Looking for a career with job stability and a nice paycheck? Consider pursuing a position in the field of science, technology, engineering or math. With an increasing demand for qualified professionals and a critical hiring gap on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to become a STEM professional.

Fast Facts

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was an increase in STEM jobs between 2000 and 2015 with a jump from 10 million to 18 million positions. And the number of STEM jobs is expected to increase 55 percent faster than non-STEM jobs over the next 10 years. In fact, with the demand for STEM employees increasing so rapidly there aren’t enough people to fill the positions. According to labor analytics firm Burning Glass, there are currently 2.5 entry-level jobs for every STEM-educated American with a four-year degree.

Unfilled positions may be bad for the industry, but it’s a great opportunity to get your foot in the door. Need more incentive? In 2013, the median wage for STEM jobs was $76,000 a year compared to the $35,000 the average American worker makes.

Why Veterans?

The answer to this one is simple: veterans have what it takes to succeed in STEM jobs. After serving in the military, many prior service members are equipped with desirable soft skills like integrity, hard work and the ability to work in or lead a team. Often their jobs have also technically prepared them for a STEM career. For example, food safety and preventive medicine specialists may have futures as environmental science and protection technicians. Information technology specialists could easily transition to information security analysts. A radio operator may transition into an electrical engineering technician.

Not sure how your military occupational speciality, or MOS, translates to the civilian world? The Army’s Human Resources Command has a complete list of MOSs and their civilian workforce equivalents. That being said, many STEM jobs require additional education so the turnaround from active duty service member to a STEM career may take some time. The upside is that most service members are able to use their G.I. Bill and other scholarships to make the leap.

Higher Education

Whether it’s a two-year degree or graduate studies, many STEM positions require some type of higher education. Currently, there’s a push to award course credit for military training, but it isn’t guaranteed at every university.  To help offset the costs of school, many universities, like California State University San Marcos and San Diego State University’s College of Engineering, provide scholarship opportunities specifically for veterans pursuing STEM studies.

Additionally, some companies are providing training programs to help veterans transition into the STEM field. For example, the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy provides 16 weeks of accredited, college-level information technology training to service members leaving the military. Selected service members must have a separation date and the academy becomes their official place of duty for the duration of the course. After completion, graduates are given the opportunity to interview for a full-time position at Microsoft or one of its partner companies. Currently, this program is available at Fort Hood, Texas, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, and Camp Pendleton, California.

Siemens sponsors the USA Veterans Initiative Program, which offers free STEM-related training to veterans. Their scholarships cover the cost of attending Siemens PLM Software University courses where students learn about computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing and PLM software.

Finally, the Army is in the process of boosting its Army Credentialing Program by ensuring every MOS has a professional certificate or license associated with it. It’s also possible to obtain credentials by using the Army’s Credential Opportunities On-Line site. Service members can apply for any credentialing program, regardless of their MOS, so prepping for a STEM career is possible even without any prior experience.

Hot STEM Jobs

There’s a wide range of STEM positions that need to be filled over the next several years. U.S. News and World Report ranked the top 20 for 2015 by choosing jobs with low unemployment rates and an increasing demand. Here’s a quick recap of their top five STEM jobs.

  1. Software Developers: This includes application developers and systems-focused developers. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts there will be 140,000 new positions before 2022.
  1. Computer Systems Analysts: These jobs focus on understanding computer hardware, software and networks and how they work together. It’s projected that the number of analyst positions will increase by 24.5 percent by 2022.
  1. Information Security Analysts: These analysts plan and monitor the security of computer networks for companies and government agencies. Their estimated growth? A whopping 36.5 percent through 2022.
  1. Web Developers: They’re responsible for the sleek fonts and clean layouts on all of your favorite sites. Named the fastest growing job this decade, its projected growth is 20 percent by 2022.
  1. Accountants: Quick with numbers and able to handle the touchy subject of money, there’s currently a a projected 166,000 openings by 2022.

Other positions worth noting are school psychologists, mechanical engineers, operations research analysts, IT managers and auto mechanics.

Overall, pursuing a career in the STEM field is like signing up for the golden egg of employment. There are lots of well-paying jobs and companies are eager to hire prior service members. By taking advantage of training opportunities, higher education courses and scholarships, service members and veterans could be on the fast track to a STEM career in no time.

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Jennifer Cary is a freelance writer, blogger and former government employee. You can visit her website here.