STEM Majors are the Smartest Bet for College Students

More and more students are graduating from college with massive debt.  This problem is compounded by a historically weak labor market for recent graduates.  Using government labor data, the Associated Press found about  1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years.  Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are frequently being forced into low-paying, low-skill service jobs (e.g. waiter, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist), making the debt they graduated with harder and harder to cope with. 

It is important to note that according to the data, prospects vary significantly based on the type of degree a student graduates with.  Those with degrees in the arts or humanities such as philosophy, art history, etc. were the least likely to find jobs and the percentage of unemployment or underemployment for students with those majors was even higher.

On the flip side, Forbes reports degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) are the most likely to land a job right out of school and yield the highest median pay both starting out and over the course of their careers.  An amazing 94% of recent graduates with STEM degrees found employment after college.  These students are increasingly in demand and as a result not only find jobs, but well-paying ones.  STEM graduates are most likely to field multiple competitive offers and over a lifetime, their earnings are as much as 50 percent higher than the earnings of those who major in the humanities, the arts, or education.

So why, in the face of all this data, do only 16% of college students graduate with a STEM degree?  Many are simply not very proficient in math and science in high school and as a result have no interest in those fields at the college level.  According to a study of high school students performed by the Business-Higher Education Forum in December, only 17 percent of high school seniors were both proficient in math and interested in the STEM fields and many— 27 percent — weren’t interested in math or science degrees even if they were proficient.  The study concluded “Current interest in STEM fields and proficiency in math are not sufficient to meet U.S. workforce demand.”

Posted by: Sean Norris

Sources: The Associated Press, Forbes, The Washington Post

Photo Credit: STEM 2010-01-30 064 courtesy of flickr user skeggy


2 Responses to STEM Majors are the Smartest Bet for College Students

  1. Pingback: The OECD Economic Survey of the United States for 2012 « America and the Global Economy

  2. Pingback: Is College Too Easy? « America and the Global Economy

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