Why Invest in Stem Education

Why should we support education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)?  The answer is simple yet profound.  We must all recognize that we live in an era of constant scientific discovery and technological change, which directly affects our lives and requires our input as citizens.  And we must recognize that as our economy increasingly depends on these revolutionary new advances, many new jobs will be created in STEM fields.  If we are to stay competitive as a nation, then we need to build a scientifically literate citizenry and a bank of highly skilled, STEM-literate employees.

Child using a magnifiing glass to look at a plant

Scientific and technological issues increasingly dominate the national discourse, from environmental debates on climate change and economic threats from invasive species, to concerns about cloning, genetically modified food and the use of vaccines.  New advances in areas such as medicine, genetics, communications and energy all directly affect our lives.  As consumers, as business professionals and skilled workers, and as citizens, we will have to form opinions about these and other science-based issues if we are to participate fully in modern society.  Scientific literacy is the new demand of our post-industrial society. 

Child doing science

In 2011, 26 million US jobs, about 20 percent of the workforce, required in-depth knowledge in at least one of the STEM fields.  However, these STEM jobs are not just growing for those with higher educational degrees.  In a report titled "The Hidden STEM Economy", the Brookings Institution states that "Half of all STEM jobs are available to workers without a four-year college degree, and these jobs pay... 10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements."  Clearly, our education system must reflect these changing needs.  By systematically teaching STEM subjects to our k-12 students, we can ensure that the so-called "skills gap", where companies have openings for STEM-literate employees but can't fill them due to a shortage of workers with the necessary skills, is closed.

Having the scientific literacy to understand the debates surrounding these issues is now as fundamentally important as learning to read and write.  At the Smithsonian Science Education Center we work with scientists and educators to provide children with the scientific knowledge to prepare them to meet the demands of the fast-paced changes both today and tomorrow that will not only help employ them, but help them become the citizens that will continue to change our world. 

Related Tags

About the Author

Eric C. Nastasi, Esq.
Division Director of Advancement & Partnerships



Eric Nastasi is the Director of Advancement & Partnerships for the SSEC, where he builds and manages a portfolio of prospects and donors to execute a program focused on high-capacity giving. His work affects the successful achievement of major programs such as the SSEC’s fundraising goal for the Smithsonian Capital Campaign, the progress of educational programs, and the funding of a substantial number of Trust positions affected by these efforts. Eric reports directly to the SSEC Director and is a member of the SSEC’s senior leadership team.

Prior to joining the SSEC, Eric practiced law as an international transactions attorney. He held the positions of Co-Chair of the Cyber Security and Information Privacy practice at Whiteford, Taylor, and Preston, COO and General Counsel for Bitek International, senior associate at Keller and Heckman, Vice President and General Counsel at Cascadent Communications, and Director of Regulatory and Legal Affairs at FaciliCom International.

Eric began his practice as a litigator at William J. Cook and Associates. He has served on several Boards, including the SSEC Advisory Board, Artisphere, the Arlington Arts Center, and the Journal Editing Board for the U.S. Navy Medicine Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities. Eric received his BA in Philosophy from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and his JD from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.