STEM vs STEAM – What The A Means For Students

STEM vs STEAM - What The A Means For Students

By now, most people have heard of STEM education, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But what about STEAM? That extra letter could have an impact on your college decisions, so here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Difference Between STEM and STEAM?

In an effort to increase interest and proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math, many schools throughout the U.S. turned to STEM-focused educational programs. These often include providing students with robotics programs, laptops or tablets and adding labs to schools with the hopes of giving students the skills they needed to solve modern-day societal concerns.

Now, teachers are adding another letter to this curriculum to integrate the arts. Created by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), STEAM education provides a cross-disciplinary approach to learning. According to RISD, considering STEM subjects within the context of art, and vice versa reinforces the value of the humanities and better prepares students to enter an economy increasingly based on innovation as a form of advancement.

The Importance of STEAM Education

Students exposed to a STEAM curriculum are not taught information alone — they’re also tasked with asking questions, experimentation, creativity and drawing their own connections between each discipline. Rather than learning geometry and taking a test, for example, students might learn about principles of scale and then visit a museum to see how artists use scale to give their paintings realistic depth. Exercises like this develop those all-important critical thinking skills while introducing students to real-world applications of important information.

What STEAM Means For College Students

Knowing this, when it comes to choosing a college or the courses within it, you may want to consider an interdisciplinary, STEAM approach to your education. A liberal arts college will typically require students to take a variety of general education courses in science, math and the arts alongside their major courses, while students at a more technical or vocational school will focus primarily on skills relevant to their intended career.

While technical schools have historically been considered more valuable in terms of post-graduate earnings, there’s evidence that STEAM schools also offer viable career paths after graduation. Choosing a liberal arts education is not necessarily a worse financial decision than attending any other type of school. In fact, it may provide improved abilities to think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively and make a positive impact on the world.

When it’s time to choose a school, think about what’s important to you. For some students, an education that allows them to dive deeply into one skill is ideal. For others, and for an increasing number of employers, a broader perspective can be more beneficial, according to a CBS news report. Whatever you choose, don’t instantly rule out the value of an integrated approach. It may open more doors than you realize.