Students do not study the fields that might pay the most?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

I am ambivalent about this post. It seems to imply that STEM fields pay more than the arts. But funding for science has been cut dramatically over the last 40 years, and many engineering jobs have left the country due to the decline in industrial employment. STEM wages have been stagnant for decades. That people should prefer STEM careers is non-obvious. If there was real demand for STEM workers, we would see large wage increases in STEM fields, and clearly that is not happening.

All the same, it is interesting to consider the possibility that students are overlooking some lucrative careers in favor of stuff thats fun:

So what has happened since 2009? The good news is that enrollment in STEM fields has increased dramatically. The number of graduates with computer science degrees, for example, has increased by 34%, chemical engineering degrees are up by a whopping 49.5% and math and statistics degrees have increased by 32%.

The bad news is that we are still graduating more students in the visual and performing arts than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined. As I said in Launching nothing wrong with the visual and performing arts but those are degrees which are unlikely to generate spillovers to society.

We are also graduating more students in communications and journalism than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined and more students in psychology than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined. Here’s what I said about psychology:

In 2009 we graduated 94,271 students with psychology degrees at a time when there were just 98,330 jobs in clinical, counseling and school psychology in the entire nation. The latter figure isn’t new jobs — it’s total jobs!

Despite these problems, the number of psychology degrees conferred annually has increased since 2008-2009 by an astounding 21.4%! Visual and performing arts degrees have increased by 9.7% and communication and journalism degrees are up 8.1%. Do you think that jobs in these fields have gone up by equal percentages?

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