Why You Should Major in a Hard Science

A recent report from Georgetown University shows that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers can offer many benefits, perhaps more than were previously thought. Education Insider takes a look at the reasons why students might want to seriously consider majoring in one of these areas.

By Jessica Lyons


Higher Earnings

As part of a study recently released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, researchers looked at how the earnings of those with STEM-related degrees compared to others. The results may surprise you. Of STEM workers with a bachelor's degree, 65% made more than non-STEM workers who hold master's degrees. Additionally, 47% of STEM workers had higher earnings than workers with Ph.D.s. The report also found that even workers who earned certificates in the STEM disciplines tended to make more money than degree holders in other areas.

Along with out-earning the higher-degreed, individuals in STEM careers were also more likely to receive compensation above the average for their own level of education. For instance, 75.4% of STEM workers with less than a high school diploma reported above-average earnings, while only 39.2% of non-STEM workers did so.

'STEM earnings advantages are high and growing faster than wages for similarly educated workers - except workers in healthcare professional and managerial and professional occupations,' the researchers wrote. The report also noted that 'When compared with all other majors, STEM majors (with at least a Bachelor's degree) do relatively well and have the potential to earn over $500,000 more than other majors over a lifetime.'

More Employment Opportunities

A July 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) said that in 2010 one out of every 18 workers held a STEM job. The report also explained that STEM employment opportunities are expected to increase more than opportunities outside the field. While non-STEM jobs only grew 2.5% from 2000-2010, STEM careers increased 7.9%. Through 2018, STEM jobs are predicted to rise by 17%, as opposed to only 9.8% for other fields.

Less Unemployment

Job security is always an important factor in choosing a career, and the ESA reports that 'STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness than their non-STEM counterparts.' In 2010, non-STEM workers experienced a ten percent unemployment rate, while for STEM workers that rate was 5.3%.

A Field to Consider

Higher pay, more job opportunities and a lower risk of unemployment are three good reasons to consider pursuing a STEM job. You certainly shouldn't become a STEM worker if you can't stand the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but if you're already interested in these subjects, it could be a good career move. Not only could you work in a field you enjoy, but you might be able to reap some great benefits, too.

Possible Majors and Careers

There are many different majors you can choose if you decide the STEM field is right for you. According to ESA, just some of your options include applied mathematics, biochemical science, computer engineering, computer science, ecology, general engineering, genetics, information science, military technologies, neuroscience, physics and zoology. There are also many different jobs you might end up in. They include computer scientist or programmer, software or database engineer, mathematician, statistician, food, environmental, physical or chemical scientist and aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, mechanical or nuclear engineer.

Still not sure what to major in? If you're a student in Florida, waiting to decide could cost you more money.

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