Of those that graduate with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees 43% end up working in other fields. Those figures are from an infographic that draws on reporting from The New York Times and a study from Georgetown University. The statistics paint a dismal picture.
According to The Times: “Studies have found that roughly 40 percent of students planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree. That increases to as much as 60 percent when pre-medical students, who typically have the strongest SAT scores and high school science preparation, are included, according to new data from the University of California at Los Angeles.”
What can be done about it? According to the Times, most STEM majors drop out because the courses are too hard. But the solution might not be dumbing the courses down, but moving towards a more project oriented and less lecture driven model. That may help those that are already good at the fundamental elements of STEM to stay engaged. And increasing demand and salaries for STEM graduates may reduce the number of STEM graduates going into other fields. But what about students who never pursue STEM careers in the first place? According to one study 30-60% of students fail their first computer programming course. There have been various attempts to improve the way these courses are taught and as of 2006 they have come up short. It could be that if there’s anything to be done, it will have to be done at the K-12 level.
Also, schools need to do a better job of convincing girls that they are not biologically inferior when it comes to mathematics. Here’s another infographic:
(hat tip: Data Science 101)