STEM employment myth

Science and math degrees do not guarantee work after college.

by Ronald Dixon

If you are enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, you have probably been lectured by parents, former teachers, friends, relatives or even online trolls that your degree will guarantee you a position at the local fast-food restaurant.

These snide remarks are often presented by those who are pursuing a degree in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields. As the “lazy” and “degenerate” CLA students pursue “useless” degrees, or so they say, the “intelligent” and “hard-working” STEM students will land jobs that will pay much more than the average wage.

A recent study, however, dispels this myth.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, universities are producing approximately 50 percent more engineers than the market is demanding. Furthermore, as liberal arts students have long faced the reality that they will more than likely work in a field that is unrelated to their major, many STEM students are also taking jobs in other fields that are unrelated to their degrees.

As the economy only makes modest gains in employment, hiring is slowing down in almost every industry. STEM fields are not an exception to this economic reality.

What does this mean? I don’t wish to argue that STEM fields are not worthwhile collegiate options, but the STEM myth should be dispelled from the cost-benefit analysis of college.

In general, college degrees offer skills and credentials that increase the probability of obtaining a career. Moreover, a college education, particularly the specific study of the humanities, develops students into well-rounded individuals.

When high school and college students decide what they would like to study, they should not be deterred by condescending attacks against the humanities or the unfair proclamations against the students who have passions for non-science or non-business areas. They should be informed that with any college major they may need to accept employment in an unrelated field. As a CLA student, I have accepted this reality and do not mind a desk job if it means a decent standard of living. STEM majors must also realize that the almighty market doesn’t come with guarantees.