ANOTHER VIEW by Bill Cox
Not all STEM degrees are equal
A recent report has come out citing statistics that would make one believe we do not have a deficiency in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math - education. It appears we have an overabundance of STEM graduates who are not finding jobs related to their degrees.
However, when you look closer, you understand why industry is screaming for more STEM graduates while some STEM graduates cannot find work in their field.
The simple truth is that all STEM degrees are not equal. A great example is the inclusion of psychology, as a social science, in the STEM category. Each year, Texas cranks out about 5,000 graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, according to data gathered by the Workforce Solutions Alamo. But, with only a paltry number of openings per year at an average starting salary of $22,000, it’s little wonder these graduates are ending up in other fields.
The sad reality is that most universities are not tracking placement of their graduates and not even considering it one of their outcome objectives. College is expensive and time-consuming. It is sad that, as a society, we are pouring more and more into a system that is not providing the return on investment deserving of students who have invested years of time and money toward their degree.
The recent data showing the job placement of STEM graduates at only 25 percent highlights our need to look at the specific jobs the industry is struggling to fill.
Manufacturing is at the top of the list of industries crying for STEM graduates. Most research and development is done by manufacturers, and most patents are issued to manufacturers. Manufacturers typically offer salaries 10 percent to 20 percent greater than their community average, and these are STEM jobs.
Engineering degrees fall right in the sweet spot of these jobs. A math degree can also lend itself to a manufacturing job. If a moth major does not become a teacher, he is likely going to use the degree in an engineering role for manufacturers.
Other considerations should include options for internships and related experience that can be gained by the student prior to graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree. Some colleges that require internships as part of their degree program see high demand for their graduates, and the simple reason is that their students are well known for their career-ready track record.
So, yes, it is a myth that all STEM degrees are a ticket to high job demand. All degrees are not equal, and aligning an end career objective with the right degree and internship experience is imperative for optimizing any education for a return on the investment.
Bill Cox is a member of the San Antonio Manufacturers Association board.