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Exploring STEM Careers beyond the lab

Written by Esther Swamidason

In the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), we often think of careers like doctors, engineers, and professors. However, STEM has been a part and parcel of all major career pathways but not many are aware of them. These are the hidden gems of the STEM world, and they play a crucial role in shaping our future. Why do we talk about unconventional STEM careers? Well, for one, STEM fields have been experiencing robust job growth for years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected an 8% increase in STEM employment from 2019 to 2029. This is faster than the average for all occupations. But here’s the kicker – it’s not just about traditional roles anymore.

New fields are emerging, and interdisciplinary roles are in high demand. Fields like artificial intelligence, data science, cybersecurity, biotechnology, and green technology are booming, offering exciting job prospects. Many STEM careers now require interdisciplinary knowledge. Professionals combine skills from multiple areas, like biology and computer science in bioinformatics. Misconceptions often plague STEM careers, making people believe they’re limited to traditional roles. Today, we’re breaking those myths and showing you that STEM extends far beyond the confines of engineering and IT.

To provide real insights, we recently had a special guest on our Instagram page. Marwa Daghsni, an expert in their unconventional STEM career, shared her personal journey of transitioning from a traditional STEM path in the academia to an unconventional one, as a genome bioinformatics analyst in the industry world, offering inspiration to those who aspire to do the same. During our live, we also explored various examples of unconventional STEM careers such as science communication, entrepreneurship, and policy advocacy. These fields harness STEM knowledge to make meaningful change and impact society in different ways. This article summarises the conversation we had with her while also providing additional guidance material for someone who may look for an inter-disciplinary career in STEM that may peak your interest in the field.

What makes STEM professionals well-suited for unconventional career paths is their remarkable skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and adaptability. These qualities are not confined to laboratories or coding cubicles but are assets in various unconventional roles. Take Chef Hetal Vasavada, for instance. Known for her culinary expertise, she transitioned from a career in biochemistry to become a successful chef and food entrepreneur. During her time in the popular cooking show, Masterchef, she used her background in STEM to stand out. Being a vegetarian, she was able to put out outstanding non-vegetarian dishes by understanding their flavour profile from a chemistry perspective.  Two primary requirements to succeed as you keep Exploring STEM Careers beyond the lab are networking and researching. Here, we list a few available platforms and resources that may guide you in your unique STEM journey.

Networking to explore STEM Careers beyond the lab

Networking is of paramount importance when exploring STEM careers beyond the lab. In the modern landscape of STEM, where boundaries between disciplines blur, networking serves as a catalyst for success. Furthermore, interdisciplinary STEM careers thrive on innovation and creativity. Networking exposes individuals to fresh ideas, novel approaches, and cutting-edge technologies from different disciplines. These interactions can spark innovative solutions to complex problems. Here are some networking platforms specifically tailored for STEM graduates:

  • LinkedIn: It is one of the most widely used professional networking platforms. STEM graduates can create profiles, connect with professionals in their field and follow organizations to stay informed about STEM-related developments.
  • ResearchGate: This is an academic and scientific networking platform where STEM graduates can connect with peers, collaborate on research projects, and share their work. It’s particularly useful for those in academia or research-focused careers.
  • Association Websites: Many STEM fields have professional associations with dedicated networking sections on their websites. For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Chemical Society (ACS) have online communities and resources for their members.
  • STEM-focused Forums: Online forums and discussion boards like Stack Overflow (for computer science and programming) and Physics Forums (for physics enthusiasts) are great places to ask questions, share knowledge, and connect with others in your field.
  • Alumni Networks: Many universities and colleges have alumni networks or platforms where STEM graduates can connect with fellow alumni. These networks often provide access to job postings, mentorship opportunities, and exclusive events.
  • Professional Networking Events: Websites like Eventbrite and Meetup list networking events, workshops, and conferences related to STEM. These events are excellent opportunities to meet professionals and expand your network.

Researching STEM Careers beyond the lab

Exploring STEM Careers beyond the lab and working against the norm can be scary and challenging. Researching is a fundamental step when considering a career because it plays a pivotal role in providing clarity, direction, and confidence in making such a significant transition. Firstly, researching allows individuals to gain a comprehensive understanding of the new field or industry they are interested in. Moreover, research aids in identifying potential challenges and obstacles in the new career path. Additionally, thorough research helps in pinpointing the right resources, such as courses, certifications, or mentors, that can facilitate the transition. Also, researching provides insights into the job market, including demand, salary expectations, and growth opportunities, allowing us to set realistic goals and expectations. Here are recommendations for resources to help you explore unconventional STEM careers:

1. Websites that assist STEM careers:

  • Science Careers: This website offers a wealth of information on various STEM career paths, including unconventional options. It features articles, job listings, and career advice.
  • MIT Technology Review: MIT Technology Review covers emerging technologies and their impact on society, making it a great resource for exploring innovative STEM careers.

2. Organizations that support STEM careers:

  • STEM for Her: This nonprofit organization is dedicated to empowering women and girls to pursue careers in STEM, including unconventional paths. They offer resources, scholarships, and mentorship opportunities.
  • AAAS provides resources and information on various STEM career options It has a focus on promoting diversity and inclusion in the field.
  • National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE): it supports minority professionals in STEM and offers resources and networking opportunities.

One of my personal favourites is the book “STEM Gems: How 44 Women Shine in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and How You Can Too!” by Stephanie Espy. This book showcases the inspiring stories of women who have pursued diverse STEM careers, breaking stereotypes and offering valuable insights. Remember that each person’s path is unique, and these tools can help you navigate your own exciting journey in the world of STEM.

Whether you’re curious about unconventional STEM careers, transitioning between fields, or specific career paths, we’re here to provide answers and personalized advice. Engage with us, ask your questions, and let’s embark on this exciting journey together!


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