Which AP Courses Should I Take for a STEM Major?

It is expected that STEM jobs will increase in the next decade, so there’s a need for STEM graduates. If you know you want to pursue a STEM major in college, there’s no better time to start working towards it than in high school.

STEM majors need to have advanced knowledge of math, science, and computers. This information provides a solid foundation for future engineering and technology courses.

Taking AP courses will prepare you for your college course loads. These courses are more rigorous than standard high school classes. They count for college credit, so you’ll be able to work towards your degree before you even graduate. You’ll also be eligible for STEM scholarships.

Mathematics AP Courses

Mathematics is at the core of the STEM discipline, so you’ll want to try and take as many AP math courses as you can.

AP Calculus AB

If you’ve already taken pre-calculus in your freshman or sophomore years, you’ll want to make space for AP Calculus AB in your schedule. This course will also draw on trigonometry and algebra, so make sure you have those bases covered.

AP Calculus BC

Some schools allow you to take AP Calculus BC even if you haven’t taken AP Calculus AB, but you might find it difficult to keep up. Taking the courses in the recommended order will ensure you have the foundation you need for each level of the course.

This class is a lot of work, so you’ll want to save it for your senior year so you have plenty of prior knowledge to pull from.

AP Statistics

Statistics is a key concept for STEM jobs. In this class, you’ll learn how to collect and analyze results from data. You’ll be doing that a lot in a STEM job, so it’s a great way to understand what will be asked of you in college and beyond.

Coursework includes developing surveys and experiments. This hands-on class will give you a strong foundation of skills you’ll be using in the future.

Science AP Courses

Science is a vital part of the STEM field, so there are many AP courses you can take in your high school career. Learn about the scope of each subject so you can pick which ones will be most beneficial for your career.

AP Biology

After you’ve taken a regular biology course, you should take AP Biology. You’ll need to know the basics of biology before jumping into the AP version, which involves a lot of lab work. This class will also use statistics, but you’ll be able to follow along even if you haven’t taken that course.

AP Chemistry

Just like AP Biology, you’ll want to take regular chemistry before taking the AP Chemistry class. You’ll learn about molecules, matter, and chemical reactions. This course also has a lot of lab work and depends more heavily on math concepts than AP Biology.

AP Environmental Science

There’s no official prerequisite for this class, but you might want to take regular biology first. It’s a good AP science course to take if you’re not sure what arm of science you want to focus on. It will still allow you to earn college credit and keep your AP momentum.

You’ll get lab experience and learn how humans impact the land, which might come in handy with later STEM work.

AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based

If you want to focus on engineering, AP Physics 1 a key course. It involves a lot of math, so take algebra and trigonometry first. You can also take a regular physics class before this since it’s recommended for juniors or seniors.

You don’t have to take any physics introduction, though, because this course covers the basic principles. You’ll work in the lab to explore sound, circuits, and energy.

AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based

If you enjoyed AP Physics 1 and are sure you want to focus on engineering, you should continue your studies with AP Physics 2. In this course, you’ll learn about thermodynamics, electromagnetics, and nuclear physics.

The hands-on classwork includes lab experiments and inquiry-based projects.

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

After taking calculus and AP Physics 1, you might be drawn to AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. This class includes hands-on work involving conductors, electric circuits, and magnetic fields.

AP Physics C: Mechanics

This specialty of AP Physics C also involves a lot of calculus. Instead of exploring electricity and magnetism, you’ll learn about kinematics, momentum, and gravitation.

Computer AP Courses

Computers are a vital piece of machinery for a normal life, so you’re already familiar with the basics. Taking AP computer courses will further your knowledge and streamline it for the STEM field.

AP Computer Science Principles

This class explores fundamental principles of computer science. You’ll learn basic coding, but it’s more of a beginner course to familiarize yourself with the computer and related technology.

AP Computer Science A

AP Computer Science A is a basic computer science course will teach you the fundamentals of the computer itself along with Java and other programming languages. You’ll learn how to write computer programs and also test others to problem-solve with existing platforms.

Additional AP Courses

Taking AP courses outside your specialty will look good to college admissions. Plus you’ll be getting college credit, so you’ll be getting other classes off of your plate.

AP World History

This class is a great introduction to AP courses. Most schools allow freshmen to take it, so you can ease yourself into the world of AP learning. Since World History is such a broad topic, it’s a surface-level class. However, it will give you a feel for how AP classes are structured.

AP United States History

After learning about the broad scope of world history, consider learning more about the history of the United States. This class studies the country’s history from 1491 to the present day. It explores what you’ve previously learned more in-depth so you’ll have a greater understanding. You’ll also write essays about historical arguments, bringing history alive.

AP English Language

The AP English Language course is offered to juniors. After two years of English composition, you’ll have the chance to hone your writing and communication skills. This class will help you analyze nonfiction so you understand the author’s purpose and tone.

You’ll also write response essays in persuasive and argumentative tones. Learning about these different writing styles will help you write your college essays.

AP English Literature

This course is available for seniors. It takes a close look at different types of English literature, like fiction, drama, and poetry. You’ll get a broad range of exposure to various cultures and times. It also helps you learn how to analyze different types of literature.

This analysis doesn’t just apply to what you read—it can help you with papers and grants you’ll write as a STEM major.

AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics

The AP Econ courses examine the economic system on large and small scales. You’ll learn how economic concepts work and analyze them using data, charts, and graphs. While you might not have an interest in the global or local economy, the methods you use in this class can directly apply to the STEM field.

Pay attention during your AP courses because you’ll have to take exams each spring. Passing the exams will earn your college credits for each class. Taking AP courses unrelated to STEM will look good on your academic transcript. You can also get involved in STEM-related extracurriculars.

If you have questions about your school’s AP course offerings, talk to your guidance counselor. Together you can work out the best plan that ensures you’ll reach your STEM goals. You can also find more in-depth AP exam information about each course and the related exam so you’re prepared.

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Hannah Young

Contributor at ExamCave. Hannah is pursuing a degree in middle school English education at The Ohio State University. Hannah has worked as a writing and math tutor for elementary, middle school, and high school students.