Want a job? Study science.

The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 10 2011 10:00 AM

Want a job? Study science.

[UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that some of the conclusions I draw in this post are in error. To help correct these, I have written a follow-up post. It might be best to read that one first, but if you read what's below first please do go and read that one as well, to clear up any lingering issues.]

Via my pal astropixie I heard of a database of college majors compiled by the Wall Street Journal based on the 2010 Census. Looking at people who took those majors in college, it lists their median incomes after finding a job, the popularity of that major, and perhaps most importantly given the situation these days, the employment rate for that major.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

I took a look, and listed the jobs by the lowest unemployment rate, asking, essentially, "Which jobs had the best chance of getting you a job after college?" Here's a screen grab of the top ten:

I highlighted one in particular: Astronomy and Astrophysics. Note that it has a 0% unemployment rate; in other words, last year everyone who majored in these fields got a job! Now, I find myself being a tad skeptical about this, but if there's some weird thing going on with this survey, I can at least make the broad assumption that the relative job numbers are probably OK. Majoring in astronomy is still a good idea, and will strengthen your chances of getting a job after college.

But look at the list more carefully. Ignoring actuarial science and pharmacology, three four of these ten majors are science-based (pharmacology, astronomy, atmospheric sciences, and geological engineering -- yes, that last is not technically a science, but is science-based). If we broaden our look to science and technology, the list grows longer (especially if you go beyond the top ten).

In other words: want a job? Study science. I'll note that the list doesn't say if the students got jobs in those fields, but in fact this strengthens my claim: learning science trains you in a way that makes you employable. I have friends who left astronomy after grad school and got jobs doing climate modeling, computer game server programming, economic forecasting, and more. Once you learn the methods of science, you're better prepared for working in other fields as well. I'm proof of that as well.

But here's the irony: a lot of folks in the government claim they are all about making sure Americans have job opportunities (although they seem to be maniacally spending most of their time worrying about other things). Yet many of these very same folks are doing everything they can to destroy science education in this country.

Interesting paradox, isn't it? If you want Americans to have good prospects out of college, find good jobs, and contribute to society, it seems to me that teaching science and technology are the very things you should be supporting most. And that's not the only reason; if you support antiscience, you might find businesses leaving your state, looking elsewhere for a place that's more reality-friendly.

In my opinion, we should be teaching everyone science because that is the same as teaching them reality. Everything we know and understand about the Universe is from science. We owe our lives to medical science, and we owe our economy to the technology it's birthed. But if you want a more concrete reason, now you've got one: science pays.

And when government turns its back on science, we all pay.



Related posts:


TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Books
Sept. 17 2014 10:36 AM MacArthur Fellow Alison Bechdel Recounts Telling Her Mother About Her Best-Selling Memoir MacArthur Fellow Alison Bechdel recounts telling her mother about her best-selling memoir.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 17 2014 11:06 AM Inside the Exclusive World of Members-Only Clubs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 11:14 AM How Does That Geometry Problem Make You Feel? Computer tutors that can read students’ emotions.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.