The purpose of this literature review is to examine what quantifies an elite STEM program, what criteria makes STEM education impactful for students, and where the future of STEM education may lie. Integrated STEM is a key aspect of STEM education. STEM perceptions and understandings must be clarified in order to move forward with STEM reform attempts. Learning by doing, using real-world contexts, is vital to the success of integrated STEM education. Successful STEM learning environments must also focus on student engagement and motivation, as well as the incorporation of social-emotional and 21st century skills. Teacher preparation and professional development cannot be forgotten when working towards best practices and the forward progression of STEM programs.