STEM majors, no matter where they work, in STEM fields or out, do better than other types of majors and tend to move into management pretty quickly," says Anthony Carnevale, a research professor and director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, which has published papers that point to a shortage of STEM grads. "Having experience in technical matters helps them land good non-STEM jobs. They might work in places like marketing or medical-device sales, where their technical backgrounds helped them get in."
So, even if there were no STEM worker shortage, it still might be a good idea to graduate more science and tech majors?
"That's about it," says Mr. Carnevale. "You have to produce STEM workers like crazy just to have enough of them in the work force. Unemployment rates for grads in those fields are lower than the overall national average for college graduates"—3.4 percent for computer and math grads, compared with an aggregate figure of 4 percent for all college grads, according to the Department of Commerce—so "STEM is still a place you go where you have a pretty good shot. But we don't want to overdo it. You don't want to pump a bunch of people out there who, in the end, have nothing to do."Because after spending 2 years in the lab, there's nothing a B.S. chemist or a biologist wants to do more than marketing or medical-device sales.
From IT trade association head Robert Atkinson, no expressed concern about downward wage pressure in IT/computer science (emphasis mine):
"There's no question that to keep our innovative edge, we need more people coming into technology fields," says Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, an advocacy group that receives the bulk of its funding from tech companies. It urges the federal government to widen the so-called STEM pipeline from school to work.
The wage issue shouldn't be used to discredit the idea of a worker shortage, Mr. Atkinson believes: "Companies can go overseas for workers, so wage growth in the U.S. is more limited." There will be work in IT for people with the right set of skills, he says, adding that lower wages probably won't keep them from accepting jobs.[stunned silence]
He also makes less modest proposals—ones that echo the United States' longtime love affair with machines and material progress. That includes a desire to funnel college students into what he calls "more useful" majors.
"We should be making some value judgments on what kind of people we'll need for the nation to move forward," Mr. Atkinson says. "The distribution of degrees right now is entirely up to students. Shouldn't we be steering them into degree types that are of more value to society, such as computer science or engineering? The American tradition is one of hard-core pragmatism. We're at risk of losing that, and we're in trouble now in regards to competitiveness."You know, I don't typically say things like this, but if Atkinson actually said this,
*UPDATE: 11/11/2013, 6:31 Eastern: While it may be a distinction without a difference, it was wrong of me and overly personal to refer to Mr. Atkinson as "stupid", as opposed to his statement. My apologies to Mr. Atkinson. Once again, though, I wildly disagree with his statement and its logic.