When it pays to be a geek

Let’s face it. Science, technology, engineering and maths – also known as STEM – have never been the coolest subjects. But they can lead to an interesting, exciting career path. We find out more…

People keep talking about the importance of STEM. What’s it all about?

It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – four key areas of study, work and knowledge that help make the world go round. Literally!

Sounds pretty geeky…

With the latest series of the Big Bang Theory back on ours screens, Leonard and co definitely prove this! But look at it this way – Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs and Professor Brian Cox all made their name based on STEM, and they all did pretty well for themselves. Every day, people use electricity, medication, computers, taps, fridges, automatic doors, iPhones, TVs and loads of other things which have been created by people working in STEM. And to keep these things going, and to get cooler things like the hover boards promised to us by Back to the Future, we’re going to need more people to embrace the STEM world.

Why’s it a good career path?

As well as being completely future-proof – we’ll always need people working in these fields – more and more jobs are calling for people with STEM skills. The logical thinking, practical skills and technical knowledge gained in studying these subjects make you really attractive to employers, whether you want to work as an engineer, a teacher or a manager in a business.

Do you have to go to uni?

Not necessarily – there are STEM options for people of all abilities. You can study a range of different qualifications relating to STEM, depending on your interests and what you want to do. From apprenticeships to college, university to postgraduate and even doctoral level, there’s something for everyone.

Is there such a thing as a STEM course?

Not really, but a lot of it overlaps. Each aspect of STEM has dozens of different sides to it so it’s impossible to cover it all in one course. In science, you could go for biology, chemistry or physics like you learned at school, or veer into more specialised areas like medicine, genetics or astrophysics. In technology, you could go into product design, software engineering or web design or engineering can take your to electrical engineer, civil engineering or naval engineering working with ships. Even maths has many different faces you’d never really think about beyond your maths classes, like economics and accounts. Find what interests you most and pursue that.

What sorts of jobs are available?

Studying science could take you to work in a lab, researching and coming up with the next big scientific discovery. You might go into manufacturing new drugs to treat serious illness, you could be a marine biologist, or you could discover a new material that’ll set the world of furniture design alight.

In technology, you could take your IT skills to develop new software for the government to keep confidential information safe, you could design websites for big-name bands or design games for mobile phones. IT skills transfer into a multitude of other industries too – fashion designers, journalists, teachers, scientists, business owners and many more other professions need to understand technology. And, as technology develops, the future’s bright for techies.

Over in engineering, you could be a mechanical engineer, working on the nuts and bolts of gadgets and gizmos. You could be an electrical engineer, working in energy. You could be a civil or structural engineer, making sure buildings stay upright or making sure a rollercoaster is safe. In other words, engineers make the world work! The logical, technical mind of an engineer appeals to loads of employers too in different fields, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

As for maths, you could go on to be a financial advisor for a big company, you could work in accounts, you could take your skills to the world of risk analysis, calculating the risk involved in investment. There’s definitely a LOT more to this career path than you’d think.

Where can we find out more?

Speak to your careers advisor, get in touch with companies working in STEM or check out the box below for some handy websites – just don’t forget us if you turn out to be the next Professor Brian Cox!


Semta: the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies

e-Skills UK

Tomorrow’s Engineers

Maths Careers



Though science was all boring research and lab coats? Think again! Helen Ambrosen, cosmetic scientist and co-founder of cosmetics company Lush, tells us more about the science of beauty products…

I left school after my A-levels. I’ve always worked very hard and I wanted to work basically. I was a bit of a ‘sorcerer’s apprentice’ – I’m mostly self-taught in chemistry, which can involve blowing your eyebrows off! I had a couple of jobs in labs and learnt it that way. Then I came to Lush, working with my co-founder Mark on the products and eventually producing my own. There is the Society of Cosmetic Scientists, who have training courses too – that’s another way of getting in.

Their work is often defined by marketing. It may be that the marketing department has a good idea, then the cosmetic scientist comes along and produces a product safely that works with that idea. Very often, cosmetic scientists are working on specific types of products, like creams and lotions or perhaps hair care – they don’t often have the ability to cross over.

My thought of cosmetics is that they’re more of an art than a science. We take lovely things and paint beautiful pictures with them in terms of their affect on the skin and the fragrances we create. In a way, science backs that up with any detail that needs to be looked after – the products have to be safe and they are a responsibility. Science is about taking a good idea and making it work, using lots of tools and knowledge along the way.

Find out more about Helen’s fabulous products at www.lush.co.uk

Source Winter 2013

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