The Value of a STEM Education In Today’s World
The path to a rewarding career is an uphill battle. When a person begins their college education, the preparation for achieving their dream career also begins. A college education is an important factor in economic and career trajectory. Furthermore, the demand for candidates with college degrees is expected to increase in the future; which has led to overtime, an increased interest of high school graduates who plan on continuing their education at a 2 year or 4 year institution. Thus high school graduates and college students believe that investing in their future by obtaining a college degree is essential for increasing their earning potential and improving job prospects. The value of a college education has never been more important and the close relationship between college attainment, employment prospects, salaries, and job satisfaction is stronger than ever.
Although, there is plenty of evidence that a college degree is in fact worth it, the question then becomes is majoring in liberal arts more beneficial than STEM and vice versa. The soft skills advantage argues that the curriculum generally does a better job of improving their graduates’ soft skills in the following areas of problem solving, critical thinking and communication, which employers demand in the labor market. Liberal arts education prioritizes interdisciplinary learning which gives students the ability to thrive and develop soft skills which translates to many different career fields. Furthermore, as society transitions into the digital age, more soft skills are essential to fixing the problems that technology cannot compute alone.
However there is no doubt that STEM careers make a difference in society; ever since the Cold War, when the U.S and the Soviet Union both encouraged students to go into STEM fields in order to expand their militaries and industries. Today, due to globalization, there is a new drive to create advancements in technology, infrastructure, transportation and medicine- to name a few. According to the study “Occupational Employment Projections to 2018,” conducted by T. Alan Lacey and Benjamin Wright from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “it is projected that by 2020, a 34% increase in professional, scientific, and technical services will take place.”
Hence, current economic conditions as well as the supply and demand of candidates with particular degrees and skills are also important factors that influence career trajectories. According to the study, “How Liberal Arts and Science Majors Fare in Employment,” conducted by Debra Humphreys and Patrick Kelly, “currently demand in the labor market for graduates in engineering and some professional fields, including health-related fields dramatically exceeds supply, while demand for most graduates in liberal arts and science fields is roughly even with supply.”
However, STEM is more in demand than the liberal arts because our world depends on it. The economy and our general well-being is supported by science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM jobs are abundant and growing in which professionals working in STEM fields are less likely to be unemployed than their non-STEM counterparts. Employers are eager to hire candidates who can problem-solve and think analytically which are skills at the core of STEM curriculum. The heavily globalized economy is in need of candidates who possess the knowledge and skills that drive innovation. The candidates who have brought innovation to the table are those equipped with science, technology, engineering and math abilities. Due to the important role that STEM-related skills play in the advancement of new technologies and the continuance of economic progress, potential candidates are encouraged to develop STEM skills needed in the workforce while in school.
Another important debate is whether liberal arts degrees or STEM degrees provide the best return on investment. The soft skills advantage argues that earning a degree from a liberal arts college pays off in the long run which is shown in the study “ROI Liberal Arts Colleges Value Adds Up Over Time,” conducted by Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah and Martin Van Der Werf, from Georgetown University. According to the study, “the median return on investment for a liberal arts college degree is 40% below other colleges 10 years after graduation,” however, “after 40 years the ROI on a degree from a liberal arts college is 25% higher than all other colleges.” The soft skills advantage further argues the increase in ROI is due to the value of soft skills and credentials becoming more prominent by employers over time.
However, according to the study “Career Corner: The Value of a STEM degree,” conducted by Youngstown State University, “STEM majors earn on average $43,000 upon entering the workforce compared to all majors which comes in at $33,000.” Furthermore the study projected that STEM majors also see the largest wage growth over the course of their careers. The study also reported that when it comes to job prospects for recent grads, “newly minted engineers have been the most heavily recruited and highest paid in the class of 2012, with a median salary of $58,581; followed by computer scientists at $56,383.”The problem-solving capabilities of engineers and computer scientists put them in demand across the U.S economy. Thus careers associated with STEM are the highest paying and offer the best opportunity to pay off student loan debt.
STEM fields are more substantial than the liberal arts because they bring more value to society. A more STEM-proficient generation will help move our country forward. STEM careers promise stable and high-paying employment for graduates amongst the rapid advancement in technology. STEM advocates point to the high number of unemployment amongst liberal arts majors but liberal arts advocates claim that a deep understanding of the humanities and the development of soft skills are just as important. However, there needs to be more emphasis placed on STEM subjects because we live in a technological world that requires technical skills in order to continue functioning. Due to the fact that technology is in almost every aspect of life and as the work environment changes, STEM knowledge and skills grow in importance for a variety of workers in the labor market.
Carnevale, A. P., Cheah, B., & Van Der Werf, M. (2020). ROI Liberal Arts Colleges Value Adds Up Over Time. Retrieved April 11, 2020, from https://1gyhoq479ufd3yna29x7ubjn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/Liberal-Arts-ROI.pdf
Humphreys, D., & Kelly, P. (2014). How Liberal Arts and Science Majors Fare in Employment. Retrieved April 11, 2020, from https://www.mass.edu/foradmin/trustees/documents/HowLiberalArtsandSciencesMajorFareinEmployment.pdf
Lacey, A. T., & Wright , B. (2010, December 22). Occupational Employment Projections to 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2020, from https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2009/11/art5full.pdf