Monday, November 6, 2017

STEM is TE: job openings edition

Via the New York Times, a pretty nice comparison of degree production and potential job openings. Long-time readers of the blog will be familiar with the data - here's the Census Bureau's great visualization of it. 

12 comments:

  1. Although the article starts out strong, I have this nagging suspicion that "data science" will soon get saturated, so I am dubious when people trot it out as The Answer for those over-produced STEM PhDs. A few years ago I heard stories of STEM PhDs getting "data science" jobs without any qualification. Then they started having to go to these "boot camps" like the ones in the article. Now I'm seeing ads for degrees in data science. It seems like the trajectory is going from "Hot field that will take anyone who seems trainable" to "Field that wants to see some qualifications" to "Field that will soon require formal credentials." Which is pretty much what you'd expect as people flock to an opportunity and compete for it. Initially the employers can't be picky, then they can, then they can be REALLY picky.

    So while I'm glad to see that the NYT didn't fall for the STEM Shortage narrative, I'm disappointed that they fell for an over-hyped "solution."

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  2. Can someone explain the discrepancy between charts like this and the extremely low unemployment rate for PhDs in STEM? I see numbers at 2% and below. Are people just working outside of their training? If so, does anyone have data/reports that show people leaving/never getting STEM jobs?

    Here's an article I found that quoted low employment rate as determined by survey of earned doctorates: http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2016/05/employment-crisis-new-phds-illusion

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    1. I think a lot of it is due to people working outside their specialty. The job title and degree title don't always have a lot in common. On the one hand, it demonstrates that STEM degrees do indicate a certain amount of versatility and transferable skills. OTOH, it belies the notion that there's unmet demand for STEM-specific skills. In general, smart, versatile people who have been trained to meet challenges will have options. That doesn't mean we need to train as many people as possible in a very specific area.

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    2. Oh, and how many of those employed PhDs are adjuncts or long-term postdocs or whatnot?

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    3. Overall, it shouldn't be a surprise that STEM PhDs have a low unemployment rate. Here's the best, simplest chart that shows that as people get more education, their income level goes up and their unemployment rate falls: https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

      We don't really have a very strong sense as to what the initial unemployment or employment rates for new PhDs are (and that article is basically saying 'you shouldn't rely on the Survey of Earned Doctorates for that information'). Which is... fine, but I think the chief weakness of that article is that it fails to account for postdocs in the SED (and there are an awful lot of folks immediately divert to a postdoc.) Should a postdoc count as employment? I say no, other people say yes.

      Regarding the low unemployment rates dependent on the Survey of Doctorate Recipients - overall, I think the unemployment number is not particularly revealing, and questions of wages and or underemployment become more relevant.

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    4. I don't know how SDR calculates its unemployment rates, but the government only calculates unemployed people if they have been out of work for 6 months or less.

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    5. It would be useful to know how many people are working in a related field, like a chemical salesperson, and how many just gave up and got an unrelated entry-level job in a cubicle farm.

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  3. Somehow I don't think this will either slow down the incessant drumbeat for STEM education or reduce the number of STEM charter schools.

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  4. This table suggests it is not even "TE". It is just "T". Hadn't realized the "E" part is also massively overproducing labor too.

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  5. so the lesson for the observant boys and girls is to become an engineer or get into tech

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  6. Does anyone know of any resources about finding a non-traditional career? I'm currently looking for a job and at this point will consider anything--if you want to hire me, I'm listening. My training is in synthetic organic chemistry (I have my PhD), but after a nearly a year of searching I am no closer to a job than I was the day I started writing my thesis. I have a temporary research position right now, but unfortunately that will end in March and I need to find something else.

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    1. This could help:
      http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2010/08/11/if_youre_not_a_chemist_what_next

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