Thursday, October 03, 2013

Do we really need more science majors? A broadside against the "S" in STEM

I have a new hypothesis that goes thusly: The predictions by the education bureaucracy of what jobs will be needed in the future is about as reliable as your daily horoscope. Wait, scratch that. A horoscope is more reliable.

When I was in college we were told that the future job prospects of graduates who know Fortran and Pascal were bright. As it turned out, the older people who knew those languages were being ushered out the door about the time we graduated. The problem, of course, is that such predictions are almost always based on the current economic situation.

It's sort of like the Transportation Security Administration: They're great at predicting events that have already happened.

As it now stands, there are certain STEM fields which pay more, but there is no  guarantee that it will remain that way. And if schools actually produce the supply of STEM graduates they say they want produce, then it surely won't remain that way by virtue of the simple logic of supply and demand (if there is a greater supply of STEM workers in relation to STEM jobs, wages must necessarily go down).

But even if the present job market were to remain the same, there's a problem with STEM. At least with the "S" in STEM. Here is the Atlantic, inveighing against the latest predictive craze among educationists:
Wage data in several states show that employers are paying more -- often far more -- for techies (i.e.: computer science majors), engineers, and math grads. But no evidence suggests that biology majors, the most popular science field of study, earn a wage premium. Chemistry graduates earn somewhat more than biology grads, but still don’t command the wages that are quite TEM-quality. 
...The data from these states show that while students in technology, engineering and math earn more, on average, than other students, graduates in the “S” fields in STEM do not. 
I remember noticing the flood of biology B.S. degrees being awarded at my son's graduation ceremony at the University of Kentucky several years ago and wondering, "What in the world are we going to do with all of these biology graduates?"

Not much, apparently.

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