English Skills for STEM Professions


English is the most spoken language in the world, with the number of speakers (native and non-native) totaling more than 1.4 billion in 2022. Over the years, English has become—for all intents and purposes—the language of science. International conferences are held in English, and the world’s top scientific journals are in English. In fact, 95% of all articles published in scientific journals in 2020 were written in English

Among many professionals, scientists, technologists, and business experts who belong to various cultural and linguistic backgrounds, English is how they communicate with a global audience. Without fluency in English, engineering students and professionals may find it difficult to understand the concepts being conveyed by international colleagues, struggle to publish as much as they would like, and even lag behind in career advancement.

Build on What You Know

Careful reading and writing are key skills for fields beyond the humanities. Communication skills play a significant role in STEM-based professions. According to John Kanjirakkat, a teacher of humanities in STEM institutions, “One cannot claim a meaningful understanding of a concept if they cannot write about it with clarity.” Every professional should be able to write what makes their work different or unique, especially in academic or trade journals.

Although several free and paid online tools are available, researchers should not rely on them too heavily. Developing your own writing abilities will be better in the long run. “If you are leaning very hard on these tools to choose the right words and the right grammar for you…then your work could be full of errors [of which] you aren’t even aware,” warns Tracy Volz, director of the engineering communications program at Rice University.

When reviewers criticize the writing in a manuscript, it is often because the writing is poorly organized. “That’s a problem that all writers can face whether English is their primary language or not,” according to Anna Clemens, an academic-writing coach based in Prague. Clemens encourages students to “try to articulate the key idea of their paper in a few short, well-worked-out English sentences. They can then reuse and build on that language as they write.” Your best bet, however, Clemens notes, is to find a community to help.

Get Support from the IEEE Community

The IEEE English for Technical Professionals course program is designed to provide speakers with a basic knowledge of English better understand the techniques, and vocabulary essential to the technical and engineering workplace.

The program includes:

  • 18 hours of online instruction with lessons set in working engineering contexts
  • Modules on reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills
  • Short assessments and exercises throughout the program to help improve skills
  • Final quiz/test at the end of each level
  • Certificates are issued at the end of each lesson, as well as at the end of the full program

The skills and techniques covered in this course program benefits not only current working engineers and technical professionals, but also new graduates entering technical industries, university students studying engineering and other technical concepts, as well as Ph.D. students, research scholars, and individuals who want to improve their technical writing.

Connect with an IEEE Content Specialist today to learn more about how to offer this program within your organization.

Interested in the program for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network.


Hernández Bonilla, Juan Miguel. (30 Jul 2021). How to end the hegemony of English in scientific research. El País. 

Kanjirakkat, Jobin. (10 August 2022). Why Teach the Humanities in STEM Institutions. LiveWire.

Katsnelson, Alla. (29 August 2022). Poor English skills? New AIs help researchers to write better. Nature. 

Kaufman, Anna. (23 August 2022). What is the most spoken language in the world 2022? Top 10 spoken languages, globally. USA Today.

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