Switching into STEM

posted 2 years ago in Career
Post # 2
4531 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

glutton :  My strength and aptitude has ironically always been in social sciences and humanities based subjects. I studied history, politics, economics, italian, english literature and applicable maths in my final two years of highschool. I wanted to be an architect until about two weeks before I sat my university entrance exams. I changed my mind and ended up wanting to be a nurse. So basically a degree in complete opposition to my strengths… 😁 

Most of my university class had done human biology, chemistry etc and had a huge advantage over me. I just put my head down and butt up and studied twice as hard. I’m a big believer in passion for what you want, plus hard work will always lead to success. If this is what you want…then do it. It will probably be a hard slog for a few years and the inevitable ‘two steps forward and one step back’ will happen but in five years you will look back with a sense of ‘ this was the right choice’.

Good luck in pursuing something new and exciting. 

Post # 3
1258 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2018

Engineer here! I don’t think learning coding with no background will be an issue. Everyone starts somewhere. I think coding is overall pretty learnable since it’s easy to start with baby steps and simple programs.


The math may be trickier. Calculus is fairly abstract and some people have a lot of issues learning it.

Post # 4
5109 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: December 2014

glutton :  I’m in STEM but molecular biology, so not exactly what you’re looking for. I’ve also always been a STEM person, so I can’t really speak on what it’s like to switch. That said, speaking about STEM in general, a lot of it is about how you think and not necessarily what you know. I’m not a computer scientist, but I have done some coding and obviously, you have to know how to write code, but a lot of it is problem solving ability that isn’t necessarily something that can be taught. 

If I were you, I’d check out some of MIT’s open courseware and look at an intro to computer programming class. You will have access to recorded lectures, as well as their homework assignments. That could give you an idea about whether you would even enjoy doing code or have any aptitude for it. Obviously, you can also check out other courses as well. 

If you do decide to go for it. The math will be a bitch. My husband is going back to school now and even though I’ve been in STEM for years and always aced all my math courses, I look at his homework and can’t remember a thing. It will absolutely be a steep curve there, but it’s certainly possible. 

Post # 5
467 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

glutton :  Engineering major who has worked in research labs and higher ed for 6+ years here. But I was an art/music student until I went off to college. It was a huge shock, since I never did anything related to STEM and then wham – became an engineering major. I survived, but it was stressful!

Things are a bit more flexible when it comes to software engineering (in my personal opinion), but when it comes to other STEM careers (especially in pure science), you hit the glass ceiling very quickly. So the initial higher pay gets old pretty fast. You really need Ph.D. + alpha if you want to go beyond entry to mid-level positions in most non-engineering STEM careers. I just got my Master’s in non-science (organizational development), because I felt stuck in my career path and I just didn’t want to pursue Ph.D. in STEM at the moment but needed that bit of boost to reach the next career step in higher ed.

If you want to just focus on “coding”, which I consider as jobs such as software engineering and other technical positions, then you might be better off. However, be careful with which companies you choose – since work/life balance can be very very off. My husband used to be an engineer at a big company, and engineers (especially software engineers) had no work/life balance whatsoever.  Being able to work remotely became a huge negative, and all engineers were working day & night. No boost in salary really makes up for that.

As for learning curve, yes – there will be a steep learning curve. But if you have the correct learning mindset (as some of the PPs mentioned) and enjoy the actual material, you will be fine. I think it becomes really hard for those who just don’t have the “science mindset” – where material enters one ear and exist the other without sticking to the brain. I have that for anything related to history and economics. Nothing sticks to my brain when it comes to those subjects. Haha. Why don’t you try taking some courses at a local community college or try taking free online courses to see if you like it first?

Honestly, I feel like it really comes down to whether you enjoy the  material or not. You don’t have to LOVE it – but at least enjoy it enough so you can learn it. 

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