16 tips for transitioning into a STEM career

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    Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.

    Depending on where you are in your career and experience, this can be a daunting task, but it is not insurmountable.

    With careful planning and commitment to your goals, you can successfully transition into a STEM career.

    Transition to a career in STEM

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    STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. If you’re interested in a STEM career, it helps if you have a degree in a related field — although it’s not mandatory.

    Even without a degree, your future in STEM can be bright if you consider the steps below to create the STEM career you’ve dreamed of.

    1. Explore all options

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    The first step is to learn as much as you can about STEM careers. The options are almost limitless and go well beyond the industries that might first come to mind.

    Talk to friends or family members who work in the field, read books and articles, and explore online resources. Once you understand what a career in STEM entails, you can start planning a career change.

    2. Discover your passions

    chemical engineer
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    As with any career change, you can’t know where you want to go until you’ve narrowed down what you’re passionate about and what you’d like to do on a daily basis.

    For some, that means working with numbers as an accountant or statistician. Others may dream of becoming civil engineers and helping construct buildings and roads.

    Start with a list of how you envision your working life in five to ten years.

    Do you work in a team? lead a team? Which industry would you like to support? Do you focus on a cause you’re passionate about, or do you focus on the job because it’s lucrative and offers the work-life balance you’re looking for?

    Once you know what industry you want to pursue, finding the right path to get there will be easier.

    3. Assess your current skills

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    You may not have a STEM degree, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have skills in the field.

    If you currently work as a manager, you probably have project management experience. This ability can be useful when managing projects full of team members with different goals.

    Or maybe you’ve written training or reference material for a previous employer. You can use this to start your technical writing portfolio if that’s the role you’re focusing on.

    Look at some job descriptions for your dream job and make a list of your transferrable skills and experience. Your current skills give you a starting point for what is achievable without more STEM-specific experience or formal education.

    4. Start researching

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    Evaluate the qualifications for your intended role to determine requirements and recommendations.

    You can save a lot of time in the beginning by considering whether, for example, a degree in mathematics or engineering is a requirement or whether employers will accept alternative qualifications or experience.

    Examine the challenges that career changers bring and develop a strategy for how to proceed even without relevant work experience.

    5. Gain some experience

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    If you’re not sure whether a particular STEM career is right for you, you should start by gaining some experience.

    You can volunteer for a local organization, take an online course, or even take a part-time job in a related field. Getting your feet wet can help you decide if you’re focusing on the right STEM career for you.

    6. Examine training programs

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    Even if your college degree is not in a related field, you can continue your education and training by earning a professional STEM-related certification.

    Browse the course catalog at your local community college or enroll in a virtual course at a reputable online institution for courses that can strengthen your qualifications.

    For example, look for courses in computer science, healthcare or accounting.

    7. Consider teaching

    Woman writing a math equation on a chalk board
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    There is a strong demand for math and science teachers at all levels, from secondary schools to postgraduate and online programs.

    If you’re looking to transition into a STEM career, consider enrolling in a program to qualify for credentials that can help you transition to teaching in science, math, or computing disciplines.

    8. Apply for an internship

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    Adult internships are an excellent way to transition into a different career and a great choice for learning about a new profession and seeing if it’s a good fit for you.

    Some companies offer «return» to help people with career gaps launch a STEM career.

    Being honest about your lack of experience and working toward making sure you’re invested in your new career path can work in your favor.

    9. Enroll in another degree

    Male computer programmer or software engineer
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    If you have the time to invest, you may consider moving beyond a professional certificate program and back into the classroom for an associate’s or even a bachelor’s degree.

    It’s worth noting that some employers – particularly in the government and healthcare sectors – require a specific degree for certain positions.

    In other cases, a degree may not be required but can give you an edge over the competition.

    10. Join a professional organization

    Business meetings in an informal atmosphere.
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    Professional organizations can introduce you to others in your field, help you stay up to date with news and trends, and provide networking opportunities.

    Many associations also offer discounts on courses and conferences related to your chosen profession.

    11. Find a mentor

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    Mentoring can play an important role in a career change.

    A mentor can introduce you to key players in your field, help you navigate the challenges of a changing field, and offer advice and guidance along the way.

    12. Network and then network more

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    Connect with people working in your field of interest, whether it’s through social media, LinkedIn groups, professional organizations, or mutual friends. Attend industry events, volunteer for similar causes, and do whatever else you can to get your name and face out there.

    The more people you meet, the better your chances of getting a job despite some gaps in your experience.

    13. Prepare to be back to entry level

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    When changing careers, and especially specializations, you may have to accept a position that is lower on the scale of responsibility and salary than what you are used to.

    But remember that this is a temporary situation.

    Use this time to learn as much as you can and build your experience to eventually move to a higher position.

    14. Keep an open mind

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    Be flexible when looking for a job and consider positions that are closely related to your intended career.

    Let’s say you’re hoping to move into a computer science role. If so, you might want to consider another job with a technology company that might offer you on-the-job training opportunities in the future.

    While these positions may not be your dream job, they can provide valuable experience and help you get closer to your goal.

    15. Be patient

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    Changing careers is not an overnight process. It takes time, effort and dedication to find the right position.

    Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get immediate feedback from employers or if some jobs are turned down. Stay positive and persistent; Eventually you will find the right opportunity.

    16. Set realistic expectations

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    Make sure you have realistic expectations when transitioning careers into a more technical field. Finding the perfect job can take time and you may have to start at a lower level than you are used to.

    But don’t get discouraged – keep your career goals in mind and eventually you will get there.

    Consider your options

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    The transition to a STEM career can take place in many different ways. If you have the time and resources, returning to school to earn a degree or certificate in a related field is a good option.

    However, there are also many non-traditional routes you can take. Many online courses and bootcamps can give you the skills you need to succeed in STEM.

    Do your research and explore all your options before making a decision.

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