Mea culpa: About studying science to get a job

By Phil Plait | November 10, 2011 5:39 pm

This morning, I posted an article where, looking at a database from the 2010 Census, I concluded that your chances of getting a job are a lot better if you major in a science field. Four of the ten college majors with the lowest unemployment rates were science-related.

It turns out I made some errors in the post. One is a logical fallacy, the other in my structure and wording, implying something I didn’t mean to. These were pointed out to me by a reader who makes several valid points, but then falls into errors of his own. This is worth sorting out, so I want to take a moment to show what’s what.

I was taken to task about my post on Twitter by Noahpinion, who pointed out (in tweets here and here) that many fields of science had higher unemployment rates. I replied that the numbers he quoted (6-7%) were still below the national average.

That was a mistake on my part. Noah pointed out that I was using 9% for the national unemployment average, but that’s overall unemployment. A better figure to use would have been 5%, which is the unemployment rate just for college graduates! That is correct; I should’ve used the lower number.

I’ll note that this doesn’t change the point I was trying to make: that a large fraction of the college majors with the lowest unemployment numbers are science-based. But that’s where I think I made a bigger mistake.

In my zeal to write something short and pithy for Twitter (and the post headline), I made it sound like getting a science degree will guarantee you a job. "Want a job? Study science" is the headline, and it’s misleading. In the post itself I tried to make it clear that in reality, studying science (or at least the fields of science I listed — astronomy, pharmacology, and others) would increase your chance of getting a job. I even mentioned that you may not get a job in the field you studied, but I do think that getting a science degree prepares you better for the job market. If done correctly, you learn things like programming skills, writing, communicating, and so on. I said a lot of my friends got astronomy degrees and went into different fields that were related to their skills developed (though they had PhDs — which in some ways makes it harder to get a job… but that’s another story).

Anyway, Noah wrote an interesting article about this on his blog, pointing out where I went wrong. Fair enough. He says that what I am saying is that the problem with finding a job is on the supply side: we’re not training enough people with employable skills. He then says:

BUT, the story Phil is telling is just not right. Not right at all. It implies the same thing that many conservatives are saying openly – that the root of unemployment is on the supply side. That our high unemployment rate is simply due to the fact that we’re not teaching kids the right stuff, or maybe that kids are choosing wimpy majors.

This is certainly not at all what I meant, though after re-reading my post, I can see where someone might easily read that into what I wrote. I should’ve been more clear, and that’s my fault. Of course I understand that it’s not that there are jobs sitting out there unfilled, waiting for science majors to take them. I just didn’t say that specifically in the post, and I should have. I blew it.

However, I do disagree with what he says next:

Earth to Bad Astronomy: your short-list of fully-employed science majors is totally cherry-picked.

That is unfair. Cherry-picking is when you arbitrarily pick things that make your position look stronger, showing them out of context. I looked at the ten majors with the lowest unemployment rates; the only arbitrary thing is the cutoff I chose. As I looked down the list, past those ten, I saw plenty of other science-based majors. Ten seemed like a decent cutoff, and I did not pick it to make my position look better. So arbitrary, yes; but cherry-picked, no.

Then Noah says:

Overall, science and engineering majors are suffering right along with everyone else in the country, because that is what happens when we are in an economic depression. And all those astronomers who have plenty of jobs? Guess what: they’re employed because they work for the government. Yep, that’s right, the same government whose ability to provide employment Phil laughs at.

This is both incorrect and a gross misrepresentation of what I wrote.

Of course science majors are suffering along with everyone else. I never said otherwise. I did say, or at least tried to say, that some fields of science are clearly better choices if you want to maximize your chances in the job market.

I also take exception to Noah’s comments about the government. First of all, I didn’t "laugh at" the government, I was pointing out that certain ideologues in government want to suppress science and science education. That’s a huge difference! I also never mention the government’s ability to hire people, let alone laugh at it. If anything, I link to a post I wrote where I show that governments suppressing science (as Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal did) leads to losing jobs, or at least losing revenue.

In that sense, Noah is doing the same thing he accuses me of: over-generalization.

Second, he says that astronomers are employed by the government, but doesn’t give evidence for that. According to this site, the majority of astronomers work in academic fields; Universities and so on. Of course, many of them have NASA and/or NSF grants, but in many cases the funding comes from non-government sources. But these astronomers don’t work for the government, they work for academia.

And how does this matter, anyway? Whether the government is hiring, or private industry, those people who majored in those fields got employed, and that was my point in the first place.

So, to sum up:

I made some errors in that article. The biggest, I think, is that I implied strongly that getting a science degree guarantees a job. That is incorrect, and I’ll add an update to that post as soon as I’m done here. However, my case that getting a science degree, at least in certain fields, is beneficial to getting a job is still on the table. It would be interesting to pick some other field (the legal system, maybe, or engineering?) and see if the unemployment rates are comparable to that of science majors. Maybe all fields have some distribution of unemployment. However, and this is important, the fact still remains that of the ten majors that have lowest unemployment, a large fraction are science related.

There’s not much we as individuals can do to turn the economy around or create new jobs, but we can at least maximize our own chances of getting what jobs are out here. These numbers are an indication of how to do that.


Comments (45)

  1. Daniel Speyer

    While top 10 isn’t “cherry picked”, it isn’t a very good metric either. I bet the graduating classes in Astronomy and Geology are small (just based on what I remember from college). Smaller samples means more random variation. We can expect unpopular majors to dominate both the extremely-employed and the extremely-unemployed, and for that effect to be larger than the actual helpfulness of the degree in finding a job.

  2. NAW

    Cool man, it does take a lot to just up and say “I make a mistake.”

    Though sadly I am in the (while I do have a “job”) unemployed holders of a science degree. But I know the two major reasons I am having a hard time at it. One I did not do any of the summer internship programs, thinking that keeping my regular job was more important at the time. And two I didn’t not continue my education. Experience and a higher degree are important factors in getting that first foot in a door.

    And maybe a third reason is I was never top of the class. But as the saying goes just keep trying, if your ‘Joe Job’ can get you through a rough spot you may get that fair spot. (or something like that.)

  3. A more germane point might be that “employment” in sciences can mean anything. Usually it means real job. Sometimes it means making a few thousand as an adjunct. Any sources that says a field has 0% unemployment is suspect. I’m reminded of the study that said the average professional astronomer makes over $100k. It was clearly a sample that excludes postdocs.

  4. Snapp

    I’ve wanted to start a blog for months now, but I’ve been afraid – I’m a student, not a professional scientist (yet), I’ve always felt very vulnerable to error. Self-concious about it. Maybe I can’t communicate this well, but this post means a lot to me.

  5. Phil,

    I have some other issue with your numbers. Beside the small-sample statistics and other problems noted in the comments and elsewhere, I find it amusing that the best 8 unemployment rates are essentially in two fields: “be-very-good-at-math” and “education”. This to me means that (a) schools have been hiring a lot, for reasons that I am not interested in, and (b) perhaps not everyone can be an astrophysicist or an actuary. (By the way, why did you decide to ignore actuarial science? it is a science). You have not shown that a science education adds value on top of one’s SAT score. It probably does, but no more than the average degree. And if it does, then we are not teaching our kids the right stuff because there are never enough actuaries!

  6. Colin

    There’s still a clear error in the analysis.

    I spent two years studying as a physics major; then I switched to philosophy, and graduated with honors. I am now gainfully employed in finance. I actually think my studies in philosophy helped prepare for a job in finance particularly well, but that’s besides the point.

    The point is, what factors do you think determined why I am employed and why someone else is unemployed? It’s clearly not just the fact that I studied philosophy. Does the fact that I studied physics for two years mean anything? Does the fact that I graduated with honors? I think the fact that I studied physics for two years might mean something, and I wouldn’t be surprised if unemployment is lower for people who study physics for two years than for people who drop physics after one year….but it’s not b/c physics teaches you thinks that are ultra relevant for employment (or at least it’s not just b/c of that).

    There’s probably a big sample bias among actual physics majors (and likely would be physics majors) as compared to say humanities majors, generally speaking. Namely, I would guess that a greater percent of physics majors work really hard in college and are super interested in learning. I know there are a ton of humanities majors who work super hard and are interested in learning….presumably those characteristics are extremely well correlated with being employed (Note, from an official government statistics standpoint, the super hard working physics major who leaves a job to try to think about the universe for two years might not count as “employed,” but he also doesn’t count as “unemployed”).

    I completely disagree with the idea that physics entails harder work than humanities….but I completely agree that for a lot of people, it’s easier to get a B in a humanities class than to get a B in a physics class. There are probably less students who decide to major in physics without the intention of working pretty darn hard, while there are certainly at least some humanities majors who choose a major because they don’t want to work very hard. I think that characteristic of physics majors explains why they have been better at finding jobs. Maybe they are on average more intelligent too (e.g. they had higher IQ scores as incoming Freshman), and that could matter to employability too.

    Either way, I think it’s naive to tell someone that he will improve his chances of finding a job simply by switching from being an English Major to being a Physics major, while holding all other factors constant.

    If I’m wrong, I’d like to see the data to prove it (i.e. I’d like to see the regression btw unemployment and college major while controlling for all other relevant factors).

  7. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. 😉

    That said, I find myself in agreement with you more than anything. The way I see it, most Americans are too poorly educated (by their own volition) to be deserving of the type of job they think they should get.

  8. In my brief search the best majors including Math-Science, in most demand in 2011 following a Bachelor’s level degree:

    Math-Science Majors

    Engineering, Physics, Computer science/ Information technology, Information services,
    Medical services, Statistics, Biochemistry, Mathematics, and Geology.

    Other majors

    Business Administration, Economics, Construction Management

  9. Chris

    So I just switched majors for nothing! Now I have to switch back. The registrar is going to think I’m crazy!

    Kidding :-)

    @4 Colin
    I was thinking the same thing. I’ve known plenty of beginning science majors who when they got to college couldn’t cut it. They were maybe interested from some simple science, but in college they were overwhelmed with the math or some other issue. Just signing up to major in Astronomy doesn’t mean you’ll get a degree in astronomy. You have to be smart as well. And people who are smart and good employees tend to be the last ones they lay off. Of course smart hardworking people get laid off as well, it all depends on what the company is really doing.

  10. Melf_Himself

    How many years out of college were the survey participants?

    Your chances of getting a job, and your career development prospects, are much greater if you have a PhD. An undergraduate degree in science doesn’t mean much. On the other hand getting a PhD takes a long time and is obviously not for everybody, which is why I think your recommendation is a bit odd.

  11. Sam H

    K, all I’d like to know is how getting a PhD makes it “harder” to get a job – what’s the story there?? (FYI I’m still in high school, so I don’t know most of these things but should be learning them soon – very well could be useful knowledge in there :))

  12. ghgh

    To put my response to this post succinctly, “haters will be haters.” Mea culpa posts are appreciated, but try not to get too worked up over one guy misinterpreting you. You do good work here.

  13. Chris

    @9 Sam
    Well sometimes getting a PhD could mean you are way overqualified for a job. Also depending on what your specialty is, it can make it harder to find someone who is looking for you. I did my PhD in physical chemistry, but look in the job openings and it seems like 90% are looking for organic chemists. For those not in the know, even though they are both chemistry, they are quite different areas of research. The most atoms I ever dealt with was 4 in a molecule. But you’re young so you have many years to find your true path.

  14. Mike

    I graduated in 1973 with a degree in mathematics, which for some reason did not translate into a job in that field. However, the fact that I had a degree in math did get me in the door, because potential employers thought I could learn *anything*.

    Now I’m 60 years old. I have been in the IT field for 30 years, and in 2007 I decided to get a degree in IT. Did so. In 2009 I graduated with a degree in IT. Man oh man, did my wife throw me a party!!

    Anyway, that IT degree got me where I am today, self-employed because I got “riffed” one month after finishing my second degree. However, I’m happy…because I should have been self-employed all along. I have my own company and now make more money than I ever did as a senior network analyst.

    Bottom line…it doesn’t matter what you have a degree in…it’s your own self-worth that determines your fate.

    Reader, what’s your self-worth?

  15. Amanda

    When I went to school, I did 2 years of nuclear engineering and switched my major to atmospheric sciences. I am employed and have a very good job (no, im not a TV meteorologist… I have a much more stable job than that)…and the people I know who graduated with me that were very proactive in finding a job got one. All of my engineering friends got jobs. This was in 2008-2009 when the job market was dismal.

    In my personal opinion, a science/engineering/mathematics degree teaches you not only technical skills but problem solving skills. I think this is essential to having a job. Also, when I was in engineering they pushed team work and making sure you can solve difficult problems within teams. Do you see liberal arts majors doing this?? Not that I’m saying we should have people major in liberal arts, but in a job market like this I would tell anyone to steer clear of those fields for now unless you decide to go into a professional field (such as law).

    It’s obviously not as clear cut as “you study science, you will get a job”. However, I think the odds of studying something like physics versus political science increases your chances of getting a job. Just saying.

  16. VinceRN

    I just have to point out that students not being properly prepared and selecting wimpy majors is a very serious problem. It is not the only problem, but it really is a very serious one. Scientists and engineers from countries that don’t have that problem are coming here and getting jobs that locals just aren’t prepared for.

  17. NAW

    People calm down, what we need here is an ‘infographic’ and that will clear everything up. Maybe a 3D pie chart.

  18. Matt

    The old adage that my father (a statistics professor) told me that I (a professional engineer) now tell my kids is “Higher education and grades do not guarantee you employment, but they will provide you with more options.” Someone with a PhD in Physics can design rockets or load shelves at the local Walmart; the high school drop-out will have a tough go at having all of the same options available.

  19. Jeffersonian

    Conservatives are saying that unemployment is a supply-side problem, inferring that others do NOT say this? Unemployment is cause by a lack of demand? Makes no sense.

  20. Jack Sprocket

    When you choose a subject to study, with a view to employment, you need information less about the state of the market now, as the state in 5 years’ time, or however long it is until you finish. British educational policy has a track record of creating gluts of candidates based on an immediate need that has disappeared by the time the graduates trained expensively to fill that need are ready. From chemists in the 1960s, sociologists in the 70s, engineers (always the wrong sort!), business studies…

    This wasn’t so bad when the state picked up the tab, but now it’s at the student’s own expense, the results can be devastating.

  21. mcarson

    Thank you for going into detail about this. I’m trying to learn about economics by reading some of the better blogs, so I always click through when there is a chance to hear the other side. Your clear explanation, along with your lack of republican nonsense words, helps me to see these things from all sides.

  22. Colin Rosenthal

    I think the other Colin has a string point. One obvious difficulty with interpreting these kinds of numbers is correlation v. causation fallacy. Does studying science get you a job? Or is it that the kind of people who complete a science degree are more likely to have other marketable qualities?

  23. Josh

    Well, the point you are making is in some sense also that the employer thinks that someone with a physics degree will work harder than someone who did a humanities degree. Especially for you first job, you don’t have much to prove how hard you will work and afuture employer will have to go for what they think based on your diplomas.

  24. Nigel Depledge

    Phil, it’s great that you own up to making mistakes, but I think there’s another one, that has been alluded to in some comments already, but which I wish to state more plainly.

    People who choose sciencey majors might be more employable in the first place.

    Thus, the act of choosing a science major might be completely irrelevant. Instead, what might improve your chances of getting a job could be simply being the kind of person who would choose a science major.

    One can imagine all sorts of potential reasons why this might be so (e.g. people who choose sciencey majors might think in a way that suits certain levels of the corporate system, or they might be more interested in learning for its own sake, or they might be more hardworking in general, or whatever – I don’t know), and it may not be so at all. To resolve the question would require a far larger, more detailed and carefully-designed study than you have done.

  25. I studied engineering the first time around, which has kept me in steady and interesting employment (but which hasn’t made me rich, either).

    I wish I had spent more time in the ‘pure’ sciences as I’ve found them increasingly fascinating over the years, so I’ve gone back to take some more science courses part-time, just out of interest. (And I decided to do an MBA while I’m at it — about half done with that.)

    I think those early adult years are the best time to get a foundation in maths and sciences, as it takes a lot of time and effort that’s not so easy to achieve once ‘real life’ takes hold. Does this foundation help with one’s job prospects? Well, looking at the short supply and relatively high demand, I’d say ‘probably’.

  26. Tom

    I think you are so agitated about this because he called you a conservative. 😉

  27. Nigel Depledge

    Sam H (12) said:

    K, all I’d like to know is how getting a PhD makes it “harder” to get a job – what’s the story there??

    Because having a PhD makes you overspecialised – you can only expect to be employed within a pretty narrow field, unless you can demonstrate some related, transferable skill (for example, Phil is now a writer having started out with an astronomy PhD, but I suspect that he would not have been able to start out as a writer fresh from grad school, and I guess he would have found it hard to get a publisher were it not for his outreach work).

  28. Brian J. Parker

    As you often say about science, a willingness to admit mistakes is what makes your valid points that much stronger.

  29. Timmy

    That’s a problem with being the poster boy for critical thinking, Phil. You have to justify your comments and apologize for your mistakes. You can’t just ignore them or wuss out like anyone else …ahem… Ashton Kutcher.

    Also, any college program that challenges you to use your mind to analyze and not just memorize will make you a better employee.

  30. Al

    I don’t see all these supposed conservatives saying that the high unemployment rate is caused by not teaching kids the right things.

    While most conservatives whom I see and hear do believe that many kids are not being taught the right things (or at least not in the right ways—IOW, not in ways that gets results), what conservatives claim is a huge factor in the current high unemployment rate is actions and policies on the part of the federal and state governments that hurt the ability of job creators to grow and create more jobs.

  31. Takeru K

    Another thing to note is that the data for this study was taken from the general census data, according to the link to the online database. So, when this data was collected, it was not collected specifically for this “study”, but just collected for the sake of collecting data, so that later on, studies such as this one can “mine” that data to make comparisons.

    Consequently, this study covers a huge range of people, from those freshly out of college and those who graduated in the 70s or 80s etc. In addition, what if someone graduated with a degree in X, worked in the field for 20 years, then lost their job when they filled in the census…it would count as unemployed. As mentioned before, a job is a job, no matter the pay rate or whether the job is in the field of their major or not. Therefore, like Phil said, this is really a study of what skills will make you employable, not what fields have more job opportunities.

    Finally, there is a column in the full database that ranks the popularity of majors. Astronomy & Astrophysics is one of the lowest ranks there (i.e. least popular), signifying that the number of people on the census that identified themselves as an Astronomy/Astrophysics major could be pretty small. In fact, for several majors with 0.0% unemployment, the popularity is very low as well. So definitely could be some effect there too!

  32. Maria

    @28 I think your last point is key and it is what Phil seems to stress but wasn’t quite getting across. It’s that certain types of education prepare you to seize and to flourish in a much wider field of opportunities.

    It appears, according to that data and other data out there, that a degree in a scientific field, pursued in fullness, can offer an advantage. But it’s obviously not a certainty because one’s educational experience aren’t just what classes you take. It’s also what networking experiences you engage in, what volunteer activities you do, where your interests take you during that time. It’s also continuous and doesn’t end once you get a piece of paper and are shuffled out the door.

    Taking full advantage of your education doesn’t just make you a better employee, it will also make you a better boss, managers, negotiator, researcher. It enables you to see what’s out there, what opportunities exist, and can help in creating a company or collaboration to address opportunities.

    The right education can also “make you a better employee” for yourself as well. So it’s not just a matter of graduating and having a super job handed to you on a silver platter but creating the next employers. Critical thinking, analytic, macro and micro understanding, the ability to work and function with people or find those who can, and most importantly the ability to follow through on ideas, concepts, gut feelings, promises… all of this makes a person successful to ones self and as an member of academia, corporations, research institutes, business entities, or government institutions and agencies.

  33. Kudos for writing this apology!

  34. Daniel J. Andrews

    K, all I’d like to know is how getting a PhD makes it “harder” to get a job – what’s the story there??

    Several have answered saying a PhD makes you overly-specialized. As well, even if you’re not overly-specialized, employers may not hire you anyway for a variety of reasons. Cheaper to hire a less qualified person who can still do the job, you might get bored and leave for a more stimulating job, we can’t pay you as much so you’ll probably leave for a better paying job.

    There’s a glut of PhDs trying to get into academia (Nature recently had some articles on the PhD-mill), and most other jobs don’t require a PhD so it may work against you. And a PhD won’t necessarily mean you’ll get paid more (my old boss who has worked for the government (biology) is getting her PhD but it won’t add a penny to her paycheck–she’s doing it for herself).

    Sometimes if there’s a job you want, you have to delete some items from your resume. You don’t include every single job you’ve ever done, only the ones that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Same thing with your education. You don’t list it all…just the degrees that are relevant for the job you’re applying for.

    Having a PhD does make it easier to move up compared to an MSc or bachelors though once you do have a job (all other things being equal).

  35. Joseph G

    This post is particularly relevant to my interests, given my current situation in life. I’m recently unemployed, and reevaluating my career path, such as it is. Sadly, I haven’t even finished my Associates degree in over ten years of work. Technically, I have an education equivalent to that of your average high-school dropout (I left school early due to problems with clinical depression).

    The thing is, I’ve never gone to school full-time. My family could never afford it; I’ve been working while taking classes one at a time. After ten years of retail hell, I’m no closer to an actual career then I was at age 20.

    The bottom line is, I’m wondering if I should bite the bullet, take out a big loan, and go to school full-time. I could have a BS in three years. The only thing is, in my chosen field, IT, in many cases experience is often more important as a degree (one of the few fields where this is the case). I have several certs, though I definitely need more. That’s the other thing – often certs are the big deciding factor in this field.

    So I’ve been extremely torn lately: Should I just try to jump in on the bottom rung, keep trying to find an entry-level job at an IT firm with the limited credentials I have, foregoing a real education (possibly indefinitely – I honestly don’t think I can work and go to school at the same time), while gaining more experience, sooner? Or should I join the ranks of folks with giant student loan debts, but finally get the education I should have pursued ten years ago?

    Of course, in a way, this is all irrelevant, and I apologize, belatedly, for going so far off-topic. I assume that pretty much any career in actual science is going to require more then a Bachelor’s. Much as I love science, I don’t think I have the “stick-to-it-iveness” to pursue a higher education than that.

  36. Joseph G

    @31 TimmyL That’s a problem with being the poster boy for critical thinking, Phil. You have to justify your comments and apologize for your mistakes. You can’t just ignore them or wuss out like anyone else …ahem… Ashton Kutcher.

    Also, any college program that challenges you to use your mind to analyze and not just memorize will make you a better employee.

    This. Or rather, these (both points). Kudos for the correction, Phil, even as your underlying point still stands.

  37. Joseph G

    @#32 AL: what conservatives claim is a huge factor in the current high unemployment rate is actions and policies on the part of the federal and state governments that hurt the ability of job creators to grow and create more jobs.

    Which sounded plausible to me for awhile, until I looked at the people and industries that are making enormous profits (such as oil companies and financial institutions). They’re already getting all manner of subsidies and sweetheart deals, and their shareholders and owners have successfully lobbied for the continuation of the Bush tax cuts, which have been in effect for almost ten years now, to say nothing of neutering any climate change legislation, also in the name of enabling industry to create jobs.
    So, then, to the people insisting that job creation requires the implementation of Republican policies, I say simply: “Ok, you got what you wanted. Now where are all the damn jobs??

    Edit: I’m threadjacking like a mofo today. I apologize. Really, I do.

  38. Joseph G

    Wow, I think I singlehandedly killed the thread.
    I don’t quite know whether to feel mortified or accomplished.

  39. Barry

    Forest Noble: “In my brief search the best majors including Math-Science, in most demand in 2011 following a Bachelor’s level degree:

    Math-Science Majors”

    When I graduated with a Math major (1989, in a decent economy), I found out that ’employed math major’ = ‘math teather’ or ‘programmer’ (meaning a dual major). Having neglected to get a dual major, I was out of luck.

    However, I was employed – at my college job as a security guard – so I’d be part of the ~99% employed group.

  40. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or right. Enterprises, specially consultant and auditory companies, are now hiring people from the science and engineering areas rather than economy and management, because those people learn how to think throughout their graduation. Think critically and solve problems. Typically in management and economy they just know the language, while an engineer solves the problem right away.

  41. Andrew

    I studied science simply because it was the subject(s) that I enjoyed the most. I started off university doing a “safe” job degree, i.e. one that would practically guarantee paid full-time employment at the end of it, but was miserable as it was laborious and boring. I transferred to a bachelor of science as a wanted to study something I was passionate about without worrying about what job I would get at the end of it. In the end though, everything did seem to fall into place.

  42. Nigel Depledge

    The BA said:

    In the post itself I tried to make it clear that in reality, studying science (or at least the fields of science I listed — astronomy, pharmacology, and others) would increase your chance of getting a job. I even mentioned that you may not get a job in the field you studied, but I do think that getting a science degree prepares you better for the job market.

    But the data do not support even this conclusion. There is no correction for the type of people that choose science majors, so there’s a whole slew of extraneous factors that you have not ruled out.

  43. PhilB

    To add a supporting anecdote (and a second hand one at that):
    A friend of mine in Boulder received his Ph.D. in high energy physics at CU and immediately went into a career in finance(this was several years ago before the bubble burst). I recall him saying that the financial area he went into often specifically recruited people with graduate level physics experience due to the skills developed in working with and manipulating large volumns of data.


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