and considered an engineering discipline. </p>

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That’s typically not the case for engineering and CS in particular. There are so many courses to take that one typically starts taking the major courses day 1 and continues to throughout the UG timeframe. Some of the courses are more broadly applicable, i.e. math, physics, GEs, etc., but in CS for example, one usually would start taking the CS courses right away. This may vary depending on the college.</p>

<p>I ditto what ‘ucbalumnus’ posted on the different majors - it’s a good synopsis.</p>

<p>Have your S take a look at the majors offered by several colleges he’s interested in and then when he finds majors that on the surface sound interesting, have him drill down to see the typical courses one takes for that major. That’ll give him a better idea of what he’d actually be studying in college and by extension, an idea of some possible career areas that can result.</p>

<p>“You have no business trying to find your son’s major for him-”</p>

<p>Hmmm, it seems like there is a medium road here. Parents have a huge business trying to help kids find a major. Pushing for one the kid doesn’t want is useless but frankly most 19-21 year olds don’t have enough life experience to know how to pick a major.</p>

<p>Coming from just the subjects taught in high school, it is very hard to really understand what all the various STEM careers can be. I am an aerospace structural engineer. I was able to help explain to my son and my daughter what the various fields are. Neither was totally sure with their choices. So, not being sure of your choice of major is somewhat common.</p>

<p>Some schools (such as WPI) will allow you to apply and start without declaring a major (or as “engineering, undeclared” at WPI). IMHO, forcing one to declare a major when applying is insane, but many schools do. At least look at the school’s policy about transferring departments. Some schools are very restrictive about changing majors. Avoid these if possible if your son isn’t totally sure. </p>

<p>Many kids will lean toward computer engineering as it is something that they think they know something about. I have then known several that did not find it to be what they thought it would be and transferred out. Remember that computers are prevalent throughout all forms of engineering and it is almost impossible to find a major that doesn’t involve some kind of computer operation. You can get your fill of computers in that way.</p>

<p>There are many ways to get at least some insight into what the various forms of engineering does. Talk to any engineers you might know. Most will bore you to death (almost) with what they are currently working on. Visit engineering schools and specifically ask to talk to some of the students (or even professors). Again, they’ll probably talk quite a bit.</p>

<p>You can also look at various engineering companies (Boeing or United Technologies, for example) and go to their careers section. Look at the various engineering job descriptions and they will describe what they are looking for, in other words; what they do.</p>

<p>Good luck, this is the fun part for your son.</p>

<p>**Good **computer science jobs are becoming like the NFL draft; you have a handful of companies that do wonderful things (the Googles and Microsofts of the world) and hire a bunch of people from the top brand name schools, and everyone else ends up in either established companies busy outsourcing everything but the kitchen sink or hungry and poor startups working off the founder’s credit card…</p>

<p>IT has already been outsourced for many years… There may be jobs with those with obscure skills but not for everyone. </p>

<p>Computer Engineering has some appeal mostly for embedded and defense type work, but not being ‘pure software’ or ‘pure hardware’ may present its own limitations since things are super specialized these days. </p>

<p>To follow up on dragonmom’s input, the trick is to identify early on what the kid is good at, at a young age, and show them what it involves and let them discover for themselves. That way the kids think they’re making the choice :slight_smile: or at least know what they’re getting into.</p>

<p>As a former Civil Engineer I know a thing or ten about Architecture, and worked hard to get my daughter to ‘see the light’. She loves art and the whole creative process; a few classes at the high school showed her what architectural drafting or house construction are all about (teenage girls and power tools are an interesting mix :-)). As a current Software Engineer (pfeh, coder) and Human Factors Engineer I would not wish my career (and it’s been a fun career so far, mostly consumer electronics software) on my kids.</p>

<p>My son was a computer science major (not in the school of engineering) and his job title now is “software engineer.” Some of this comes down to semantics.</p>

<p>I did the same kind of research you are thinking about, but it was at my son’s request, he did the same research, and wanted to be able to talk to me, so I needed to know a little myself.</p>

<p>The most important help he got was when he looked at schools and asked about programs. At one smallish school that he visited, he sat down with a professor who explained the differences between majors, CS and engineering etc. which was very helpful.</p>

<p>Also, check websites of schools/departments, read the curricula, read the actual course listings, and so on.</p>

<p>But overall, your son should be doing this, and he could also be talking with people at his high school or at the colleges he is interested in.</p>

<p>And it is okay to be undecided. It is also okay to go to college without focusing on a future career for the whole 4 years. It is really up to your son what he wants to do.</p>

<p>If you are on the east coast, I highly suggest your son go to this summer program at RIT - [RIT</a> College & Careers Homepage](<a href=“http://www.rit.edu/emcs/admissions/careers/]RIT”>College & Careers | RIT)<br>

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<p>My son chose not to attend RIT but did decide on his major after doing this program. He’s going to major in Computer Networking and Information Security. Here’s his college’s take on that major - [Computer</a> Networking & Information Security Major: Undergraduate Studies: Champlain College](<a href=“http://www.champlain.edu/Undergraduate-Studies/Majors-and-Programs/Computer-Networking-and-Information-Security.html]Computer”>Computer Networking & Cybersecurity Major | Academics | Champlain College)</p>

<p>Purdue University’s website has a good explanation of the various kinds of engineering. Explains what kind of job an engineer in each field can lead to.</p>

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<p>Interestingly, San Jose State University has both a [Computer</a> Science](<a href=“http://info.sjsu.edu/web-dbgen/catalog/departments/CS-section-1.html]Computer”>http://info.sjsu.edu/web-dbgen/catalog/departments/CS-section-1.html) major and a very similar [Software</a> Engineering](<a href=“http://info.sjsu.edu/web-dbgen/catalog/departments/SFTE-section-1.html]Software”>http://info.sjsu.edu/web-dbgen/catalog/departments/SFTE-section-1.html) major (note that many of the CS and SE courses have identical course descriptions). However, the latter appears to be overlooked, so that it is much easier to get admitted into, both as a freshman and as a transfer:</p>

<p>[SJSU</a> Admission](<a href=“http://info.sjsu.edu/web-dbgen/narr/admission/rec-1199.html]SJSU”>http://info.sjsu.edu/web-dbgen/narr/admission/rec-1199.html)
[SJSU</a> Admission](<a href=“http://info.sjsu.edu/web-dbgen/narr/admission/rec-1200.html]SJSU”>http://info.sjsu.edu/web-dbgen/narr/admission/rec-1200.html)</p>

<p>DD graduated in engineering. She also didn’t know quite what she wanted to study within the STEM fields when she enrolled…but she did know that she was interested in something in the STEM field. She went to a university with excellent courses of study in the fields and with a core course requirement too. She also had excellent college advising. She found that all engineering majors really had the same courses their freshman year. She also found that she liked some better than others. Her advisor in college gave her suggestions on the types of courses she might further take based on info our daughter gave him. In the end, she was a bioengineering major/biology major. BUT it was through her college courses and excellent advising that this decision was eventually made.</p>

<p>I discovered this site recently. Maybe your son would find it helpful?
[BLS</a> Career Information Home Page](<a href=“http://www.bls.gov/k12/]BLS”>K‐12 : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)</p>

<p>This link takes you directly to engineering jobs and at the bottom includes links to several pages with computer related careers.
<a href=“http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm[/url]”>http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;

<p>And finally, the index. :slight_smile:
<a href=“http://www.bls.gov/oco/ooh_index.htm#E[/url]”>http://www.bls.gov/oco/ooh_index.htm#E&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;

<p>Thank you everyone for your comments, explanations and sites to explore. I agree that I shouldn’t decide my son’s career, but as his counselor isn’t helping (she has 700 students) and he’s not exploring the opportunities himself, I thought I would help so when we discussed options I could at least be somewhat knowledgeable. Also this would help decide what colleges/universities to look at as if he is interested in even the possibility of engineering, several LAC’s and state schools will be eliminated. Thanks again.</p>

<p>I would also check the computer science department courses and curricula.</p>

<p>ECBalumnus, interesting about San Jose’s State’s majors in CS and SE…worth looking into…</p>

<p>The distinction between CS and CE totally depends on each college program. My CE program had more CS courses than CS program and I had to take more classes to graduate. Some CE programs give students more options to have breadth in both hardware and software classes and eventually most graduates work in the software development field.</p>

<p>“You have no business trying to find your son’s major for him- that is his job (nice to be helpful but remember to back off and let him have the fun of being the expert).” - Sure, the mom can’t pick the major. But there a lots of high school students that really don’t how to go about exploring their options. </p>

<p>It’s appropriate for the mom to want to help out here, since an initial choice does help tailor the list for initial college lists. Those visits may help a lot for refining interests. </p>

<p>If a student seems certain to go down the STEM path, than a techie school with many STEM majors like RPI could work well. The classes Freshman year would be similar regardless of major. If a student is less sure of STEM, then a large univeristy with many majors might be a better choice.</p>

<p>I’m sensitive to the situation in which the guidance counselor can’t possibly pay attention to 400 or 700 kids in any meaningful way, but I doubt that most guidance counselors can give useful career advice anyway. [I’d feel lucky if they could give useful college advice, but definitely would not count on it].</p>

<p>I’m always surprised when a kid in HS has a career in mind, because one of the great virtues of the US college/university education is that it introduces students to ways of thinking and paths that they might not be aware of. I went to a meeting where a HS sophomore or junior was seriously asking about the best colleges and majors for getting into a particular area of investment banking. How could he know that that would be the best career choice for him?</p>

<p>My own experience is that the two jobs I’ve held longest in my career (both came from helping to start firms) didn’t exist when I was in college. So, how could I have known as a sophomore of junior in HS. I did know that I was interested in using math to think about human behavior in some form and ultimately be able to offer useful advice or take useful actions. To a large extent my career has followed from that, but I could never have predicted from my interests when entering college (or even leaving college) what form the work would take.</p>

<p>OP, if by STEM, you mean all of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, there are huge numbers of careers available. There are the software and hardware guys in computing, mobile technology, and elsewhere. There are jobs in biology and biotech as well as in chemistry (not sure how many jobs there are in physics, though the training can be useful for jobs outside of physics like finance). I’m no expert in engineering, but from math there are many jobs (statistician, biostatistician, hedge fund quant or trader, bond modeler for i-bank, risk management, actuary, seems to be a growing area in biology for people with math/computer science backgrounds …). </p>

<p>My advice would be to become knowledgeable about the broad set of possible choices and understand the academic paths to these careers. The best place for guidance would be ensuring that he doesn’t choose a path that prevents him from pursuing training for career directions that interest him. For that, you may be able to help find activities that let your son identify directions that particularly interest him. [I benefited greatly from attending a NSF sponsored summer program prior to senior year in HS – I’m not sure these programs still exist. My daughter attended a short summer science program at a school she was considering]. I tend to think that engineering is better for people who are practically rather than theoretically inclined (though I am sure that there are areas of engineering that might appeal to someone with a more theoretical bent) so it might help both of you to get some sense of whether he’s more theoretically or practically inclined. That could guide selection of colleges – for example, would an engineering-only (or predominantly engineering) school be the best fit for a theoretically minded kid?</p>

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<p>The problem with majoring in biology or chemistry is that there is an oversupply of graduates relative to the jobs in that area. Biology is a very popular major, because a lot of students go to university with the dream of going to medical school. Even though no specific major is required, most of them major in biology. But most of them do not get into any medical school.</p>

<p>Physics jobs are not that numerous, but the supply of physics graduates is much smaller. Also, the “surplus” physics graduates get recruited into well paying jobs in finance, computer software, and some areas of engineering.</p>