The Best High School Classes for Future STEM Majors

stem class instructor at whiteboard in front of students

We all know the future of STEM is getting more and more exciting by the day, but for high school students, a cutting-edge career can seem miles away. And like any epic journey, the road to these exciting destinations starts with one step at a time. 

So let’s take a look at the high school STEM classes that can pave the way for techie teens! 

Whether they’re set on landing a career in software engineering, data science, or other top STEM careers or they’re just looking to explore, these high school classes will help build the foundational skills they’ll need. 

Plus, there’s no denying that college is a major investment. Studies show that STEM majors can provide some of the best returns on that investment in terms of median salaries and job growth once your student graduates. 

And there’s even more good news here. Acing a high school math class or earning an impressive AP Computer Science test score just presents teens with great options: they don’t need to make any firm commitments right away. Teens can maximize their future options by building their course schedule with care. 

Here are the top STEM classes to consider as they look ahead to a world of opportunity!

What are STEM classes again?

Let’s address this quickly, since it’s key to the rest of this blog post. STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math encompasses all these fascinating fields

(If you’re new to this, we recommend reading further with our tech terms dictionary.)

As you might imagine, STEM for high school students involves a lot of core math and science requirements they will likely have to take no matter their future goals.

Top 10 High School STEM classes

But to fully prepare for a STEM major, teens will need to not only succeed in the basics, but also go above and beyond to high school electives and more advanced classes. You’ll find a healthy mix of both of these types of classes in our handy guide!

AP Computer Science A

It’s true: fewer than half of high schools in the US offer computer science classes. So, if your teen is interested, has some coding experience, and their school offers an AP Computer Science course, we highly recommend taking this class!

Of the two AP computer science courses, this is the more technical of the two. The course and exam focus on computational thinking, object oriented programming, and other computer science fundamentals. Prior programming experience through Java tutoring or a coding camp goes a long way here, because we won’t lie: this is a very challenging course. 

And with those challenges come great potential rewards! Especially with the help of an awesome AP Computer Science tutor, teens can seriously stand out from the admissions crowd for their STEM program of choice.

AP Computer Science Principles

Yes, there are two AP Computer Science courses and exams! (Not sure if your student should take AP Computer Science?) 

AP Computer Science Principles takes a more holistic view of the computer science field. While key concepts like algorithms and coding, teachers in this course might select a different coding language to focus on, and the final exam product is more flexible. 

While this course is generally less programming heavy than its counterpart, we still recommend some coding experience before diving in. How do you get coding experience

STEM Electives

It’s a broad umbrella, but nevertheless it’s worth exploring your teen’s choices for elective courses. From robotics and programming to graphic design and animation, many high schools offer enrichment courses that allow teens to explore specific STEM fields. 

Not only can a STEM elective help teens discover the particular field they’re most excited about, they can serve as a more low-pressure means of trying something new. 

Who knows? Maybe that environmental science elective is what sparks their passion for clean energy solutions.  Encourage your teen to give one a try: it could just help them find a new passion! 

Statistics

It may surprise you to learn that, along with being its own college major, even other fields like engineering often require at least one statistics course

Like a computer algorithm, statistical analysis involves crunching big numbers and making probability predictions. Data is at the core of so many of today’s most cutting-edge STEM careers: the sooner teens build the statistics skills they’ll need to work with data, the better prepared they’ll be!

AP Calculus AB 

The first of the AP Calculus series, this course is a great way to knock out a freshman requirement and explore high level math concepts all at once. In this course, students will dive into sophisticated concepts like limits, differential equations, and integrals. 

Sound complicated? That’s because it’s advanced math! With this class under their belt, teens can free up precious space in their schedule for other STEM courses (or whatever else strikes their interest). 

Get online calculus tutoring

AP Calculus BC

Why settle for fulfilling just one math requirement when teens could knock out two? Naturally, this second AP course is a good fit for teens with very strong math skills, and it’s only offered to those who have already completed at least one calculus course. 

If this sounds like your student, encouraging them to take on a math competition or one of the many general STEM competitions might be a great way to keep them motivated, and - dare we say - having fun, as they learn. 

Physics

We know, when you look at high school science classes in order, you’ll usually find physics towards the end of the list. Many high schools require just three years of science, so studying physics might just be that perfect opportunity to take STEM a step further. 

Physics is fundamental to STEM fields like aerospace engineering, if your teen dreams of working at NASA one day. As a learning experience, kids can usually choose to take standard, advanced, or even AP Physics, but no matter what, the course will consist of high-level scientific readings, labs, and lectures. 

Is high school physics hard? Yes. But resources like an educational YouTube channel can be a big help. 

Algebra & Pre-Algebra

Most likely, one or both of these courses will be required for your student in their freshman, sophomore, or junior years. So, don’t overlook this opportunity to get the basics down for more advanced STEM subjects down the road!

We know that the transition to high school-level math can be challenging, which is why we love creating algebra-specific tutorials and brainstorming everyday ways to make math fun! Check out these helpful resources:  

Coding

It goes without saying: if your teen loves all things STEM and their high school offers a Python, C++, or Java programming class: jump right in.

This could be for core high school credit or as an elective course: either way, an introductory course is excellent prep for an AP Computer Science class later on, or a taste of what college-level STEM classes might be like. If your teen would like to give it a try on their own first, or perhaps their school doesn’t offer coding classes, this guide can help them get started

Build a solid STEM foundation and explore!

Science, math, engineering, and technology are all exciting, dynamic fields full of potential to inspire young people. 

No matter what the future holds for them, there’s something to spark a love of STEM for every learner. That could be in the high school classroom or beyond traditional K-12 curriculum. That’s where we can help! Get started today

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.