Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is booming in the US, with millions of students seeking admission to these programs every year. A lucrative career with excellent financial prospects and long-term stability is the primary reason for the popularity of STEM education in the country.
The statistics say it all. In 2020-21, 437,302 bachelor’s degrees and 146,573 Master’s degrees in STEM fields were awarded in the US. The STEM workforce in the country grew by a whopping 5.9 million, from 29.0 million to 34.9 million, between 2011 and 2021, representing a massive 20% increase. Additionally, almost a quarter of the American workforce is employed in STEM occupations.
But there’s another fact to get straight before diving in. Degrees in the field can cost between $65,000 and. $80,000, which means you may end up with massive student debt unless you earn a scholarship. Before you unlock the median annual salary of $64,000 (compared to $40,000 for professionals in other fields), be ready for the financial commitment.
According to a Pew Research Center study, the cost of STEM degrees is one of the most cited reasons among youngsters for not pursuing them. But it shouldn’t be a constraint if you are truly passionate about pursuing education and a career in the field. Being a little frugal can help you achieve your dream without spending a fortune.
Here are some actionable money-savvy tips frugal students can rely on.
Think Beyond Textbooks
Textbooks can be a big expense for STEM learners as they are 85% more expensive than books in other streams. You may consider accessing digital versions, borrowing books from the library, or joining a textbook exchange program. Even better, think beyond textbooks and dive into video tutorials online. You can access sites offering them at a fraction of the cost of textbooks and even offering free trials.
According to Proprep, independent learning through curated courses can take STEM students a long way. Look for a platform that offers bite-sized video tutorials as they make learning easier and save tons of time without compromising concept clarity and retention. You can get monthly, quarterly, and yearly subscriptions at a small price.
Seek Grants and Scholarships
Since STEM professionals are in high demand in the US, the government has several grants and scholarships to encourage and incentivize students in the field. You can save a significant part of your course fees by taking advantage of these grants and scholarship programs. Ensure to research your options while checking your preferred courses and colleges.
Most grants and scholarships have well-defined eligibility criteria as they prioritize bright and deserving scholars. You may also get a need-based grant if you have a strong profile with both academic and extracurricular achievements. Set your eyes on the options early, and work hard to achieve the financial aid goal.
Pursue Internships and Co-op Programs
Another actionable money-savvy tip for STEM learners is to pursue internships and co-op programs to make money and gain experience in your education field. These opportunities are far better than random part-time jobs. Internships are one-term work assignments, while co-ops are full-time, paid positions. Since internships may be paid or unpaid, dig deep to check the facts before going ahead.
According to statistics, the average hourly wage for bachelor’s level interns and co-ops in 2020-21 was $20.82. That’s good money, considering you get the extra advantages such as hands-on experience and networking within your industry. You can even get a job offer from the same employer after completing your degree.
Make the Most of Student Discounts
Frugal STEM students save beyond textbooks, tuition, and educational expenses. Why not make the most of student discounts and deals? There are deals everywhere, from food joints to public transport, software, entertainment, and shopping. Surveys show that most student deals give 10%-15% off, though you may even find discounts at 50% off or higher by looking around.
All you need to do is inquire about available discounts and carry your student ID. You can save up a hefty sum every month by getting the best deals. You can also wait for the sales season if you want to buy a big-ticket item such as a laptop or tablet.
Master the Skill of Budgeting
Mastering the skill of budgeting is the best piece of advice for students as it helps throughout life. Budgeting and money management are easy for STEM students because they are inherently good with numbers. You must use your skills to your advantage by developing a comprehensive budget that outlines your expenses, income, and savings goals.
Don’t just stop at making a realistic budget, but commit to sticking to it. You can do it by tracking your spending and allocating a part of your income toward saving. Also, avoid impulse buying and stick with the stuff you actually need.
A frugal approach can help STEM students manage their finances and lower their loan burden in the long run. The sooner you start saving money, the less anxious you feel about it in the long run. It helps you focus on your studies rather than worry about your finances. Follow these tips to save and build a strong financial foundation.