STEM vs STEAM: Which one should you choose?


Samarpita Goswami
Updated on Feb 16, 2023 05:34 PM IST

STEM vs STEAM debate has recently gained a lot of attention. Explore here what is the difference between the two, whether they have any similarities, and which is better for you when choosing to study abroad.

STEM vs STEAM: Which one should you choose?

You must have already heard a lot about STEM courses and why you should pursue them abroad. Now, there is an upgrade in the STEM system and a new pedagogy method has been proposed as STEAM. While STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEAM refers to a curriculum where arts and design is integrated along with traditional STEM subjects. While both terms are used to demonstrate scientific concepts, STEAM tries to incorporate creativity in the learning and inquiry methods. 

The term is new in general usage with many courses in universities abroad having already been designed or re-designed to fit the markings of a STEAM course. It is a more active, fun and engaging way of looking at the subjects and learning them. Both STEM and STEAM courses enhance skills by combining various innovative and blended learning methods and techniques with hands-on training while encouraging to solve real-life problems. 

As you now have a brief idea of STEM and STEAM courses, read on further to find out what are STEAM courses, and how they differ from STEM courses. Also find, STEAM vs STEM, which is better?

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What are STEM Courses?

STEM is the acronym for research and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM subjects support the world we live in and impact different areas of society. Studying STEM courses is highly rewarding with the opportunity to be a part of cutting-edge developments and research projects. The courses are also designed to instil technical expertise in students that employers are looking for in their hiring.

Studying science-related degrees opens doors to work in research areas, factories, hospitals, different industries and sectors while technology-related degrees help students find jobs in artificial intelligence, blockchain and augmented reality. Mathematics benefits in accounting, finances, data analysis and finding solutions to world problems. Engineering courses cover a range of specialisations from aerospace to energy. 

Students studying STEM courses abroad get the advantage of an extended post-study stay-back period. In the USA, STEM graduates can stay for additional 24 months after graduation to gain work experience. In the UK, STEM PhD holders can stay back for three years. 

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What are STEAM Courses?

STEAM courses are those courses which use creative and artistic techniques along with scientific techniques as a method of teaching.

The STEAM full form is science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. All the courses that come under the head of STEAM are those which use the combined methods of each of the five disciplines to deliver the course. This includes extracurricular activities, experiential learning, creative learning, and other pedagogical methods that conform to any of the five disciplines.

It is a comparatively new method and has been designed to help students gain a creative and innovative approach to their field of study.

STEM vs STEAM: What is the Difference?

While STEM focuses on scientific concepts, the STEAM courses investigate similar concepts by adding creative or artistic dimensions to them. Students get the opportunity to discover connections between science and the arts. They can learn skillsets that are completely different from each other. STEAM courses add more value to dry science-oriented education. Precisely we can say that STEAM is a modification of the STEM courses.

Let us quickly find out how STEM courses and STEAM courses differ on varying levels.

  • Letter A: The absence of the letter A might seem like a simple difference, but it has a significant impact. The letter A represents the use of art principles in course delivery.

  • Pedagogy Method: While both STEM and STEAM may be understood as methods of course delivery, STEM is more than that. It also refers to the courses that could directly and independently be associated with the four disciplines, irrespective of the pedagogy used.

  • Origin: STEM courses have been in use since a long time ago. On the other hand, STEAM is a fairly new invention. In fact, the use of STEM as a pedagogy method is also older.

STEM vs STEAM: Which is Better?

While there is no clear-cut way of saying that STEAM is better than STEM or vice versa, it can be understood that STEAM is surely a more distinguished and developed version of the study. STEAM is simply an addition as well as an upgradation of the STEM courses. It could be understood as a helpful method to diversify and re-design the existing courses into better versions. STEAM can be used to make STEM courses better. Hence, upgrading is more beneficial rather than comparison. 

There are many courses which cannot make use of the dynamicity that is associated with the Art discipline. Hence, they would be better delivered with STEM methods. Hence, STEM cannot be done away in favour of STEAM, even if the latter is an upgrade.

The course designs must follow the methodology that is most suitable and effective for achieving the goals and outcomes of the respective course.

Benefits of STEAM vs STEM

There are varying benefits of both STEM courses and STEAM courses. Some of them have been listed below:

  • The STEM courses help the students to gain professional skills and excellence most relevant for the development of existing society through science and technology.

  • STEM perspectives help the students to ensure an organised and methodical approach to learning and applying the course objectives and learning.

  • STEAM helps the students to come up with more innovative ways of application of course learning. 

  • STEAM helps students to grasp the course material easily and speedily.

  • STEAM helps students to graduate with professional skills equivalent to art. This means that they are so well versed in course learnings that they can experiment with them like artists.

  • STEM courses help students to merge the traditional and modern dictums of varying sciences.

  • STEM helps in building a scientific, logical, and argumentative style of thinking among the students.

There is not yet much to discuss STEAM field courses, except for its basic principles. The majority of its modern courses are yet to conclude. That said, it is set to become a mainstream idea, once the employment sector benefits from its impact. We urge you to ensure asking your colleges, how their courses plan to deliver, through STEM or STEAM. Meanwhile, as already established, STEM courses are different from STEM teaching idealogy.

In case you have any queries you can either register or write to us at 

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What is the full form of STEAM?

The full form of STEAM is Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. It is a recently developed pedagogy for students attending K-12 levels of education. It has been designed keeping in mind the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for the present generation and equipping them with the knowledge and skills to face the challenges while making the most of the opportunities.

Is STEAM a new name for STEM?

No, STEAM is not a new name for STEM. Although the difference is only of a letter, STEM is referred to as higher education courses that are relevant to the four subjects apart from being a pedagogy method. On the other hand, STEAM wholly refers to pedagogy, specially designed for the K 12 levels of education. That said, recently it has been gaining acceptance among the STEM courses as well as pedagogy methods and their connection is possible in the future.

Is STEAM better than STEM?

There is no middle ground possible for the comparison of STEM vs STEAM, and hence it cannot be said clearly if STEAM is better than STEM or vice versa. That said, if seen as a pedagogy method, STEAM provides the students a chance to explore their creative and dynamic side beyond the confines of all things technical. It could be highly contributing to the current era where motion engineering has been used to create installation art.

Is STEM still relevant in education?

Yes, STEM is still relevant in education. The term not only refers to a form of teaching but also refers to the courses that are related to any of the four subjects. STEM courses are among the top and most popular courses internationally. They are popular for allowing excellence and monetary rewards to meet for the graduates of these disciplines.

Who has coined the terms STEM and STEAM?

National Science Foundation, USA, has been zeroed in for coining both the terms, STEM, and STEAM. It is seen as a step towards integrating arts fields in the exclusive arena of STEM fields. It is possibly a step to revive the arts-based higher education courses as their employment quotient has been declining over the years. In recent years many students have found their art degrees to be a poor decision, while STEM courses have helped their graduates in reaping exceptional benefits.

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