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Best Courses to Complement a STEM Curriculum

Powered by compassion, science and ingenuity, we're changing the trajectory of health for humanity every day at Johnson & Johnson. And while we're leveraging the latest and most sophisticated technologies in the world, we also know that it will take more than technology alone to tackle the biggest health challenges of our times.

We need great problem-solvers, communicators, collaborators and outside-of-the-box thinkers. If you're eager to apply your unique expertise to our collective purpose, here are four ways to supplement your STEM undergraduate curriculum, gain valuable skills and set yourself apart when it's time to launch your career.

Smart Coursework Add-Ons—Even For Those With STEM Backgrounds

Looking ahead, we anticipate that some level of technical aptitude is going to be a core component of nearly every role at Johnson & Johnson. And that will have wide-ranging implications for all candidates—even those candidates who already have STEM backgrounds and training.

"It's a fascinating time, with all of the new digital platforms, robotics and smarter devices that we're building," said Michael Coyle, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Medical Devices. "But it also means that understanding how to integrate these tools with other software systems and the cloud is incredibly important."

To help students adapt, Michael advises them to pursue coursework in systems engineering, multidisciplinary engineering and embedded software. He also thinks that some familiarity with statistics, and statistical analysis, will help, too. "In an interconnected world," he explained, "traditional engineers will need to think in terms of how invisible layers of data interact with one another, not simply the way that one physical mechanism acts on another."

Look for Process- and Project-Based Coursework

At Johnson & Johnson, we value soft skills like problem-solving and critical thinking in all of our team members, because we know they're drivers of exploration and innovation. But an understanding of process is equally key.

"We really want to get a sense of what your process is when you approach a problem," said Michael. "How do you test your assumptions? Can you communicate how you got from point A to point B?"

That's why undergraduate coursework in logic or philosophy is a smart way to round out your STEM curriculum. In many of these courses, how you've arrived at an answer—and articulating the transition from one argument to another to build your case—will be as important as the answer you get.

Coursework in psychology is another option. As an interdisciplinary area of study that straddles arts and science, psychology asks you to use existing empirical studies and clinical research to evaluate and understand behaviors. This might be especially insightful for students who want to apply their technical skills to a career in marketing later on.

Hone Your Written and Verbal Communication Skills

We want everyone to reach their full potential at Johnson & Johnson. And we know that no matter what career you ultimately choose, the ability to clearly, effectively and persuasively communicate with your co-workers—both in writing and in speech—is a powerful skill and key ingredient for professional success.

Undergraduate coursework in many liberal arts areas of study, from art history to political science, takes written and verbal communication (plus the critical thinking behind it) as the basis on which students are evaluated. It's a great way to hone your communication and critical thinking skills.

"These soft skills absolutely matter," said Amitha Kumar, Senior R&D Engineer, Product Performance Evaluation, Medical Devices at Johnson & Johnson. "Anything to do with communication, networking or negotiation will help students prepare for an exciting STEM career. That's especially true in my field, where you often have to deliver technical information to nontechnical audiences."

Plenty of universities offer 101-level communication courses that are open to all students and specifically designed to enhance proficiency in practical skill areas like public speaking and business communications. "You don’t have to go to an expensive college to get these skills," said Amitha. "You can read books or take online courses."

She added, smiling, "I’m a big believer in TED Talks."

Extracurriculars Can Give You An Extra Boost

"Engineers are sometimes shy," said Ralphfiel Farrar, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Medical Devices at Johnson & Johnson. "So we work with them, because collaborative teamwork is fundamental for everything we do at Johnson & Johnson."

To stand out, Ralphfiel suggests candidates call attention to ways they have demonstrated their ability to work in teams. It can be as simple as highlighting extracurricular activities. "Whether you played sports, were active in a performance group or held a leadership position with a school organization—we're looking for people who take initiative," he said, "and those types of skills can transfer very well."

Mark Stalbird, Senior University Recruiter at Johnson & Johnson, agreed that leadership potential is top of mind among our recruiters. "Hiring managers are always looking for leadership qualities when they evaluate STEM candidates," he said. "That, and the ability to work in collaborative team environments."

Join Johnson & Johnson Today!

We're passionate about lifelong learning and letting people pursue whatever path inspires them. So you'll find ongoing learning opportunities when you join Johnson & Johnson—from mentorship to training and professional development. We know that when you apply your talent and drive to our collective purpose, there's no end to the lasting impact we can make together.

Click here to see all of the opportunities we have available right now.

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