Why is STEAM Education Better Than STEM?

When one hears the word “steam”, they probably think of Valve’s popular digital video game store. However, in education, STEAM stands for something much different. Many of us are already familiar with STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

A STEM education helps prepare students for the knowledge economy, where many current and future jobs require a foundation in science and math. While this may be true, there has been a movement in recent years to improve on STEM. This is where STEAM comes in. Today, we will be covering what STEAM education is, how it differs from STEM, and why it is important.

Okay, so what is STEAM?

STEAM is an approach to education that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. In other words, it’s STEM but with arts programs added in. While it’s true that the main difference between STEM and STEAM is the arts, the benefit of adding that letter “A” isn’t immediately clear. After all, if a student is looking to get into computer engineering or robotics, why do they need to learn history or philosophy? It’s a fair question but the answer may surprise you!

What is the benefit of adding the Arts to STEM?

Woman reading in library

Source: BookBub

A STEM education on its own is incredibly valuable. Science is all around us. Technology is always evolving and plays a key role in our everyday lives. Engineering provides the guiding principles of our structures, machines, and other inventions. Mathematics helps us think analytically about the world and solve complex problems. Together, these fields form so much of our understanding of the world and how it works. Plus, with the rise of job opportunities in STEM fields, students graduate prepared to enter the workforce. However, STEM education tends to put less focus on things like creativity and innovation.

Many employers are looking for graduates who can think critically and drive innovation in their respective field. Critics of the STEM model point out that much of it is designed to get students “good jobs” without preparing them for jobs that don’t exist yet. By putting together elements of the humanities with STEM courses, students will be better equipped to come up with and share ideas, no matter which career they end up pursuing.

The “A” is just as important as the other letters

There is an ongoing discussion in academic circles about the value of a liberal arts education. With so much focus put on getting students into STEM fields, many wonder what the worth of a degree in English literature or history is. While enrolment in the liberal arts has declined over the last few decades, the truth is many employers still value the humanities. Specifically, employers are looking for graduates who can think critically and who are curious about the world around them.

By integrating the arts with STEM programs, educators are helping mold tomorrow’s great innovators and creative thinkers. “We talk about moving from STEM to STEAM, to include the arts and humanities and social sciences in a program of preparation for young people,” said Universities Canada president and CEO Paul Davidson in 2016. “The liberal arts element and the humanities element can add real value to the curriculum of a student pursuing an education program.”

Where can I study STEAM?

Graduation cap on stack of books

Very few universities or colleges offer specific degree or diploma programs built around STEAM. However, many schools are now offering STEAM programs at the K-12 levels before students attend postsecondary. The good news is most undergraduate programs in math and science are built with STEM in mind. If students have electives, they can take courses in humanities subjects to bring in an arts focus.

If you are looking for a more focused STEAM education at the university or college level, you can always speak to an undergrad advisor. Your education is one of the most important investments you will ever make, so you might as well take advantage of the free resources available to you on campus. Advisors can help build a schedule that works for you and your interests.

Looking for more information on STEAM education? Check out Concordia University, Portland’s blog post on The Evolution of STEM and STEAM in the U.S.

If you’re ready to start your own STEAM education journey, start your free ApplyBoard account today. We’ll match you with the right program and school in Canada or the U.S.