Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Why Science Is a Lousy Career Choice

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the science-keeps-blinding-me dept.

Education 694

Hugh Pickens writes "President Obama had a town hall meeting at Facebook's headquarters last week and said that he wanted to encourage females and minorities to pursue STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). However, Pastabagel writes that the need for American students to study STEM is one of the tired refrains in modern American politics and that plenty of people already study science, but they don't work in science. 'MIT grads are more likely to end up in the financial industry, where quants and traders are very well compensated, than in the semiconductor industry where the spectre of outsourcing to India and Asia will hang over their heads for their entire career.' Philip Greenspun adds that science can be fun, but considered as a career, science suffers by comparison to the professions and the business world. 'The average scientist that I encounter expresses bitterness about (a) low pay, (b) not getting enough credit or references to his or her work, (c) not knowing where the next job is coming from, (d) not having enough money or job security to get married and/or have children,' writes Greenspun. 'Pursuing science as a career seems so irrational that one wonders why any young American would do it.'"

cancel ×

694 comments

Finance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931312)

If you want to get rich, go into finance. Any position that lets you handle money and take your cut.

Think before making your career choice (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931340)

Think. Which job position will get outsourced more likely? Engineering or managing? Before you answer, consider: Managers make that decision.

Do I need to write anything more?

Re:Managers make that decision (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931434)

Wait, did 10th grade call asking for the In Crowd back while sticking nails in the tires of Nerds?

Re:Think before making your career choice (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931770)

This demonstrates the common strategy to achieve failure:

But the problem is more general than one of outsourcing.

As a company grows, it grows from a few engineers to engineers plus managers, to engineers plus managers plus managers of managers.

As a company shrinks, it often shrinks from the bottom, because the decision power is top down.

So a common failure state is a company full of managers, with no-one to do the work.
The upside down pyramid structure will inevitably fall.

Whether staff is reduced or outsource, the result is the same.

Of course with outsourcing, the pretense is that the US management can sit on top of a larger remote pyramid, but eventually either the remote headless pyramid fails because of missing local management, or the remote pyramid becomes the company because it is effectively self contained.

Re:Think before making your career choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931792)

The answer is obvious of course. But what happens when the only thing left that a country can do is "manage?" Does anyone seriously believe that once the means of production and innovation are no longer under one's control that one can possibly hope to "manage" it long until the people in the location who have the means of production and innovation decide that they're just as fit to manage as the idiots on the other side of the ocean?

Re:Think before making your career choice (4, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931824)

If car manufacturing in the UK is anything to go by, the cycle works a bit like this:

1. Companies outsource manufacturing to cheap overseas country.
2. Manufacturing more-or-less collapses in UK.
3. The UK now has a large number of skilled workers who have experience building cars and a shortage of work for them. It's fair to assume they'll work for slightly less than they used to demand, and shipping cars is remarkably expensive. So a number of foreign manufacturers set up factories in the UK.
4. Manufacturing brightens up - though the factory owner is no longer a British company.

Examples: BMW manufacture the Mini in the UK. (They also manufacture a number of engines. Yes - the UK ships car engines to Germany for BMW cars!)

Toyota, Honda and Nissan also have factories in the UK.

what's really going on? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931346)

Is it really that we have too many scientists, or just that we have too many mediocre science grads who don't realise that the quality of their degree comes nowhere close to matching that expected of the science graduate even two or three decades ago?

And of course Obama, and any member of the ruling elite, wants more people in a technician role. Supply up; wages down. It's only a matter of time the middle class is eroded sufficiently that onshoring's time will come.

Re:what's really going on? (4, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931388)

doesn't matter how mediocre they are, why get 1 mediocre scientist in America thats going to bitch and whine about pay, when you can get 5 mediocre scientist in India who will suck your ass for cheaper all together

Re:what's really going on? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931488)

And these days, that Chinese or Indian scientists will probably be of higher calibre than the American. There are still some excellent American STEM grads, but on average, their quality has been on the decline for at least a few decades.

Guess what, America? If someone else is willing to do your job for a quarter of what you are, well, they are going to get the job and you aren't going to. That's what you get for pricing yourselves out of the market. There's nothing wrong with that - it's simple economics. Either you compete with the world's best, or you suffer the loss of those industries and all that they bring to your economy.

America has made it's choice: STEM is not worth the bother. That's a valid choice to make. Over the next decades you will get to experience the consequences of your choice.

Re:what's really going on? (5, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931588)

And these days, that Chinese or Indian scientists will probably be of higher calibre than the American.

You obviously don't work in the sciences.

Re:what's really going on? (3, Interesting)

ThatMegathronDude (1189203) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931682)

Those Chinese or Indian scientists are likely to have been educated over here.

Re:what's really going on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931798)

Those Chinese or Indian scientists are likely to have been educated over here.

And have such an 'flexible' notion of academic honesty that most of them cheated and plagiarized their way into their American graduate programs.

Re:what's really going on? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931684)

I can assure you that those scientists will produce excellent results.

(Just don't look at the data too closely.)

Re:what's really going on? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931898)

"And these days, that Chinese or Indian scientists will probably be of higher calibre than the American. "

In my experience that isn't the case. Sure I've met some brilliant scientists from both China and the US, but quality of the Chinese graduate students is dropping since the process for Chinese students to come to study in America used to be more of a meritocracy. These days there are many more opportunities for those who are well connected than in decades past, and I've seen some markedly unimpressive party princelings/princesses come over. It shouldn't be surprising either: science and engineering (and higher education in general) are status symbols in China just like they used to be here. The higher the degree at the higher-ranked university, the better. China has a growing middle and upper class with much more wealth than 20 years ago and they are able to send their kids over here to study*. The numbers are swelling and the proportion of the truly gifted is dropping. Chinese students aren't coming for just graduate school anymore either. There's a growing trend of the wealthy to send their kids over for undergraduate studies, just like in the past wealthy Americans sent their kids off to Europe.

*In the sciences there's often a "deal" given to cash-strapped American professors: the Chinese government will pick up 25% of the tab as long as the student comes straight back to China after they finish their degree. I know of several profs who vacation in China where they're treated like rock stars wining and dining with party officials and industrialists (but I repeat myself) and come back with another recruit every year. These trips are also the perfect opportunity for people to take advantage of their connections and get their kids over here.

Re:what's really going on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931660)

When CEOs make several hundred times the money that their underlings make, you bet the underlings are going to complain. Yes, you can get cheaper scientists overseas, but guess what: They also make managers over there. If you starve the home market, then your services won't be needed anymore. China and India will not outsource management jobs either. Share the wealth with your fellow countrymen or lose it.

Re:what's really going on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931776)

The CEO making 100X the workers doesn't really matter very much. Consider a typical Fortune-500 company with 100,000 employees. If you eliminate the CEO salary entirely, you can give everyone else a 0.1% raise. Big whoop.

A good CEO is worth more than that in steering the company in the right direction. Of course, a bad CEO can do that much damage...

Re:what's really going on? (1)

Cidolfas (1358603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931938)

A good CEO is worth more than that in steering the company in the right direction. Of course, a bad CEO can do that much damage...

And traditionally, they get pay raises either way.

Re:what's really going on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931546)

You are supposed to remove the tin foil hat before posting. Please do so in the future.

Re:what's really going on? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931634)

What it a simple observation on the quality of university education (i.e. the simple fact that what never would have counted as a university education in the past does count as one today) that made you think I was wearing a tin foil hat? Or did the basic implementation of free market principles bother you?

Re:what's really going on? (2)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931650)

or just that we have too many mediocre science grads

If that were the problem, you would expect the mediocre ones to be the ones leaving science due to not being able to get jobs, but that's not the case. If you look at the science people working in finance, they're mostly Ivy League. They aren't leaving science because they can't find jobs in science. They're leaving because they can have a much better life doing something else. Society benefits greatly from scientific discoveries, often for many decades after the scientists making the discoveries are dead, but society values scientists very little. Scientists that are flexible enough to do something else eventually figure this out and leave science.

Re:what's really going on? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931800)

This applies to a tiny minority of science grads - it's the Ivy League / Oxbridge label that gets you the job there, not the degree. The reason most science grads aren't going into science isn't because they have such an amazing alternative waiting for them.

And a science grad who runs to finance at the first opportunity is not necessarily going to make a good scientist.

The basic point is: our science grads aren't good enough.

Because we're passionate about it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931348)

That's why.

Re:Because we're passionate about it (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931724)

I'm confused. I've been told that environmental scientists do it for money not because they care about the science! Now I'm hearing they don't make much of that. My world view is crumbling!

Dont forget.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931354)

long hours, potentially hazardous working conditions (get splashed with 1 mol sulfuric acid.), and heavy work loads.

Yeah, there is a reason I gave up my career and degree in chemistry for IT.

Re:Dont forget.... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931746)

long hours, potentially hazardous working conditions (get splashed with 1 mol sulfuric acid.), and heavy work loads.

Yeah, there is a reason I gave up my career and degree in chemistry for IT.

Presumably that reason is the hazardous conditions; surely you still get the long hours and heavy work load. And no respect.

Re:Dont forget.... (1)

macwhizkid (864124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931838)

long hours, potentially hazardous working conditions (get splashed with 1 mol sulfuric acid.), and heavy work loads.

Yeah, there is a reason I gave up my career and degree in chemistry for IT.

Long hours of menial tasks (how many times is it possible to jam the same printer anyway?), angry users (not my fault you didn't backup), and heavy work loads.

Yeah, there is a reason I gave up my career in IT and got a degree in physics.

Reward (3, Insightful)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931364)

The reward of solving a problem through hard work and proper application of knowledge is the feeling at the end. That is why young American's still choose to do it. There are a number of hurdles to get addicted to that feeling, not the least of which is that I can probably make more money doing something else.

Because hedge fund managers are asshats (4, Insightful)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931370)

That is my main reason for sticking to Engineering.

Sales guys, stock brokers, marketing people... Those positions are not rewarding, and you have to leave your soul at the door. Science, Engineering, Construction, Mechanics are the jobs for me. Always will be. I couldn't live with myself knowing that my livelyhood came on the back of others, earned by shiesting a percentage out of something I didn't build because I shuffled some paperwork and talked on the phone. Those people live empty soulless lives. They cheat on their partners. And they drive like assholes on the freeway.

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931510)

Jesus christ, finally I know what industry to direct my hate at for the series of douches driving 60 in the left lane, going the exact same speed as the guy they're right next to in the center lane. Now that I know where they work I can pay to have them forcibly entered. In the butt.

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931696)

I used to live in a commuter town outside London full of people who worked in finance in the City. I can totally confirm that they drive like asshats; either they're 'I'm super-important and must get somewhere and everyone else must get out of my way' or they're driving their Ferrari at 40mph in a 60 limit.

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (1)

no1nose (993082) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931618)

That sums it up quite nicely. That paragraph nearly brought tears to my eyes. Too bad we are the backs, those soulless beings live off :-(

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931714)

Been working IT at for an insurance firm in the big city for the past 3 years and I've come to realize this more and more everyday. I think this statement just gave me enough motivation to call it quits and head back to the country and pick up a job in ag science back in my home town. Screw money. I hope it buys you all the happiness you've ever desired. My happiness is drawn from things that can't be bought with money.

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (1)

DittoBox (978894) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931830)

What kind of twisted, self-righteous bullshit is this? I've known plenty of underhanded, socially-maladjusted, smarter-than-thou, back-stabbing engineers in my short time here. Explain that.

If you're going to start throwing out anecdotal crap as evidence to justify your blind hate for people with other talents than yourself you might as well give up. I'd expect a man of science such as yourself to at least try harder.

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931916)

Another way of describing it: Sales guys, stock brokers, marketing people, managers, accountants, and a lot of other people are professional liars. They operate in an environment where people are constantly lying to them, and they in turn are constantly lying to others. When you're lying at least 40 hours a week, then lying to your friends, family, spouse, or children becomes a lot easier.

Engineers, scientists, etc by contrast are in an environment where attempts at lying will likely be caught very very quickly.

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931918)

Correction: It's hedge fund managers' drivers who drive like assholes, not hedge fund managers themselves.

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (1)

tacokill (531275) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931920)

....but they never, and I mean never generalize.

Re:Because hedge fund managers are asshats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931926)

Jeez.. a random hate-filled rant marked 5: Insightful?
It happens only on Slashdot.

They don't. (3, Interesting)

xanthines-R-yummy (635710) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931374)

As a relatively young MD/PhD student I've noticed that there are relatively few Americans in any of the PhD programs at my university. My perspective is from the biomedical sciences, but still. Most are Chinese or Indian students and most of the American students are already planning for industry, consulting, or some other non-research job. I would also add that e) stressing about writing grants every few years and progress reports for those grants every year - is a deterrent for continuing a career in science.

Re:They don't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931558)

Indeed, I'm hopefully finishing my PhD in the next 2 years and I'm already hankering to get out of research. Consulting / IT / Finance seem a much safer way to go, even if you have to give up a little of your soul. You at least get your weekends back. The idea of having to convince people, every year, that I deserve a grant because my next year of research will solve the world's problems (if you can't promise that don't bother writing the grant) is enough to send me inquiring about CFA or MBA options. (my research lab is now 80% non-american, including me).

Re:They don't. (4, Insightful)

xtracto (837672) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931890)

As a Comp. Sci. PhD I have a slightly different point of view.

I went out of my country (Mexico) to do my PhD with a scholarpship from my government. However, due to the lack of jobs in my own country, I chose to stay in Europe to do a Postdoc.

In Germany at least (in the Science circles I am moving now) there is quite a lot of money for research. In fact, in my institute there is more money than researchers (because generally people do not want to live in the city where the institute is).

However, I can see that the main problem in USA is the same as in Mexico; the government wants people to study science but does not want to impulse job creation for those scientists. In the case of Mexico (and other underdeveloped countries) we have the option of going to other countries, but in the case of the USA (mainly due to cultural limitations) people may not have that option.

The problem is how can the government *impulse* such job creation. The private sector will never offer a lot of research jobs (specially theoretical research), and as someone else said, they want useful, commercial results in a very small amount of time... because they do not know how science work.

The other option is for government funded research institutes. This is how Germany research assassinations work (Max Planck, Fraunhofer, Leibniz, UFZ, Helmholz, etc...) and to a lower degree how Mexico works (Cinvestav). But in a country (like the USA) where government "control" is seen as being a bad thing, I cannot imagine this approach being accepted.

Re:They don't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931564)

I've read that people from China and India pursue postdocs in America because they'll be compensated much better when compared to their respective countries. They'll probably complain less for this reason too

Re:They don't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931712)

When you have quotas to accept a minimum % of minorities into you're school, it makes it a lot tougher for the regular white guy to get in anywhere. I know and grew up with plenty of people who are dumb as bricks but got accepted into schools where I didn't have a chance because they were some minority group. They also get scholarships and grants to finance them, where as I get loans.

Re:They don't. (1)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931958)

My perspective is from the biomedical sciences, but still. Most are Chinese or Indian students and most of the American students are already planning for industry, consulting, or some other non-research job.

There are more graduate school positions available than American graduate students interested in them. Consequently, all American grad students flock to tier 1 universities while the lower tier universities get filled up with foreign students.

ya well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931382)

benuar balls

Scientist here... hits VERY close to home (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931404)

I'm a young scientist. All of Greenspun's point hit right on the mark. In particular, the comments about job security and not making enough money for a family. If you're likely and good enough to get a post at a tier 1 university, this isn't so much an issue but people are the top 1% in our fields. For the "ordinary scientist" who works in a lab or supports a larger group, these are major concerns. And as you get older they only become more of an issue.

'Pursuing science as a career seems so irrational (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931436)

'Pursuing science as a career seems so irrational that one wonders why any young American would do it.'"

Because it's possible to be interested in science? I'm still in university so I may change my mind later in my life, but right now I don't really want to pursue a career in a field I don't have any interest in. Job security and pay are quite important but I don't think that when choosing a career those are the only criteria one might use.

Deja vu (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931444)

"The average _____ that I encounter expresses bitterness about (a) low pay, (b) not getting enough credit or references to his or her work, (c) not knowing where the next job is coming from, (d) not having enough money or job security to get married and/or have children"

Same could be said substituting "teacher", or many others.

Re:Deja vu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931606)

"The average _____ that I encounter expresses bitterness about (a) low pay, (b) not getting enough credit or references to his or her work, (c) not knowing where the next job is coming from, (d) not having enough money or job security to get married and/or have children"

Same could be said substituting "teacher", or many others.

The lack of respect that teachers received recently from the GOP was disgusting.

That said, most young scientists make *less* than teachers. This is quite strange, as it takes much more talent to be a professional scientist than a teacher. Many scientists "fall back" on to teaching. It's a weird situation when your fallback job pays better, I think.

Re:Deja vu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931878)

That said, most young scientists make *less* than teachers. This is quite strange, as it takes much more talent to be a professional scientist than a teacher. Many scientists "fall back" on to teaching. It's a weird situation when your fallback job pays better, I think.

This is because teachers in most states have unionized, allowing them to obtain a better (though still low) salary and reasonable benefits. There is no equivalent union for scientists, thus entry level and mid level scientists make barely enough to live on, and senior scientists are paid decently but only after 20+ years of crap pay. You find fewer "rockstars" in the science fields because a rockstar has many options that pay better without living though 20 years of being shit on.

not really concerned (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931450)

The lack of scientists doesn't bother me nearly as much as the lack of architects (system architects, computer architects, etc.) and entrepreneurs.
Most of our major global problems aren't going to be solved with science, but, rather, in figuring out how to apply those things learned with science.
We need to focus our schools and legal system to encourage risk and creative thinking.
The very fact that most "scientists" don't actually do science - rather, they do work more equivalent to better trained lab technicians - shows that our economy and our way of life has changed and has new primary concerns.

Put it another way (2)

guspasho (941623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931466)

Basically, honest labor is so passe. Why would anyone choose to do it when you can make so much more money through corruption and fraud, and theft? It's so much easier and more rewarding!

Re:Put it another way (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931596)

I've been talking a lot about this with my family lately... the culture in the U.S. is so screwed up right now that people almost always get punished for doing what is morally and ethically right while people that ignore those rules almost always get rewarded. Let's face it, knowing that you "did the right thing" doesn't put food on the table or assure a decent retirement... at least not in our age. It certainly doesn't make a corporate loyal to you if you live in the corporate world.

Japan has such a successful corporate culture and they aren't like this at all. The CEO gets on his knees and begs forgiveness if he has to do something like lay off workers that have devoted their working lives to the organization. In the use this is done with no remorse and at the blink of an eye. The U.S. has lost all sense of right and wrong and sacrificed it on the altar of a corporate god.

Re:Put it another way (2)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931902)

After he begs forgiveness he lays them off anyway and has a driver take him to the driving range to relax hitting a few balls, then goes and singa karoke and drinks himself into a stupor.

Family (2)

rogueippacket (1977626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931474)

The simple answer for a lot of people is that their families tell them they should pursue a "higher career" - anything requiring multiple degrees and loaded with professional prestige. In North America, this particular idea is reinforced by High Schools which tout "University level" streams vs. "Applied level" streams, where you are either destined to become a well-educated individual with a prestigious career, or you are going to be a laborer barely living paycheck to paycheck because you didn't study enough calculus.
So long as the notion that prestige is more important than what you are passionate about, this problem will exist.

Re:Family (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931796)

But if you are passionate about being prestigious, it's a double win. Hm...

Absolutely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931506)

One of my best friends recently got her PhD in Biology from Stanford, and afterwards she had at most a selection of one or two scientists to work under in each major city, all for much less money than I made my first year after my BA in Computer Science with a GPA that won't let me into any legitimate grad school. That any talent ends up working in science requires that good scientists make extremely irrational decisions.

The endgame of outsourcing. (3, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931508)

While there are plenty of stupid people out there, not everyone is. The smartest are moving away from these careers in droves because of these outsourcing issues. The final result of outsourcing in the messed-up corporate mind is that *everyone* will become a manager and that's the only job that holds any worth and it is the only job worth doing. It's also the only job, therefore, that deserves a living wage. If we stubbornly follow this as a country then we're is MASSIVE trouble.

Re:The endgame of outsourcing. (1)

magamiako1 (1026318) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931570)

We've already made that choice.

Re:The endgame of outsourcing. (2)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931598)

Especially when the engineers/scientists/etc over in India realize that they can break away and form their own company that will undercut their former boss by not having to support his American middle/upper_management lard ass.

There are the consequences of building up your own future competition.

Re:The endgame of outsourcing. (3, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931826)

Management can also be outsourced. Eventually those engineers in India will realize that having the manager in your own timezone is a good thing. It isn't like management requires years of training and heaps of intelligence. All you need is good people skills and some competence in assigning the right resources to the right problem. Most people have some of the former, and the latter can be easily learned by playing Empire Earth. Once the manager is in India, why bother having a US presence at all? The only thing it gets you is having to pay US taxes. India is not a bad place to live, when you have a job. The endgame, therefore, is to have everyone and everything move to India. The US will be populated exclusively by HFT traders, who will be too busy grabbing each other's money to notice.

Re:The endgame of outsourcing. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931852)

While there are plenty of stupid people out there, not everyone is. The smartest are moving away from these careers in droves because of these outsourcing issues. The final result of outsourcing in the messed-up corporate mind is that *everyone* will become a manager and that's the only job that holds any worth and it is the only job worth doing. It's also the only job, therefore, that deserves a living wage. If we stubbornly follow this as a country then we're is MASSIVE trouble.

We had a problem with that mentality even before outsourcing started. Even 20 years ago, if you wanted top pay and any respect you had to switch from whatever productive thing you did into management.

Finance (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931516)

Because finance jobs could never, ever be outsourced to a country where they don't expect multi-million dollar bonuses every year.

real science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931524)

is carried out by the monsatic. You just have to suck it up and punish yourself for the betterment of everyone else... ask Mendel.

Very close to home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931532)

Where I live, a university degree in the sciences will get you a job if its in the health care industry (doctor, nurse, dentist, dental assistant, lab technician, etc). Otherwise, you better have an advanced degree in order to get entry level work. You can have 8 years of university, and get lower pay and less respect than a kid half way through high school working in the fast food industry. The article tells it like it is: a 2 year business diploma beats everything else, because thats what the owners have. The only way a 4 year degree wins is if you start your own company. Then 1) you respect yourself, 2) you pay yourself, 3) you know where your next job is coming from, 4) you understand what the industry is asking for, you don't have to try and convince the recruiter, job interviewer or head hunter that your skills are relevant, and 5) young doesn't mean inexperienced, old doesn't mean too old to work hard, and the best part is that you get credit for your good work. There are crappy parts to the job, but there are sweet parts of the job too. Working for someone else, you can bank cash that you will see the crappy parts, and in equal measure, bank cash that someone else will suck up the perks before you ever see them. Working for yourself means you get both, not just the bad stuff (oh, and if the economy tanks, you are still unemployed either way). When things pick up, you are working again, for sure, not just maybe. Businesses outsourced stem careers and were happy to do it. Oh, and remember: if you need anything related to management or accounting done, outsource to India!

Solution (5, Interesting)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931534)

Solution: destroy "financial services" industry. At this point it serves no purpose whatsoever, just sucks resources. Trade and investment can be handled without giant middlemen running their scams.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931874)

I've said Wallstreet needs to be dismantled because it's unsustainable. Most people don't realize Wallstreet has nothing to do with profits it's about growth. How much do the companies pay out in profits to stock holders? You make money on stocks by increasing the value and selling the stocks. They've already cut every cost possible so wages are all that's left so that's why everyone has shifted off shore. It's not about selling cheaper products it's about increasing profits each year so the stock goes up. China and India are the last great pools of cheap labor. Once their economies enter the first world there's no where to go so growth has to stop eventually. The growth has always been about exploiting cheap labor and materials. Cheap materials are a thing of the past and cheap labor will join it some time in this century. The theory is Wallstreet is essential in providing capital for growth in the form of things like IPOs but since the tech bubble that's largely untrue for 99% of small business. Wallstreet has degenerated into a place for rich people to gamble at our expense. We need a new source for small business to get funding. Big business has grown big enough!

Re:Solution (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931948)

Solution: destroy "financial services" industry. At this point it serves no purpose whatsoever, just sucks resources. Trade and investment can be handled without giant middlemen running their scams.

You think financial services aren't important? We're a market economy. Money is the grease in that engine. Who else would you want to handle financing?

Yeah, lets get rid of people that handle capital and arrange financing. We'll replace them with, oh, maybe a committee?

While we're at it, let's get rid of engineers. I mean, they don't DO anything... just sit around in a fancy office and draw on paper or play with their computer all day. It's not like they do real work or anything.

Pot calling kettle (5, Funny)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931536)

Tell us, Mr.President, why did you major in law instead of engineering?

Re:Pot calling kettle (1)

Khoa (935586) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931788)

Law is another lousy choice (non-top 15) right now. But that's a whole 'nother can of worms....

traders & quants (1)

jmcvetta (153563) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931548)

What makes the diversion of science grads into finance jobs even worse for the overall economy is the type of finance jobs they are filling. The work done by quants & black-box traders (not much diff unless you want to pick nits) can most charitably be described as speculation; and some observers prefer the less fashionable term "market manipulation". Thus our scientists are being diverted from work with high social value (basic & applied research) to work with very low or negative social value. Best of all, this diversion is paid for by President Bushbama's trillion dollar bailout of the speculation industry.

This, gentlemen, is a perfect example of why the Chinese are kicking our sorry American asses at damn near every field of endeavor.

Re:traders & quants (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931692)

well that and all the chinese scientists we train in the west go home now. And depending on where you are, that can easily be 30-40% of your grad student body.

Where I am we're about 80-85% foreign (out of about 120 grad students in comp sci). Of those, about half are from the PRC, but some are from the ROC too, and I cannot, as a casual observer, tell the difference. Nor do most of the students from the PRC talk to me, since there are enough of them they cluster together.

Re:traders & quants (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931752)

Yeah, our CEO does a lunch and learn with our department a couple times a year and back in early 2009 one of his biggest rants was about how many of the brightest people went into finance instead of science and engineering. His favorite statistic was that for every civil engineer we graduated one hundred and something jobs were created but for every finance major we graduated we lost one thousand jobs. He did his very best to keep people on during the recession and while we had to severely trim a few departments (we won't be developing new properties for the foreseeable future so the development department was all but eliminated) our overall headcount today is only down about 10% from what it was before the recession.

Science and Art: pure or just naive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931566)

Add an "A" to the acronym for Arts.

This is because academia has become a sweatshop. (1)

drummania (2038146) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931572)

When "grad student" == "cheap labor", you know this is going to happen. Nowadays even academia can outsource. Just look at the overseas campuses built by MIT, Harvard, etc. The system is just fundamentally wrong. Professors today are no longer independent scholars but are largely driven by grants, and have students as slaves to work on these projects. Universities (==corporations) have incentive to expand the STEM program because that will equal to more grants, meaning more $$$. With that amount of STEM grads being churned out each year, you are pretty sure the job market will not look great.

Well, crap. (2)

heypete (60671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931582)

Now you tell me!

I got my bachelor's in physics in 2010. I've been doing IT work to fill the gaps until I go to graduate school. Fortunately, I got into the schools that I was looking for (any Slashdotters in Switzerland that want to get a beer sometime in the next few years? I'll be in Bern.), so I'm a bit excited. Moving from the US to Switzerland will be a refreshing change, and will allow my wife and I to fulfill our our love of travel (in our copious free time, naturally).

I suspect that science in Europe will be about as bitter as science in the US, but it'll be a different kind of bitter!

Re:Well, crap. (2)

EricWright (16803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931704)

I suspect that science in Europe will be about as bitter as science in the US, but it'll be a different kind of bitter!

I'm guessing it will be more of a hoppy bitter than a bilious bitter ;-)

Engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931612)

The only reason America has any engineers is that there are always going to be some very smart people that NEED to be challenged constantly. Having been an engineering student and a professional with many business friends, I can tell you first hand that the skill-to-pay ratio for engineering is so low that you must be really dedicated to stay with it. You really can party every night, never study, get a business degree in three years, and land a job making more than a very competent engineer that is working unpaid overtime.

I made the switch and am happy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931636)

I got my undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics and mathematics. Job opportunities were there, but the pay just couldn't compete with financial companies so now I'm a quant and I still get to solve interesting math problems. I also like working with people who smell nice and have better conversational skills than the physicists I hung out with in grad school.

It is hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931648)

I'm going to admit that unless you go in to academia or you just introduce something radical with your first few grants its hard to really stand out as a researcher for a living. You work at a national lab your job is contractual and every few years your hopping that the local rain maker brings home another storm. I see this a great deal. Either get tenure or be popular enough to earn your own grants. That is the only way to gain security.

As for the comment on grad students. Most labs have full time workers, but it is true that grad students come at a 5th the cost and often out number them, but your typical grad student is around for 18 months so for longer projects you need terminate staff to keep the project growing. A PH.D candidate gives you 3-5 years, but at some point he has to work on his own project or leave.

Bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931654)

TLDR: Many of the assumptions made by Greenspun in his article are absolutely bogus.

Science is a very difficult career path, that's true, but his 'successful' example scientist was unrealistic. A successful scientist will labor long hours for relatively little money (30k/yr) to get their degree. If they're interested in academia, they'll have to do a postdoc (45k/yr). Once they get hired as faculty, they've got about a 70% chance of getting tenure, and they'll likely be making ~100k/yr. Many successful folks either start or consult for companies, providing significant supplemental income. If a successful person is interested in industry, getting a 100-120/yr job can happen directly from grad school or with a short postdoc.

It's true that we need to provide more financial incentive for science as a career, because if we don't we get financial crises instead of moon landings. However, it's not nearly as bad as this post makes it seem.

Wrong (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931674)

You are better off with a Science or engineering bachelor combined with an MBA OR an MBA AND an advanced science/engineering degree. With that approach, you are far more likely to capitalize on new ideas than is either a pure business toady, or a pure science geek

Why when finance pays so much better? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931690)

I went to school in math and computer science at one of the top schools in the nation. I didn't even graduate, but I secured a career in the finance industry after years wandering the artificial intelligent landscape. I work in high-frequency trading and am exceptionally good at what I do. Inflation-adjusted, probably made $150,000 on my best year back wandering the desert. Last year I pulled in $480,000 for programming in salary and bonus. This year I expect to rejoin the ranks of the $500,000+ club after a couple years out of it.

I produce liquidity and link markets for efficiency -- the guy who just wants to dump his 10 year bonds and doesn't care about an extra penny or two sells into me and I efficiently fan out that order into the cash bond market, the futures market, ETF, currencies, foreign bonds, and on and on in less than a millisecond. He gets certainty of trade and doesn't need connectivity to all these market centers and I get a small slice. It is a win for both of us with very low risk.

Now, why would I ever go into a field dominated by people who constantly whine and complain about everybody else not recognizing them, make nothing, and get paid less than that? I get paid directly based on my contributions, not some random number I think I deserve because I do some pure-sciency thing. Sorry, but give me the finance job every single time.

F.O.

Depends what you value (4, Insightful)

macwhizkid (864124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931710)

I work as a research associate at a name brand school. I've seen this article cited a few times, usually by discouraged graduate students.

For me, I guess it all comes down to what you want out of life. Greenspun's argument basically comes down to the fact that science/tech is at risk of being outsourced, and people should instead be real-estate agents, doctors, and lawyers. Well, news flash, lawyers are being replaced with software, many doctors want a career switch, and real-estate agents, well, I'm not even going to go there. I just find it too insulting to compare somebody who's chosen to advance humanity's exploration of the world we live in with somebody who wants to make a quick buck by match-making sellers and buyers. Hell, if anything, the last decade should have taught us that the internet is rapidly doing away with middlemen. Go ask your local bookstore/pawnshop/consumer electronics store how business has been recently.

Most people find it easier to follow in the footsteps of others (teachers at school, professional parents, etc) rather than ask the hard questions: "What am I good at?" "Will somebody pay me to do it?" "Can I be the best at what I do?"

Work is work, and nobody said work is entirely fun. If you have a job you truly enjoy every minute of every day, congratulations. Most people go their whole life without finding it. But, there is a big difference between a job with some enjoyable aspects and rewards vs. a job you truly despise.

Re:Depends what you value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931892)

Greenspun's argument basically comes down to the fact that science/tech is at risk of being outsourced, and people should instead be real-estate agents, doctors, and lawyers

That's not his argument at all - maybe you should actually read the article.

Female perspective - yes it is a poor career. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931732)

Speaking as a woman who's just about to finish her PhD in semiconductor physics and who is trying to get a post doc, I do think science is a poor career choice. I want to buy a house with my partner but we can't afford it. I want to get married and have kids but again we can't afford that because even if I do get a post doc it'll only be a fixed term contract for a couple years before before I have to look for the next one.

I've had exceptional luck with my PhD (6 peer reviewed papers, plus 3-4 more to come) and finished incredibly quickly (under three years) so I'm one of the people my department wants to keep and one of the people who should have been doing a PhD (unlike maybe 50% of PhD candidates in my department who only entered the PhD programme because they didn't know what else to do and don't have an exceptional skill at physics research). However, if I was finishing high school and going to University for the first time now I would be doing medicine not physics. There are more jobs with more security, it's better paid with better working conditions and higher socio-economic status, and just as interesting.

When I was TAing I was encouraging the undergraduates to go onto medicine not physics PhDs, and it's what I'd encourage my own kids to do too (if/when I can ever afford to have them).

And thus is capitalism foiled (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931748)

Not that engineers, developers and IT folk aren't relatively well compensated, but it doesn't compare with what a lawyer or a manager can pull down. Those in power (executive management, lawyers, politicians), have the power to control their own salaries. Those in engineering, not so much. Inevitably, this leads to the dysfunctional parasitism that has infected the current economy of the USA.

It's all about the money honey.

Because people love doing it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931750)

Like teaching and firefighting, science is a career that people will go into because they love it. Like teachers and firefighters, scientists are woefully underpaid and underappreciated. This is not a coincidence. (And before you snark about firefighter pensions, consider that in many parts of the country, volunteer firefighters are an essential component of the firefighting system.)

Maybe we're asking the wrong question (1)

tomthepom (314977) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931764)

Perhaps the right question is how have we got into a situation where what has become an essentially parasitical financial industry can simply siphon off the best minds in academia. Instead of being used in creating, building, discovering, teaching, that talent is wasted on efforts to find ever more elaborate ways of playing games with other people's money.

Oh, but the funding, the funding! (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931772)

Thought we scientist were all part of a global conspiracy making up shit for the mythical FUNDING, so we can wallow in the cash? Did I miss a memo there?

Is that why you lot are always complaining about (1)

jaypaulw (889877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931774)

Is that why you lot are always complaining about mobile phone tariffs?

I'm a scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931804)

and it's hard if you don't want to be an academic. Even if you want to work in the private sector, you have to be willing to move anywhere at any time, and it's hard to live an enjoyable life that way. I'll probably leave science eventually because of this.

Furthermore, you need at least one postdoc to get a job, even outside academia, and that means that after you've been to the University for about 10 years (and are almost 30) you have to do a postdoc for at least 2 years that will pay $36,K (biosciences; physics can range to 70K at a national lab). It's scary and insulting how low the wages are, especially since you don't have any money saved up.

I've got a STEM for you, Mr. President (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931820)

The only STEM that useless a-hole of a President knows about it the one shoved up his arse.

Maybe it's the scientists that are the problem? (1)

00_NOP (559413) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931832)

I have a science degree and 25 years later I am now doing a masters in Comp Sci and rediscovering my love of maths and science. But I have never worked in science. When I graduated from university I could have gone to make weapons (legitimate career but for me? no thanks) and do something else, so I did something else. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that scientists are, in general, more likely to be poorly socialised males. Certainly when I was at university the first time the "computer hackers" were all people I'd rather stay well away from. Some had personal hygiene issues, but mostly they were boorish and boring. Sorry, but that's the way it is. Maybe a lot of people just want no part of that culture?

For the Average Student (1)

Usually Unlucky (1598523) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931856)

STEM is a wonderful field if you manage to end up in the top 10% of your class, get into a good graduate school, and eventually manage 10% there too.

But for folks like me, an underachiever and average student, who ended up with an undergrad GPA of 3.5 and a Grad GPA of 3.6(so far), and only cared about airplanes and rockets throughout school, STEM has been a slap in the face.

With a degree in physics I envisioned coming out of school and being bombarded with job offers. In the entire summer of 2010 I had three interviews out of nearly 100 jobs applied for, didn't get a single position. Meanwhile I worked for 30k a year as a technician for a company which makes medical equipment where my job duties regularly included changing light bulbs and sweeping.

I only came back to grad school because I want to avoid reality for a couple more years, not because I think it will land me a better job.

Last thing I need is more competition. STAY AWAY FROM MY JOBS

Unionize (2)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931866)

The solution to a problem of this sort is historically obvious: unionize. There have been attempts in the past, but money and self-interest neatly rendered it pathetic. If scientists could ever manage to organize, (they love meetings, why can't that ability be leveraged in a more profitable fashion?), particularly if they could emulated some of the far superior efforts made by the engineers, then you'd see dramatic change. Of course, the prospects are not good, and someone will point out that globalization will kill any such effort, but the tools (internet) are now available...

Science as a career (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35931872)

I can vouch first hand as to the short comings of a science career financially. If financial rewards are not too much of a concern then the pursuit of truth through science can perhaps be rewarding in other ways. After spending many years in the government science sector, I look toward retiring from this in the near future and taking up another career. It will not be science oriented, I need to pay off a mortgage and perhaps purchase an auto less than 10 years old.

crying for quality... (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931932)

Oh man, slashdot comments have become so low in quality. The majority of comments are mainly ramblings :(

Counter-examples (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931936)

The average scientist that I encounter expresses bitterness about (a) low pay, (b) not getting enough credit or references to his or her work, (c) not knowing where the next job is coming from, (d) not having enough money or job security to get married and/or have children,' writes Greenspun. 'Pursuing science as a career seems so irrational that one wonders why any young American would do it.'"

The average everybody expresses such bitterness, except maybe the average CEO or hedge fund manager.

My kid is studying bio-mathematics. My wife is a mathematician and the daughter of two biologists. "Getting married and/or having children" was not a problem for her or her mother and I doubt it will be a problem for my daughter. Now admittedly, my mother-in-law is from a country where science is both supported by the government and where scientists are treated with some respect (Socialism!). But my wife's career has been entirely in the US.

Maybe the issue here is how much money we're talking about. If you want to compare salaries with an investment banker at one of the big houses, then maybe a career in science doesn't look as hot, but if you want a nice career at the high end of what used to be called "middle-class" when we still had a middle-class, then Science is still pretty damn good.

But you've got to be smart and you've got to be patient and you've got to work the system so you don't have a mountain of debt when you graduate. In those ways, a career in Science is not so different from any career. The outrageous cost of higher education and the ridiculous student-load debt that graduates start out with are two of the ways that our "free market" system tries to make sure that regular people don't make it into the lucky-sperm club, but it certainly can be done.

To the extent that our future is probably going to be fucked for everyone, it's also going to be fucked for scientists, but I don't think it's fair to say it's more fucked for scientists than it is for anyone else. You can do worse.

Measuring the wrong variables (1)

Unixnoteunuchs (990069) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931942)

The variables that Greenspun uses in this analysis (compensation, status, job security) are orthogonal to the value to the scientist and to society of science as a pursuit. With exceptions, science has always fared rather poorly along these lines. If these are the variables that matter, science is always a stupid career choice. But, of course, these aren't the variables that matter. Other than historical figures, who remembers those who had successful careers in seventeenth century English finance? Who remembers Newton?

Balkanization of Knowledge (1)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35931944)

One big problem is that too many professors of science are narrow, impractical specialists. We have physicists who can't figure out how to make a circuit with a battery and a light bulb. We have computer scientists who can't actually write a program to do anything. They all invent their own jargon for their narrow specialties, so it's difficult for the student to discern the general principles behind the specialized knowledge (but those are what's important). How are such people going to train students to succeed outside of of the ivory tower?
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...