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STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Discussion of STEM-related programs has become a presidential priority because too few college students are pursuing degrees in these fields. The U.S. Department of Labor expects that there will be 1.2 million job openings in STEM related fields by 2018, but there won’t be enough qualified graduates to fill them.

Many people would agree that STEM is the key to innovation and job creation in the United States. President Obama continually references the importance of STEM education in making the United States more competitive in the global economy.

Getting U.S. students interested in studying STEM-related fields is only part of the picture. Educating the best and brightest international students in STEM fields is also a major priority for the United States. In a May 2010 speech in El Paso, Texas, President Obama pointed out that immigrants founded some of the great American companies like Intel, Google, Yahoo and eBay  and helped the United States to become a leader in the high-tech industry.

In that same speech, Obama said the following about international students and their importance to the United States.

We should make it easier for the best and the brightest to not only stay here, but also to start businesses and create jobs here. In recent years, a full 25 percent of high-tech startups in the U.S. were founded by immigrants. That led to 200,000 jobs here in America. I’m glad those jobs are here. I want to see more of them created in this country. We need to provide them the chance.


( Please note: On May 10, 2016, DHS replaced the 17-month STEM OPT extension with a new 24-month STEM OPT extension. All existing 17-month STEM OPT EADs will remain valid until the EAD expires, is terminated or revoked.)


STEM is an educational program developed to prepare primary and secondary students for college and graduate study in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In addition to subject-specific learning, STEM aims to foster inquiring minds, logical reasoning, and collaboration skills. 


Educators break STEM down into seven standards of practice (or skill sets) for educating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students:

  • Learn and apply content

  • Integrate content

  • Interpret and communicate information

  • Engage in inquiry

  • Engage in logical reasoning

  • Collaborate as a team

  • Apply technology appropriately

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