On the surface level, STEM covers a wide swath of career paths—lab sciences, computer technology, all types of engineering, and analytical mathematics. There’s no one-size-fits-all degree for every component of the umbrella term. However, there are plenty of common skills and competencies that benefit STEM professionals, from the freelance computer scientist to the biotechnology lab assistant.

Critical Thinking

It’s almost a buzzword at this point, but critical thinking truly is a necessary skill in the STEM workforce. No matter whether you’re assembling computers or developing mathematical proofs, the ability to analyze data and synthesize it is crucial. Additionally, critical thinking aids in the decision-making process, as it helps individuals map out opportunities and threats before settling on a path. Perspective on an issue, however unfamiliar it may be, can be used every day when working in STEM.


Even if you’re an intern or assistant to a full-time STEM professional, leadership is a quality that can turn a good employee into a great one. Leadership encompasses important STEM skills such as initiative, perspective, and delegation. Any position, whether it involves managing others or not, can benefit from these skills. Teamwork in multi-stage engineering projects, lab studies, or actuarial analysis needs individuals who can work independently and co-dependently. Leadership, then, is a skill that can help even in an entry-level position.


Emails, reports, and usability studies. What do the three have in common? Each had a messenger and a receiver. STEM professionals aren’t usually writing entire novels, but any position in science or technology will have its fair share of communication. However, the STEM professional is not always the messenger. When reading reports from others or checking instruction guides, you are the recipient of information. Therefore, communication skills require individuals to explain clearly and understand fully. If you can master this, you’re well on your way to finding success in STEM.


This may come as a surprise; after all, creativity is often associated with STEM’s antonym, the humanities. While it does take plenty of creativity to paint or write, STEM also requires creativity for problem-solving and other job tasks. For example, think about a chemist whose experiment failed, or a computer scientist whose program did not behave properly. To confirm a hypothesis, STEM professionals must think outside-the-box (or graduated cylinder, or keyboard…) and consider unexplored avenues. Conjuring something out of nothing is part of the scientific process, which makes creativity an essential skill for anyone working in STEM.