What are STEM subjects?

Published on 13 March 2024

Turbocharge your career and tackle complex global challenges with a degree in one of the STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

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STEM definition

STEM is the acronym for the group of subjects covering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM covers a broad range of disciplines and are the foundation for innovation, technology, and problem-solving in today's world.

In the UK in recent years, STEM has been a frequent topic in media and political debate. The UK Parliament recognised that people with STEM skills are going to be crucial to improve the country's productivity and address challenges such as energy security and net zero. So if you are considering a STEM related degree then it's certainly an area with a growing demand for graduates. 

Although not an exhaustive list, STEM subjects include:


  • Biology: study of living organisms and their interactions.
  • Chemistry: exploration of the properties and behaviour of matter.
  • Physics and astrophysics: investigation into the fundamental principles governing the Universe.
  • Earth and environmental science: examination of the planet's processes and ecosystems.


  • Computer science: focus on algorithms, programming, and information technology.
  • Information technology: management and use of technology for data processing and communication.
  • Electronics: study of electronic systems, circuits, and devices.


  • Aerospace engineering: design and development of aircraft and spacecraft.
  • Civil engineering: design and construction of infrastructure like bridges and buildings.
  • Mechanical engineering: exploration of machinery, tools, and mechanical systems.
  • Electrical engineering: study of electrical systems, circuits, and power generation. 


  • Pure mathematics: abstract study of numbers, quantity, and space.
  • Applied mathematics: application of mathematical principles to solve real-world problems.

Benefits of studying STEM subjects

Tackle 21st century challenges

The need for graduates with a STEM degree has increased. This is due to greater use of technology and the complex challenges of today’s world. These challenges include climate change, healthcare, and energy sustainability.

With a STEM degree, you’ll increase your employment prospects and also work fields which really make a difference to society.

Employers and governments value STEM graduates

In 2024, the UK government published The UK Science and Technology Framework. This outlined the actions needed to make the UK the most innovative country in the UK. Creating opportunities for graduates with STEM skills is seen as a core part of this vision.

Some of the fastest-growing job sectors are STEM related. For example, artificial intelligence, software development, and data analysis.

STEM fields are also central to economic growth. Industries such as information technology, biotechnology, and engineering contribute significantly to a country's GDP. STEM graduates are important as they help to drive economic prosperity.

Problem-solving skills

Employers also appreciate the transferable skills of STEM graduates. These include critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. During your degree, you’ll be encouraged to use these skills to solve complex problems. This ability to innovate is highly valued in industries seeking to stay ahead in a competitive global landscape.

Job opportunities

The UK is currently short of STEM graduates, so if you have a STEM background you'll find it's a job seeker's market. This is a great position to be in at the start of your career.

Increasing diversity in STEM

In recent years, there has been a push to encourage more women, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities to study STEM subjects.

There are still challenges though. For example in 2019, women made up only 24% of the core-STEM workforce (WISE 2019). At the University of Dundee, we acknowledge the challenges in this area but have also highlighted the pivotal role that women have played in STEM subjects.

Career prospects

As a STEM graduate, you’ll have a valuable skillset which can open the doors to diverse and exciting career opportunities.

Many STEM careers will allow you to make a meaningful contribution to society. You might be part of a research team who discover a new medical breakthrough to treat a disease such as cancer, or develop new ways to protect the natural environment.

Alternatively, you might work on computers that can safely control a self-driving vehicle, or a spacecraft to explore the solar system. STEM careers are some of the most exciting that you can imagine.

By the time you graduate, there are also likely to be new jobs in existence that you haven’t even heard of at the moment!

Example STEM careers include:


  • Chemist: analyse and develop chemical substances. Typically you would work in a research team. This could be in areas such as medical research, environmental studies, or food production.
  • Astrophysicist: unravel the mysteries of the Universe. Construct mathematical models to explain observations of stars, planets, black holes, and galaxies.
  • Environmental Scientist: examine the impact of human activities on the environment, and improve conservation practices.


  • Software Developer: create and maintain computer programs.
  • Network Administrator: manage and maintain computer networks.
  • Systems Analyst: evaluate and improve computer systems so that they operate more efficiently.
  • IT Manager: organise, plan, and lead computer-related activities within a business.


  • Civil Engineer: design and oversee projects to construct infrastructure such as roads, railways, bridges, power stations and utilities.
  • Mechanical Engineer: research and develop mechanical systems and devices, including tools, machines, and engines.
  • Electrical Engineer: design and maintains electrical systems.
  • Aerospace Engineer: work on the design and development of aircraft and spacecraft.


  • Mathematician: conduct abstract research in mathematics.
  • Actuary: assess and manage financial risks using mathematical models.
  • Data Scientist: analyse and interpret complex data sets. This can be a variety of industries such as healthcare, technology, or manufacturing.

As a STEM graduate, you’ll have a real opportunity to make a difference in the world. You'll also be able to develop a personally and financially rewarding career.

Undergraduate courses at the University of Dundee

Interested in a career in STEM? Explore the subjects we offer at the University of Dundee and take the first step in transforming lives, locally and globally:

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