Missing the point, again – we don’t need more math/science majors, we need to make their career paths more clear.
Today’s discussion comes via an article on the BBC, discussing yet another study claiming that the government needs to push to increase enrollment in science, math, and programming majors. In this case, the Livingston-Hope report comes from the visual FX / video games industry, and the complaint is as it has been – there aren’t enough physics and math majors, or enough computer science majors, to fill the positions they have available.
I’ve heard this same complaint from industry a few times, and when I see the poor job prospects and poor responses typical of a fresh-from-school graduate in CS or physics or math looking for work, I wonder where the disconnect is coming from. The complaint I hear over and over and over again from colleagues in academia is that they, or their students, can’t find fulfilling work, that they can’t find that first post-college job to get their foot in the door. This is true both for undergrads and especially those with PhDs.
The reality is that many people who go through the process of studying science strongly recommend against following in their footsteps – the job prospects are often poor, and the opportunity cost is high. If you want to fix science enrollment, focus on fixing science jobs. And if you’re in industry and can’t seem to find qualified scientists to work for you, look internally at your recruiting process first. There are an awful lot of scientists and programmers out there who are severely under-employed, frustrated at their lack of opportunity to put their valuable skills to work. Before you worry about increasing enrollment, find good jobs for those who have already put in the time.