Careers in science, technology, engineering and math are in in more demand than ever. But what does it really take to become a STEM rock star?

Industry leaders say curiosity and excitement are two unbeatable assets. But you’ll also need strong academic credentials and a career plan.

Follow these three steps to lay the groundwork for a job in STEM.

1. Prep for college with challenging courses

Sign up for four full years of math and science classes while in high school and consider honors or AP versions of STEM courses. You’ll get a taste for rigorous coursework and show colleges you are willing to challenge yourself. Use electives to explore STEM-related subjects like computer programming, anatomy or marine biology, but don’t neglect other core classes. Strong writing and public speaking skills are highly valued within the STEM profession.

2. Learn by doing

Hands-on experiences, such as competing with a robotics club or learning how to code, help you connect what you learn in the classroom to the real world. Check out the STEM clubs and activities offered at your school and be on the lookout for community programs. Joining a STEM-related extracurricular is a great way to build your resume and connect with other kids who share similar interests.

3. Meet face-to-face with STEM college and industry professionals

Knowledge is power. Find out what it takes to earn a STEM degree and how industry officials can support your journey. Employment in STEM fields has grown by 79 percent over the last 28 years, and many industries face worker shortages. It’s estimated, for example, that 1 million US programming jobs will go unfilled by 2020.

College and industry professionals are invested in helping fill those gaps. The National Association for College Admission Counseling offers STEM College and Career Fairs at various locations across the country where you can meet with college reps about STEM-related degrees and learn about internships and work-study options offered by area STEM employers. Visit nacacfairs.org/stem to find a fair near you or ask your school counselor to help you make connections in the field.