Explore the top STEM careers shaping the future and learn about the best jobs for young adults, with insights from industry experts at RTX and NASCAR.
The future is closer than you think! In less than a decade, STEM careers are predicted to soar by an impressive 11%,1 representing a world of opportunities and the potential for a brighter future driven by technology for young adults. As the demand for STEM jobs rises, the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are in a constant state of change, always evolving. In fact, some of the jobs in high demand today didn't even exist a few years ago.
To give us an in-depth look at these exciting STEM career options, we spoke with Alexander Sellers, Associate Director of Engineering at RTX’s Collins Aerospace, and Erica L. Wilkerson, Director of Multicultural/Youth Marketing & Community Impact at NASCAR. RTX and NASCAR partner with Boys & Girls Clubs of America on our national life and workforce readiness programming, preparing today’s youth for the careers of tomorrow.
Alexander and Erica shared their valuable insights and expertise in the STEM field, highlighting the essential skills young adults should consider developing to pursue a career in this industry:
Data Science is a fascinating field where numbers and information help solve complex problems, make informed decisions and discover critical findings to fuel progress across many industries. As Alexander shared, “Technology is more than just zeros and ones; it’s where creative thinking meets innovation to shape industries.” For young adults who enjoy solving puzzles and have a knack for statistics and programming, data science offers a rewarding career path where they can connect the dots and drive innovation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for data scientists are expected to increase significantly by 35% from 2022 to 2032, making it one of the best STEM jobs to prepare for and gain employment in.2
To become a data scientist, you typically need to earn a bachelor's degree in a related field like mathematics, computer science or statistics.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are advanced technologies that are changing the way many industries work. AI involves computers doing tasks that typically need human intelligence, while ML focuses on computer programs that learn and make choices based on information.
From automated customer support to developing life-saving medicines, AI and ML are reshaping how industries function. In fact, Erica shared that NASCAR utilizes machine learning to improve its operations, showing how these technologies can help in sports and other areas.4 Each race weekend, NASCAR teams are using sensors on their cars to make real-time decisions with the data collected. This impacts the performance of the car allowing the teams to adjust in a matter of seconds during a pit stop. As this technology continues to advance and improve functions, NASCAR has to equally understand the development and detriment of this opportunity.
To have a role in AI and ML, you typically need to get a bachelor's degree and training in areas like computer science, data science or related fields.
Software developers and engineers play a crucial role in building the digital foundations of our modern world. They create the apps we use on our devices and the software that powers big businesses. This STEM career is always looking for new tech solutions, which means there are plenty of jobs and chances to come up with fresh ideas.
In the field of avionics, Alexander draws on his software expertise to collaboratively build multifaceted systems with his team of developers. He encourages young adults to think about exciting possibilities in software development and engineering — fields he says are still underrepresented. "I found that many of the Gen Zers I hire are naturally skilled in software development. I'm simply guiding them towards the software they'll be using in their role and helping them learn the most valuable aspects,” he added.
Similar to data scientists, the demand for software developers and engineers is expected to surge, with a projected 25% increase in job openings by 2032.6
To become a software developer or engineer, you usually need a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or something similar. “It's also helpful to take advantage of project-based learning opportunities through internships, personal projects or coding boot camps. These experiences can help you learn the skills you need and land a job in this constantly changing field,” added Alexander.
Though traditionally not associated with STEM, modern healthcare heavily relies on technology and science to help keep people healthy and treat illnesses. Jobs like bioengineers who create medical devices, telemedicine specialists who use technology for remote healthcare and medical data analysts who study health information (another space where AI will play a major role), all show how healthcare and technology come together. As healthcare keeps changing and using more technology, young adults can find jobs that really make a difference in people's lives. If you care about helping others and like technology, this career path is a great fit.
To get a role in this industry, you'll typically need to pursue education and training in a specific healthcare-related field. On average, there are about 1.8 million job openings in healthcare each year, offering plenty of opportunities for those interested in making an impact on healthcare through STEM.7
Aerospace engineers design, develop and test aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and missiles, making them instrumental in shaping the future of space exploration and aviation. This exciting STEM job is great for those who love space and solving problems. And, with private space companies growing, now is the time to join. For instance, RTX’s highly skilled engineers are leading the way in advancing aerospace and defense solutions. NASCAR also employs aerospace engineers to enhance race teams’ performance using aerodynamics, demonstrating the diverse applications of STEM skills. “We have a variety of STEM opportunities with NASCAR and within our racing teams,” emphasized Erica. Just in our NASCAR Research and Development department, we have several pathways to choose from such as Vehicle Performance, Aerodynamics, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Safety Systems and Advanced Development Projects. Race teams also have their own team of engineers and developers.
Young adults who are interested in pursuing this career must have a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field. With a projected job growth of 6% from 2022 to 2032, aerospace engineering offers promising opportunities.8
Stay updated in the ever-changing STEM field by taking courses, attending workshops and reading the latest journals. Erica advised, “Consider taking science and mathematics courses early in school to build a strong foundation of knowledge.”
Alexander urged that young adults get involved in internships, programs and “hackathons” to gain first-hand experience in STEM. He fondly recalled a moment during a recent DIY STEM event at a Boys & Girls Club: “We helped kids work on connecting batteries to a light bulb, and as they began to understand the concepts, it was great to witness their mental ‘light bulbs’ turning on.”
Technical skills are important, but so is knowing how to talk, adapt and work with others. These skills set you apart in a competitive job market where the majority will have technical skills. Alexander pointed this out about his particular STEM career field: “Engineering is a team sport. You can learn the technical skills on your own, but you need the soft skills of teamwork, collaboration and communication to create products that influence and benefit society.”
Embrace challenges and see them as opportunities to grow. Having a growth mindset means believing that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. “Some of the professionals in this space have been studying STEM-focused topics since they were in grade school and faced challenges along the way, but their resilience and persistence helped them succeed in their careers,” stressed Erica.
Connect with those who've carved out successful STEM careers. Their mentorship, guidance, insights and experience can help navigate the often challenging path of building a fruitful STEM profession. As Alexander shared, “If it weren’t for a caring adult who guided me, like my father, I wouldn’t be in STEM. He saw my talents and passion before I even saw them.”
Every question your child asks is an opportunity to instill a love for learning. As Erica shared, “In my experience, I’ve noticed first-hand the impact that a caring parent or guardian can have on a student, and it starts with spending time with them and listening.” Be patient, explore answers together, and if you don't know something, it's okay. The act of searching for answers can itself be an educational journey.
From building blocks to robotics kits, hands-on STEM toys make learning enjoyable and tangible. These tools can nurture problem-solving skills and ignite a passion for discovery. Erica also pointed out, “Always make learning fun! If you focus too much on the result instead of the journey, you can miss the real goal.”
Highlight stories of innovators and scientists, both past and present. Let your child see that real people, perhaps even from backgrounds similar to theirs, are behind significant STEM advancements. At Boys & Girls Clubs, industry professionals like Alexander frequently visit to conduct DIY STEM events. “It encourages young adults to see diverse people in STEM fields like me,” he said.
Organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs offer interactive STEM programs that introduce young minds to new concepts in fun, engaging environments. “At Clubs across the nation, we’ve introduced MyFuture, which features racing-themed lessons on race track design, live race broadcasts and a video series on pit crew training, all produced by NASCAR for Club kids to learn and explore,” mentioned Erica.
Bring STEM to life by showing its everyday applications. Whether it's understanding the mechanics of a bicycle they ride or exploring nature's wonders during a park visit, relate their experiences back to STEM values. “As a kid, I liked toying with things. I enjoyed reverse engineering — taking different electronics and trying to put them back together,” recalled Alexander.
Parents and caregivers have the power to ignite and nurture a child's interest in STEM, guiding them on a path filled with endless opportunities and discoveries.
The future is bright and ever-evolving for those who choose STEM careers. Whether you're a young adult eager to dive into the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics or a parent supporting the next generation, it all begins now. Through Boys & Girls Clubs life & workforce readiness programs, kids and teens can explore their interests, develop employability skills and apply their knowledge in real-world experiences — setting the stage for success in college, career and life.
1 U.S. Department of Labor Blog | STEM Day: Explore Growing Careers - https://blog.dol.gov/2022/11/04/stem-day-explore-growing-careers
2 U.S. Labor and Statistics: Data Scientists - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/data-scientists.htm
3 Youth Right Now 2023 - https://www.bgca.org/about-us/youth-right-now
4 NASCAR Shows How Machine Learning Improves Human Performance - https://sps.northwestern.edu/stories/news-stories/sports-administration-block-six-nascar-machine-learning1.php
5 The Machine Learning Engineer Job Outlook in 2023: Research on 1,000+ LinkedIn Job Postings: https://365datascience.com/career-advice/machine-learning-engineer-job-outlook/
6 U.S. Labor and Statistics: Software Developers - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm
7 U.S. Labor and Statistics: Healthcare Occupations - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm
8 U.S. Labor and Statistics: Aerospace Engineering - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm