The in-demand careers for STEM graduates

08 Mar 2023


Your future career may be up in the air, but a new government report might help point you in the right direction.

If you’re planning on heading to university to study a STEM-related course, you’ll be putting yourself in a strong position to find a career
Nav Phokela

The 2022 Skills Priority List (SPL) has just been released, and there’s plenty of good news for STEM students. The annual report looks at occupations that are currently in need of workers, as well as trends that point to future demand. For HSC tutoring students with one eye on a career, the SPL is a great resource for figuring out where your passions start to link up with future earning potential and employability. In other words; if you’re finding it hard to figure out where you’re going, the SPL might be a good place to start.

What did the SPL find?

The report takes a huge range of data from surveys and independent research and determines the fields and specific occupations in which there are more job vacancies than people to fill the role. What the report says, overall, is that these vacancies increased from 2021 to 2022, meaning that the most sought after employees are too few to take all the jobs. Specifically, 31% of all the assessed jobs in the report were in national shortage in 2022 compared to 19% in 2021. Sounds like good news if you’re looking for work in the next couple of years, right?

Who’s in demand?

Broadly, jobs like truck drivers, educators and tradespeople kept demand above supply in the recent report, but for STEM students there’s plenty to be positive about, too. The report notes that degree-qualified professionals in science and healthcare fields represent some of the most understaffed roles, and that the biggest reason a job vacancy remained unfilled was because the candidate found another job in the same industry. What this means is that, if you’re planning on heading to university to study a STEM-related course, you’ll be putting yourself in a strong position to find a career, avoiding the bottleneck that overstaffed jobs suffer from.

The careers to look for

In 2022, unfilled demand for healthcare workers went up by 47%, and the figure is expected to keep on climbing over the next five years. The term ‘healthcare worker’ takes in a range of occupations like nurses, GPs, specialists and medical research professionals. Essentially, for those keen on biology, chemistry and other STEM subjects, studying healthcare can lead to some great employment opportunities.

The report also finds that other highly-skilled roles like engineers, ICT professionals and many other technical, scientific careers are increasingly unfilled. The major thread for all these professional careers was a requirement to be degree-qualified. The report mentions that employers tended to favour candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree, which means that students hoping to take advantage of the skills shortage will give themselves a boost by undertaking tertiary study.

So how do I get an ‘in-demand’ job?

Broad terms like ‘healthcare worker’ and ‘ICT professional’ are a little vague when it comes to picking a career. If you’re keen on seeing the full list of in-demand careers, the reports appendix has a thorough list. Below, we’ve picked a few good career options and some of the university courses you might like to aim for if you’re thinking about heading in that direction. Before you get that far though, it’s worth talking to your highschool tutors or teachers about some of the HSC subjects you’ll want to take, as well as thinking about where your own passions and skills lie. Physics tutoring is one thing, but if you’re more keen on a hands-on medical role, you’ll want to speak with a science tutor or teacher about the classes you should be taking instead.

  • Food technologist

Not your standard STEM career, food technology is a field that blends a passion for the fields of chemistry and biology with a desire to dig deeper into the food that powers the world. Maybe you’re interested in researching how food or additives affect the human body, or looking at ways to improve the nutritional content of foods for some of the biggest producers in the world. You could also work in sports nutrition, designing diets for athletes, research and development or government policy advice. The career options for food-savvy scientists is nearly endless

What to study: Courses like RMIT’s Bachelor of Food Technology and Nutrition or UNSW’s Bachelor of Food Science (Honours) are good places to get started right out of high school.

  • Medicine/Healthcare

We’ve grouped this one because the SPL has a comprehensive list of medical careers that are in demand, and they begin with the same pathway. The report lists medical specialities and generalist careers like endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, intensive care, orthopaedics and paediatrics among many more. While these careers are highly specialised and diverge at one point, the fact that so many medical careers are represented in the report means that even if you don’t know exactly where you want to go, you can set yourself on a safe, in-demand career path as soon as you enter university.

What to study:

For degrees straight out of high school, look to courses such as Monash University’s Bachelor of Medical Science and Master of Medicine or the Bachelor of Medicine at James Cook University. Other universities offer more gradual pathways, with undergraduate degrees in courses such as biomedicine or general science, with postgraduate study options in medicine. As a footnote, if you’re keen on becoming a specialist, you’ll need to keep studying (and completing work placements) after your degree has been completed.

  • Network analyst/administrator

The careers of ICT professionals are influential on nearly every other job in the world in 2022. The technical advancements and smooth operation of advanced computer technology is essential to our modern world, and careers show no sign of slowing down.

While we could have listed just about any ICT career here, network analysts and administrators represent some accessible pathways for school leavers. In these careers you’ll be ensuring that the complex computer systems which form the backbone of just about everything keep running efficiently, avoid breaches and offer the functions that businesses need to keep powering ahead. These professionals are often in the background, but their roles are as vital as any around.

What to study:

MIT in Sydney offers a Bachelor of Networking if you’re keen on getting a thorough and specific education, or consider your options in ICT more broadly with a generalist degreen like Swinburne’s Bachelor of Information Communication and Technology.

Other STEM careers to look out for:

The few careers we’ve listed above are great options for passionate students, but there’s no shortage. You can find the full list in the SPL appendix but here are a few more to get you thinking:

  • Apiarist
  • Chemical engineer
  • Electronics engineer
  • Dentist
  • Optical mechanic
  • Geophysicist
  • Sonographer
  • Optometrist
  • Telecommunications technician