The best careers in STEM: A 2020 guide to the most high-paying, exciting, and in-demand STEM jobs

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In 2016, iD Tech wrote about the most exciting STEM careers of the future, and let’s just say that a lot can happen in four years. It’s amazing how much technology has advanced. So many opportunities have emerged and evolved, we decided it’s high time for an update. 

Career wise, the most high-paying, cutting-edge opportunities of 2020 remain in the STEM field. That much has not changed. If anything, the demand has accelerated even beyond expert predictions.  

I’m not saying iD Tech had or currently has a crystal ball, but I will take a moment to point out that we totally called it.

As the 2016 version of this post so eloquently put it, “Most science fiction though, for the most part, eventually becomes science fact.” And while yes, it’s true that 2020 is not quite what Back to the Future made it out to be, innovations in machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and more are still impressive (even in the absence of hoverboards). 

The jobs that simply did not exist ten years ago have become sophisticated, seriously lucrative fields. The best career paths for computer science and other STEM majors have only become broader and more varied. 

Many existing fields in STEM have also experienced a reinvention of sorts in recent years. Look no further than the monetization of YouTube if you’re feeling skeptical (more on this later). 

The bottom line is, the best careers in STEM-related fields have reached an all-time peak. Jobs in science, engineering, and computer science especially have never been more high-paying or more integral to the gears that turn our modern world. 

As tech enthusiasts, that is music to our ears! We always have our ear to the ground for developments not only in the STEM education world, but the doors that are open to the next generation of programmers, scientists, designers, and engineers. 

Best STEM Jobs of 2020 

So, whether weighing your options for a college student or looking for inspiration for your young child, our 2020 STEM career guide can help point you in the right direction. 

Software developer

If you’re looking for a job that combines creativity and computer science, a career as a software developer might be just the thing for you. These masters of design and development oversee the creation and improvement of software and are at the forefront of creating the hottest new tech. 

According to the US World News Report, software developers’ median salary was $103,620 as of 2018, with projected industry-wide growth of 26% by 2028.

Data mining specialist

For techy types with a love for tackling tough problems, big data mining is a new and very exciting field. Data miners work with massive amounts of, you guessed it, structured data to identify telling trends and patterns within an organization’s operations. Then, they apply those trends to find creative solutions. 

If you’re wondering how to become a big data miner, you’ll want to build a strong foundation in computer science (learning Python is often a must) and in business, and grow experience as a data analyst first. Then, you can reel in the big fish, metaphorically of course, and help large organizations become more efficient and effective. 

UX  designer

UX, user experience, factors more significantly into daily life with every click of a mouse and tap on a smartphone screen. Essentially, a UX designer’s job is to get into the heads of users and create an optimal experience on an app or website. It’s a fascinating field that involves style, research, and innovation. 

VR developer

Virtual reality has come a long way in the two years since the Oculus Go was released. While the video game world is still thriving in augmented and virtual reality, developers have their pick of industries for their talents in 2020. VR and AR is utilized in education, healthcare, and more; there’s no telling where it’s headed next.  

Developer analyst

Becoming a developer analyst is a great way to apply leadership skills to the programming field. Armed with coding skills, developer analysts manage the process of creating new products and see solutions through to completion. By 2028, it’s predicted that the demand for this role will grow by 9%

Machine learning engineer

These professionals put the “learning” in machine learning. Like data scientists, machine learning engineers work with vast amounts of data to create something meaningful. 

In the case of the machine learning engineer, that means building self-automated software and refining it for higher and higher degrees of precision. As this is hardly a cakewalk, it’s no surprise that this is a high-paying career path with an average base salary of $146,981

Cloud services manager

Now here is a job that even sounds like it belongs in futuristic tech. Cloud services managers, or CSMs, basically ensure the seamless storage of company data, automation of processes, and  - you saw this coming - manages what’s stored and used via a cloud. Cloud services managers work alongside businesses IT departments to identify areas for improvement and keep “behind the scenes” running smoothly. 

YouTuber

Talking to kids these days, it seems like “I want to be a YouTuber!” is the new “I want to be an astronaut!” The world’s most successful YouTubers have net worths in the millions and views in the billions. Many of the most famous influencers score high-profile (and high-paying) partnerships as well, so it’s easy to see the appeal. 

Environmental engineer

For those who love science and the great outdoors, environmental engineering is an ideal combination for a rewarding, successful career. These engineers are driving solutions in everything from clean energy to pollution control. Those looking to make their mark and create a meaningful legacy have the ultimate canvas for doing so: our planet! 

Animator

The magic of Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks is rooted in their artists’ talents. It’s amazing to think that the nostalgia of The Lion King and the wonder of Avatar all starts in a sketchbook. Animators increasingly rely on digital art skills to create on screen masterpieces, so creatives have the opportunity to weave tech into their art.  

Data scientist

Boasting an average annual salary of $100,560, data science is accelerating both in types of job opportunities and overall demand. Since 2012, the field has experienced a 650% growth spurt and is still growing. Python holds the keys to success in this field; its capabilities can handle vast sets of data and tackle big business dilemmas. 

What’s the difference between a data scientist and a data miner? Excellent question. Data science is the broader of the two fields, and its applications extend to everything from business to social science. Data scientists also use their findings to predict future events, rather than identifying current trends, and their work often has a machine learning component. 

3D printing engineer

3D printing engineers get to leverage amazing technology to create things we could not have imagined even just a few years ago. These days, 3D printers are used in architecture, medicine, and education. 3D printing engineers have the chance to (literally) see their ideas come to fruition.

Computer network architect

Instead of skyscrapers, computer network architects create spaces for businesses on the internet. These tech wizards ensure the security of data, that companies software is up to date, and maintain the communication networks essential to daily operations. The responsibilities and salaries of computer network architects scale with the size of each organization.

IT manager

US World News Report ranks IT managers among the fastest growing jobs in tech. IT managers are at the helm of navigating the ever-changing world of technology and ensuring organizations’ have what they need for success. This career path is perfect for those with strong people skills and technical savvy, as many IT managers supervise and coach others on their team. 

Product manager 

Product managers are the masterminds behind any organization’s online operations. Broadly speaking, this career involves managing the product creation process through to completion while involving key stakeholders and weighing important factors along the way. Exactly what a product manager does will vary according to the type of business and its unique needs , but suffice it to say; product managers are rarely bored! 

Web/app developer

The possibilities of this career track are virtually endless. Not only are web and developers in high demand from big-name companies, freelancing and creating your own schedule is a viable option for this skillset. Many developers enjoy the flexibility and freedom to work from anywhere—who wouldn’t love that?

Video game designer

The dream of many gamers: creating an awesome video game themselves! Companies like EA, Nintendo, and Microsoft are home not only to some amazing tech, but the creative minds behind worldwide gaming sensations. This role has a special place in our hearts, as iD Tech is all about nurturing an interest in tech via  the fun games kids love. 

Cybersecurity engineer 

Not all heroes wear capes; many are sitting behind screens, keeping the privacy and online security of millions of individuals safe. Cybersecurity engineers take on a range of roles in managing the valuable information entrusted to websites and organizations.

Coding skills are an absolute must for this career path, and the sheer number of coding classes for kids, boot camps, and training programs out there are indicative of the high demand for these skills. 

How to get started 

With all of these exciting opportunities to choose from and such clear demand, surely there must be fierce competition for these roles, right?

The short answer to that is yes and no, and the reality might surprise you. 

In the words of our CEO, Pete Ingram-Cauchi, "The need is enormous right now—there is a massive skills gap between the needs that major tech companies have, and what we are teaching our kids every day. Gaining deep exposure to STEM topics on a regular basis at an early age is absolutely vital to the future of our kids, and to the future of our country.”

Right now, there is far more demand than supply of the skills needed for these amazing careers. That makes for a major window of opportunity! 

Plus, getting started on any of these paths is easier and more accessible than ever. 

Check out the dozens of high-quality, free platforms available to folks at any level of programming experience. Need a hand in getting started? iD Tech offers both private lessons and small-group after-school programs for kids to get started on their tech journey. 

A photo of Virginia

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains.