Politicians, policy makers, governors, and many others trumpet the need for STEM education to feed the STEM workforce. Despite such rhetoric and clamoring, the labor market is far more discriminating in the kinds of degrees it rewards. Data from College Measures show that employers are paying more—often far more—for degrees in the fields of technology, engineering, and mathematics (TEM). Evidence does not suggest that graduates with degrees in Biology earn a wage premium—in fact, they often earn less than English majors. Graduates with degrees in Chemistry earn somewhat more than Biology majors, but they do not command the wage premium typically sought by those who major in engineering, computer/information science, or mathematics.
...Because three states—Texas, Virginia, and Colorado—have sufficient numbers of students in large STEM fields, this study was able to explore the link between STEM education and first-year earnings.
Overall, data show that graduates with degrees in the fields of technology, engineering, and mathematics (or TEM) experience greater labor market success than graduates in other fields and that graduates with degrees in science-related fields (or S) do not generate any greater labor market returns than, for example, the non-STEM field of English Language and Literature....Obviously, I believe these numbers are true, but I would like a little more confirmation (not just 3 states' worth of data.) Nevertheless, I think this represents a core challenge to both academics and those concerned about the chemical enterprise as a whole. If young chemists are earning consistently less than young professionals in other fields, why should young chemists stay chemists? (Love of the field, I guess.)