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Guest Blog: Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce finds STEM fields are a more lucrative and secure career option

March 5, 2012

This is a post in the STEMConnector™ Guest Blog Series, featuring Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale and Nicole Smith of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

“High School’s graduating class of 2012 will soon be heading off to college. It is a good time for these students to choose a major and field of study. Recent studies show that students who enter a program of study early on have a much greater chance of completing a credential than those who don’t.


Entering a STEM field is a lucrative with apposite job security career option. Across education levels, STEM graduates earn 50 percent more than their peers over their lifetime and have lower rates of unemployment. Our most recent report, Hard Times, shows that experienced engineers earn an average of $81,000 per year compared to $48,000 across Bachelor’s degrees.


Moreover, those who majored in STEM have weathered the recent recession and tough labor market better than their counterparts. For example, recent college graduates who majored in Engineering have maintained a 7.5 percent unemployment rate compared to degrees in the arts (11.1 percent) and the humanities (9.4 percent). STEM-capable students earn more, irrespective of what career pathway they choose. And increasingly, STEM competencies are demanded beyond traditional STEM employment into managerial jobs and healthcare fields making STEM competencies highly desirable across a broader swath of job definitions.


The future of the United States rests heavily on the development of a high-level skills workforce that can compete in the global market. Unfortunately, due to diversion (students and workers steering away from the field) our economy is forced to rely on foreign-born STEM workers. Currently 17 percent of all STEM workers and 25 percent of Physical Scientists are foreign-born.


Many students have the talent to succeed in a STEM field, and studies show that the U.S. produces plenty STEM talent, but more than 75 percent don’t enter STEM majors. Our research shows that of those who start out in STEM majors in college, 38 percent drop out of STEM and transition to another field – not as a result of ability, but differing interest and values.


There are several reasons for STEM diversion, cultural stereotypes and other misperceptions contribute to the trend. Ultimately, students should study something that interests them and aligns with their values. But, counselors, parents, and advisors must ensure that new college students understand the benefits of studying and entering a STEM occupation. Information about the benefits of the field might be the strongest tool for breaking common STEM stereotypes.”


The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute that studies the link between education, career qualifications, and workforce demands

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