It’s The Money, Dummy

I keep hearing news program after program and article after article detailing the need and desire for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates. However, when I talk to my seniors about future careers I hear two basic career paths: finance and social services. The kids typically talk about getting wealthy in business or helping other people.

A Washington Post article summed up this entire issue with the following statement:

“There are plenty of frustrations [in STEM careers], and not a lot of financial rewards, at least not the type that U.S. kids are aware of, based on their familiarity with the income of sports and entertainment figures.”

STEM students and professionals, according to the article, are “profoundly curious” and “excited” about discovery and human improvement. This does not describe what I hear from students.

Maybe STEM careers suffer from I what I saw in my initial foray into archaeology; people in anthropology spent the majority of their time seeking funding through grants and donations rather than actually working full time on their professed love of the sciences.

I left the field partway through my college studies after experiencing this first-hand. I did not want to spend the bulk of my time trying to find funding. I don’t even like the paperwork I have now much less the grant writing I would have had in a scientific field.

If society needs people to enter certain careers, then society may need to reward those who enter those professions.


2 thoughts on “It’s The Money, Dummy

  1. Indie Teacher

    I’ve seen the same thing from my students. I even lived it myself. I was the high school senior who wanted the high-paying job in business/finance, so I can say–at least anecdotally–that kids’ priorities can change.

    But more to the point, I disagree with the premise of the Post article you reference. I don’t have solid numbers to back this up, but again anecdotally, most of the scientists and engineers I know are compensated quite handsomely, at least relative to the rest of the population.

    I would make this argument about humanities and education instead. It’s hard to make the ol’ “national security” argument against being underprepared in the humanities, but I worry that we’re raising a nation of dehumanized financial professionals. Perhaps that’s part of the explanation for how we got into the mess we’re in. And it goes without saying that changing such a culture starts with parents–and teachers.


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