Saturday, January 26, 2013

Science majors are below average

There have been quite a lot of articles recently about how we need to encourage STEM education. A common way of arguing this is by pointing to starting salaries of engineers. Nine of the top ten majors for starting salaries were engineers. This makes it look like we have some real shortage of talent which needs filled.

That is probably true in engineering. Not a lot of people major in engineering and there are so many complicated things in the world which need watching over. There should be sufficient demand to keep engineers employed until the devices we engineer make us all irrelevant.

The same is not true for science. From a recent survey engineers are averaging $61,000 a year; business majors $53,000; the average college graduate $44,000; science and math majors $42,000, humanities and social sciences $37,000. So much for a shortage. Science majors make less money than the average college graduate!  This is even worse when you take out the relatively well to do math and physics majors. Biology majors make about the same starting salaries as the much taunted English, Communications, and History majors.

If we believe that America should be doing more science, training more scientists won't help. We have enough people to do a whole lot more science than actually gets done. If we want to do more science, we will have to fund more science.

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