As a student here at Waterloo, you’ve almost certainly heard the term “STEM.”

This acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – degrees that are seen by many as the “most employable”.

While you may not agree with the term or the superiority complex it seems to instill in some students, the fact remains that the tech and engineering sectors are booming.

Nearly everyone has a friend or a friend of a friend earning untold riches in their Silicon Valley co-op or living it up with a finance internship in New York.

This may lead some to believe that successful lucrative employment is tied to the type of degree you receive.

It is, however, not the degree that makes these students successful, but rather the actions they take during their undergrad that puts them ahead.

Practical experience is by far the most useful tool in a job seeker’s belt.

Demonstrating hard skills through real work has been proven, time and again, to be a golden ticket into Mr. Employment’s job factory.

The real difference between Arts and STEM students is the quality and quantity of hard skills and real world experience completed during undergrad.

Let us begin with two 1A students, the first in a tech-focused STEM major and the other in Arts.

The STEM student will be working on side projects, a non-academic tool normally code-based to demonstrate competency.

First year Arts students, on the other hand, rarely have non-school related projects, which makes it hard to stand out from the crowd.

STEM students will also be more likely to have co-op and are more likely to start it sooner, giving them yet another important head start.

Lastly, STEM students will be learning more practical skills within their classes whereas 100 level arts courses provide little value in a job search.

None of this is meant to imply that STEM is superior to Arts in terms of employability, but it does indicate a need for change.

Arts students must take heed of what their peers in STEM majors are doing and attempt to mimic them as best as possible – completing independent projects, figuring out what hard skills are sought after in their industry of choice, and making co-op or internships a priority.

By following these steps, Arts students will make their job searches easier and move one step closer to changing STEM into STEAM.