Science and Engineering Grads in Demand

Training in technical fields opens up opportunities in many non-science careers, explaining, in part, why many science grads don't stay in science.

By | October 25, 2011

FLICKR, ANDREW MAGILL

The reported shortfall of US-born science and engineers in the research can be explained by the inability of traditional research fields to compete against better employment options, according to a recent study by Georgetown University researchers.

Most of it boils down to money. The study found that those with bachelor's degrees in science can earn more than those holding a master's degree in a non-science major, even if the graduates work in non-science fields.  However, although salary is a major factor, many science graduates reported choosing non-science fields because they were more socially satisfying than research fields.

The numbers point to the fact that science graduates aren't contributing to traditional science and engineering fields in large enough numbers, possibly because their skill-set is highly prized across industries, including those outside of science.  "The technical foundation is worth even more than we thought," the study's lead author Anthony Carnevale told The Chronicle of Higher Education. The report concludes that given the high demand for technically trained graduates across many sectors, the US educational system is still not producing enough graduates in science and engineering to satisfy the demand.

 

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Avatar of: RobertD

RobertD

Posts: 1457

October 25, 2011

At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the issue, is it not possible that science and engineering grads have more job opportunities because they have more native intellectual ability as a group compared to the general population of workers?  In that scenario, gettting the degree is a confirmation of ability, rather than an indication that technical training is a better foundation for future jobs.

Avatar of: former_scientist

former_scientist

Posts: 4

October 25, 2011

Yet another study promoting the idea that we need additional STEM graduates. The sad truth is that jobs in scientific research (the S in STEM) are in a precipitous decline in the US. One need look no further than the turmoil in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields - the largest employers of organic chemists and biologists. I personally know several dozen well qualified PhD and MS level chemists and biologists with extensive publication/patent records (even approved drugs which they discovered) unable to find jobs. This is particularly true for scientists over age 45. Considering that most PhDs don't begin their non-educational careers until they are almost 30, this is an incredibly short career span and an enormous waste of talent. The situation for academic jobs is equally bleak with an all-but-impossible chance of securing funding and thus, tenure. No wonder science graduates pursue careers outside of science. Sadly, if you've gone on to graduate school and worked for more than a few years in research, you will find that employers don't think your narrow set of skills are applicable to the business world.
Inevitably, the authors of these types of "studies" are academics whose institutions have a vested interest in continuing to churn out more STEM graduates. The drumbeat is continued by politicians who have no concept of the scientific job market and employers who benefit from the cheaper labor that the current systems ensures.
I've enjoyed my career in science and dearly miss working in the laboratory. Nevertheless, I can not in good faith recommend that any bright young undergraduate pursue a higher degree in science. I wish I hadn't.

Avatar of: Pia Abola

Pia Abola

Posts: 1

October 25, 2011

"I've enjoyed my career in science and dearly miss working in the
laboratory. Nevertheless, I can not in good faith recommend that any
bright young undergraduate pursue a higher degree in science."

completely agree!

Avatar of: Cat Sheely

Cat Sheely

Posts: 1457

October 25, 2011

I have some questions about this article and especially about this study.
Does "graduate" imply that someone has a BS or more advanced degree? If it is the latter, I would love to know the industries that are dying to have more PhDs, because my own experience has revealed a job market absolutely inundated with PhDs either fleeing academia or seeking refuge from pharma and biotech layoffs.
Second, I trust that science degree holders may ultimately receive a higher paycheck, but I doubt that it compensates for the hours that go into a traditional research career.
Third, what does "social" satisfaction defined as? Social life? Aiding society?
Fourth, what comprises a "traditional" research field? Academia? There are a finite number of academic jobs available, so while it may appear disproportionate, it should be no surprise that the growing grad population must seek employment elsewhere.
The idea of churning out more science grads, at least in the traditional sense, is preposterous. Yes, they are cheap labor that drives research forward, but those years of bench research leave them unprepared for the job market. If we're going to crank out more grads, programs must allow, if not encourage, students to seek out interdisciplinary opportunities.

Avatar of: Michael Holloway

Michael Holloway

Posts: 36

October 25, 2011

Ditto former_scientist's comments below, but I have an even more cynical take on the hypocrisy of these biannual "crisis in science grads" campaigns that have been going on now for at least several decades.  The whole structure of modern research assumes one PI with an army of low paid apprentices who actually do the work for the promise of their own career in science.  The larger the lab the better the chance of the PI achieving and keeping success.  Only magical thinking and a calloused attitude toward students and postdocs could make one consider that this is a sustainable model with any kind of future.  Only good side of this is that there are now so many unemployed PhDs that the hypocrisy becomes obvious to anyone with their head out in the open.

The actual motivation of these campaigns is to increase the number of visas for cheap labor training positions for foreign grad students and postdocs who actually have a chance of going back home and finding a good job waiting for them afterwards.  Domestic collateral damage of wasted lives is apparently acceptable.

If these pious promoters of increasing Phds were actually concerned about increasing domestic scientists and engineers they'd work to reform the sweat shop model of research work, remove the incentive for employing cheap labor, balance the number of graduate schools with the actual level of support and jobs for scientists and engineers, and find a better way of justifying visas than insulting us.

Avatar of: former_scientist

former_scientist

Posts: 4

October 25, 2011

This "shortage of scientists" dogma has been preached since I was an undergrad 34 years ago. Ever since I earned my PhD, I've fervently wished it were true - but it isn't. There has not been a shortage during my entire career and there probably never was before then. When I was hiring, I always had an abundance of qualified people from which to choose. The reality is that there are few positions and these are decreasing at an alarming rate in the US and Europe. Only those lucky enough to get into the very top academic groups will find good industrial research jobs upon graduation and even they will be markedly less employable within a few years. Pharma/biotech sees no value to experience and considers R&D to be a drag on their bottom line. I keep hoping this situation will reverse itself but it really appears that US/European pharma research is in a death spiral. If you want to do this research, you'd better speak Mandarin and be willing to relocate. Even if you are willing, good luck competing for a job in the China/India market. The truth is that scientific research is a dead end career in the US.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the issue, is it not possible that science and engineering grads have more job opportunities because they have more native intellectual ability as a group compared to the general population of workers?  In that scenario, gettting the degree is a confirmation of ability, rather than an indication that technical training is a better foundation for future jobs.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

Yet another study promoting the idea that we need additional STEM graduates. The sad truth is that jobs in scientific research (the S in STEM) are in a precipitous decline in the US. One need look no further than the turmoil in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields - the largest employers of organic chemists and biologists. I personally know several dozen well qualified PhD and MS level chemists and biologists with extensive publication/patent records (even approved drugs which they discovered) unable to find jobs. This is particularly true for scientists over age 45. Considering that most PhDs don't begin their non-educational careers until they are almost 30, this is an incredibly short career span and an enormous waste of talent. The situation for academic jobs is equally bleak with an all-but-impossible chance of securing funding and thus, tenure. No wonder science graduates pursue careers outside of science. Sadly, if you've gone on to graduate school and worked for more than a few years in research, you will find that employers don't think your narrow set of skills are applicable to the business world.
Inevitably, the authors of these types of "studies" are academics whose institutions have a vested interest in continuing to churn out more STEM graduates. The drumbeat is continued by politicians who have no concept of the scientific job market and employers who benefit from the cheaper labor that the current systems ensures.
I've enjoyed my career in science and dearly miss working in the laboratory. Nevertheless, I can not in good faith recommend that any bright young undergraduate pursue a higher degree in science. I wish I hadn't.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

"I've enjoyed my career in science and dearly miss working in the
laboratory. Nevertheless, I can not in good faith recommend that any
bright young undergraduate pursue a higher degree in science."

completely agree!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

I have some questions about this article and especially about this study.
Does "graduate" imply that someone has a BS or more advanced degree? If it is the latter, I would love to know the industries that are dying to have more PhDs, because my own experience has revealed a job market absolutely inundated with PhDs either fleeing academia or seeking refuge from pharma and biotech layoffs.
Second, I trust that science degree holders may ultimately receive a higher paycheck, but I doubt that it compensates for the hours that go into a traditional research career.
Third, what does "social" satisfaction defined as? Social life? Aiding society?
Fourth, what comprises a "traditional" research field? Academia? There are a finite number of academic jobs available, so while it may appear disproportionate, it should be no surprise that the growing grad population must seek employment elsewhere.
The idea of churning out more science grads, at least in the traditional sense, is preposterous. Yes, they are cheap labor that drives research forward, but those years of bench research leave them unprepared for the job market. If we're going to crank out more grads, programs must allow, if not encourage, students to seek out interdisciplinary opportunities.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

Ditto former_scientist's comments below, but I have an even more cynical take on the hypocrisy of these biannual "crisis in science grads" campaigns that have been going on now for at least several decades.  The whole structure of modern research assumes one PI with an army of low paid apprentices who actually do the work for the promise of their own career in science.  The larger the lab the better the chance of the PI achieving and keeping success.  Only magical thinking and a calloused attitude toward students and postdocs could make one consider that this is a sustainable model with any kind of future.  Only good side of this is that there are now so many unemployed PhDs that the hypocrisy becomes obvious to anyone with their head out in the open.

The actual motivation of these campaigns is to increase the number of visas for cheap labor training positions for foreign grad students and postdocs who actually have a chance of going back home and finding a good job waiting for them afterwards.  Domestic collateral damage of wasted lives is apparently acceptable.

If these pious promoters of increasing Phds were actually concerned about increasing domestic scientists and engineers they'd work to reform the sweat shop model of research work, remove the incentive for employing cheap labor, balance the number of graduate schools with the actual level of support and jobs for scientists and engineers, and find a better way of justifying visas than insulting us.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

This "shortage of scientists" dogma has been preached since I was an undergrad 34 years ago. Ever since I earned my PhD, I've fervently wished it were true - but it isn't. There has not been a shortage during my entire career and there probably never was before then. When I was hiring, I always had an abundance of qualified people from which to choose. The reality is that there are few positions and these are decreasing at an alarming rate in the US and Europe. Only those lucky enough to get into the very top academic groups will find good industrial research jobs upon graduation and even they will be markedly less employable within a few years. Pharma/biotech sees no value to experience and considers R&D to be a drag on their bottom line. I keep hoping this situation will reverse itself but it really appears that US/European pharma research is in a death spiral. If you want to do this research, you'd better speak Mandarin and be willing to relocate. Even if you are willing, good luck competing for a job in the China/India market. The truth is that scientific research is a dead end career in the US.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the issue, is it not possible that science and engineering grads have more job opportunities because they have more native intellectual ability as a group compared to the general population of workers?  In that scenario, gettting the degree is a confirmation of ability, rather than an indication that technical training is a better foundation for future jobs.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

Yet another study promoting the idea that we need additional STEM graduates. The sad truth is that jobs in scientific research (the S in STEM) are in a precipitous decline in the US. One need look no further than the turmoil in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields - the largest employers of organic chemists and biologists. I personally know several dozen well qualified PhD and MS level chemists and biologists with extensive publication/patent records (even approved drugs which they discovered) unable to find jobs. This is particularly true for scientists over age 45. Considering that most PhDs don't begin their non-educational careers until they are almost 30, this is an incredibly short career span and an enormous waste of talent. The situation for academic jobs is equally bleak with an all-but-impossible chance of securing funding and thus, tenure. No wonder science graduates pursue careers outside of science. Sadly, if you've gone on to graduate school and worked for more than a few years in research, you will find that employers don't think your narrow set of skills are applicable to the business world.
Inevitably, the authors of these types of "studies" are academics whose institutions have a vested interest in continuing to churn out more STEM graduates. The drumbeat is continued by politicians who have no concept of the scientific job market and employers who benefit from the cheaper labor that the current systems ensures.
I've enjoyed my career in science and dearly miss working in the laboratory. Nevertheless, I can not in good faith recommend that any bright young undergraduate pursue a higher degree in science. I wish I hadn't.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

"I've enjoyed my career in science and dearly miss working in the
laboratory. Nevertheless, I can not in good faith recommend that any
bright young undergraduate pursue a higher degree in science."

completely agree!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

I have some questions about this article and especially about this study.
Does "graduate" imply that someone has a BS or more advanced degree? If it is the latter, I would love to know the industries that are dying to have more PhDs, because my own experience has revealed a job market absolutely inundated with PhDs either fleeing academia or seeking refuge from pharma and biotech layoffs.
Second, I trust that science degree holders may ultimately receive a higher paycheck, but I doubt that it compensates for the hours that go into a traditional research career.
Third, what does "social" satisfaction defined as? Social life? Aiding society?
Fourth, what comprises a "traditional" research field? Academia? There are a finite number of academic jobs available, so while it may appear disproportionate, it should be no surprise that the growing grad population must seek employment elsewhere.
The idea of churning out more science grads, at least in the traditional sense, is preposterous. Yes, they are cheap labor that drives research forward, but those years of bench research leave them unprepared for the job market. If we're going to crank out more grads, programs must allow, if not encourage, students to seek out interdisciplinary opportunities.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

Ditto former_scientist's comments below, but I have an even more cynical take on the hypocrisy of these biannual "crisis in science grads" campaigns that have been going on now for at least several decades.  The whole structure of modern research assumes one PI with an army of low paid apprentices who actually do the work for the promise of their own career in science.  The larger the lab the better the chance of the PI achieving and keeping success.  Only magical thinking and a calloused attitude toward students and postdocs could make one consider that this is a sustainable model with any kind of future.  Only good side of this is that there are now so many unemployed PhDs that the hypocrisy becomes obvious to anyone with their head out in the open.

The actual motivation of these campaigns is to increase the number of visas for cheap labor training positions for foreign grad students and postdocs who actually have a chance of going back home and finding a good job waiting for them afterwards.  Domestic collateral damage of wasted lives is apparently acceptable.

If these pious promoters of increasing Phds were actually concerned about increasing domestic scientists and engineers they'd work to reform the sweat shop model of research work, remove the incentive for employing cheap labor, balance the number of graduate schools with the actual level of support and jobs for scientists and engineers, and find a better way of justifying visas than insulting us.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 25, 2011

This "shortage of scientists" dogma has been preached since I was an undergrad 34 years ago. Ever since I earned my PhD, I've fervently wished it were true - but it isn't. There has not been a shortage during my entire career and there probably never was before then. When I was hiring, I always had an abundance of qualified people from which to choose. The reality is that there are few positions and these are decreasing at an alarming rate in the US and Europe. Only those lucky enough to get into the very top academic groups will find good industrial research jobs upon graduation and even they will be markedly less employable within a few years. Pharma/biotech sees no value to experience and considers R&D to be a drag on their bottom line. I keep hoping this situation will reverse itself but it really appears that US/European pharma research is in a death spiral. If you want to do this research, you'd better speak Mandarin and be willing to relocate. Even if you are willing, good luck competing for a job in the China/India market. The truth is that scientific research is a dead end career in the US.

February 7, 2013

In the field of Exercise Science many bachelor's and even master's degree graduates go into non-science or change science fields due to salary or a low number of salaried positions available. Some go back to school to become a physical therapist assistant or another health care profession, some get into sales or managerial roles.

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