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What's Your STEM Degree Worth?

samzenpus posted about a month ago | from the doing-the-math dept.

Education 148

Jim_Austin writes A recent study by economist Douglas Webber calculates the lifetime earnings premium of college degrees in various broad areas, accounting for selection bias--that is, for the fact that people who already are likely to do well are also more likely to go to college. These premiums are not small. Science Careers got exclusive access to major-specific data, and published an article that tells how much more you can expect to earn because you got that college degree--for engineering, physics, computer science, chemistry, and biology majors.

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148 comments

My phd? (0)

2.7182 (819680) | about a month ago | (#47321031)

More than I paid for it - zero dollars.

Re:My phd? (3, Informative)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a month ago | (#47321083)

>> My phd?
No, your STEM undergrad degree, dumbass.

From TFA: "Webber excluded from his sample people with postgraduate training."

Re:My phd? (0)

2.7182 (819680) | about a month ago | (#47321161)

That's strange. I was responding to this part of the article:

"In another study, Webber considered samples with postgraduate training."

In any case, my undergraduate math degree cost zero dollars also.

Re:My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321433)

My undergraduate degree was also in math.
Would you like fries with that?

Re:My phd? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321785)

I've burned through over 1.5 million dollars in a 'STEM' field, with no degree so far. Even 'managed out' two phd's during that time. So anyway, fuck the system, etc.

Re: My phd? (1)

ranton (36917) | about a month ago | (#47321141)

A significant portion of the cost of any degree is the opportunity cost. Often it is most of the cost. I'm not saying your PhD was not worth it, but it is disingenuous to say it was free.

Re: My phd? (1)

2.7182 (819680) | about a month ago | (#47321237)

Then how does one put a dollar value on that? In addition you need to offset that with what I was paid as a research assistant each year.

Re: My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321437)

All a science PhD costs you is your 20s. Wish it had been phrased taht way when I was looking at programs.

Re: My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321859)

Workforce isn't as kind on your 20s as you are making it out to be.

Re: My phd? (2)

fractoid (1076465) | about a month ago | (#47322889)

You're going to spend your 20s doing something, the postgrad lifestyle isn't all that bad, neither's the workforce assuming you studied something that someone somewhere actually wants to pay you for.

Getting a PhD does pidgeon-hole you as a bit of an academic, though. It's not always necessarily an asset when applying for a job.

Re: My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323291)

Depends on the field. It's practically impossible to become a principle investigator with only a BS/MS in Physics, but in certain fields of engineering a PhD can actually hamper your efforts to find a job.

Re: My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321645)

Most of these studies don't consider the lost income/experience/connections/references during the years spent at university/grad school. If you factor those in, it becomes even more obvious that college is basically a scam.

Re: My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321861)

Heh. I'm shit at networking; no loss there. I've seen my friends that didn't go to university. Most of them seem lost in life, and I make more in a year than some of them do in three. You can call it a scam, but it's the best thing that ever happened to me.

Re: My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322717)

I'm getting paid to do a PhD.
I get to meet experts in the field at different companies and universities, and I get to work closely with them on different projects.
How exactly am I being scammed?

Re: My phd? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a month ago | (#47322915)

Add to that, it's also possible to consult during your PhD. A PhD student in the UK gets a stipend of £12K. That's non-taxable, which means that any other income that you make during your PhD starts at the bottom. The tax-free allowance is £10K, so the first £10K you earn consulting is also tax free. If you're working in a commercially interesting area, then you can take home £22K/year tax free during your PhD, which is equivalent to a taxable salary of £28K ($47.7K). You're still eligible for student discounts on a lot of things, so your cost of living is a bit lower too and you may be eligible for (university subsidised) student accommodation. And, of course, you don't need to stop consulting when you use up the tax-free allowance, but it's a fairly good benchmark of where you should stop if you want to have enough time to finish the PhD in a reasonable timeframe.

Re:My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321247)

well, you get what you pay for...

Re:My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321417)

Not always.

Sometimes your market timing is more important. Just look at the people who graduated during the great recession.

Re:My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323249)

Sometimes your market timing is more important. Just look at the people who graduated during the great recession.

Yeah, took me 3 whole months to find a job in my field that paid well with lots of benefits and was local, during early 2008. I was being contacted by head hunters all the time, it was so annoying because most required me to change cities.

I guess that's what I get for some crappy $1,700/sem state uni education.

Re:My phd? (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about a month ago | (#47322047)

Well, not really.

My degree was "free" as well. The price is a different one. I don't know about your university. What's your dropout rate? Ours is 95-98%. Yes. 2% actually get through the whole deal. They can easily afford that. With the university being "free", there is by no means any kind of shortage of people wanting a degree. So they upped the requirements over and over because .... well, just 'cause you tenfold the applicants, there ain't a demand for ten times as many university educated people.

Getting in is easy. Getting through and out is terribly hard. A bit like a marriage, when you think about it.

They don't hold your hand, they don't pamper you, they don't organize anything for you. Get it done or GTFO, either get your act together or move over, someone else will.

What gets out of there in the end with a degree is, with no false modesty, the absolute best of the best in the field. If he wasn't, he could never have gotten through it. Whatever comes out of there is not only one of the best people you could get from a professional point of view, he's able to plan and organize, he knows time management, he knows how to get projects from conception through to presentation.

When I compare that to universities that pamper their students 'cause they're dependent on them staying and paying their tuition fees... I can't help but prefer graduates from my university. I don't care whether your parents were rich enough to send you to school. I care whether you were smart and organized enough to get through.

Even though I have to say that most people working in my team don't have a degree at all.

Re:My phd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322129)

But that's about the worth of your commentary on here, so it works out.

I have a BS in Chemistry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321033)

and it wasn't worth a damn thing. A lab tech was the only job avabilabe and it paid sub $30k. Gave up and went to pharmacy school.

Re:I have a BS in Chemistry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321177)

Maybe you should have checked the job openings before picking a major.

Re:I have a BS in Chemistry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321471)

Are you kidding me?

This job market is changing faster than you can earn your degree.

Re:I have a BS in Chemistry (1)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | about a month ago | (#47321215)

My chemistry degree got me in as a process engineer in specialty chemicals manufacturing. My starting pay wasn't as high as an engineer's, but it was definitely more than what my friends with biology degrees were making. And after a few years of experience, I've caught up to the engineers in pay range.

Re:I have a BS in Chemistry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321585)

Sounds like you made a poor decision. In general getting a BS or MS in a pure science is a bad idea if that is where you plan to stop. The jobs in science where you're anything more then a lab monkey are basically all in the PhD realm. I seen this play out during my employment (with an engineering degree), and before that I was warned about this by EVERY chemist I talked to when I was thinking about getting a BS in chemistry.

Not the data I was looking for... (3, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a month ago | (#47321035)

I was hoping it would show the fields and the difference, such as between CompSci with and without degree. Not. It is CompSci degree vs Burger King? Well, duh...

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a month ago | (#47321061)

at least a job at the king does not need an 50-100K+ loan to get in.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a month ago | (#47321081)

Yet.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (5, Funny)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a month ago | (#47321139)

>> a job at the king does not need an 50-100K+ loan to get in.

Starbucks does

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a month ago | (#47321853)

at least a job at the king does not need an 50-100K+ loan to get in.

Neither does a CompSci degree, if you get it on an academic scholarship.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about a month ago | (#47322057)

Don't know the joke? What said the philosophy major with a job to the philosophy major without one?

"Would you like fries with that?"

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a month ago | (#47323381)

Philosophy is actually a strong degree. It's liberal arts that doesn't make it.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

msauve (701917) | about a month ago | (#47321085)

You you really want them to average in tech workers without degrees, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg?

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

erice (13380) | about a month ago | (#47321129)

You you really want them to average in tech workers without degrees, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg?

Why not? High income dropouts are so few that they make little difference in the result, especially if you do your statistics right and report the median rather than arithmetic mean.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (3, Informative)

mini me (132455) | about a month ago | (#47321441)

High income dropouts are so few that they make little difference in the result

Actually, dropouts and those who did not pursue college at all outnumber those with only a bachelor degree [gallup.com] in the high earning category. Those with postgraduate degrees are the ones who really skew the numbers.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322035)

Wait, that poll makes no distinction between inherited wealth and people who earned their own wealth. The Paris Hiltons of the world don't need college degrees.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a month ago | (#47322825)

Wait, that poll makes no distinction between inherited wealth and people who earned their own wealth.

How do you propose they do that? But your point stands, it's basically a worthless concept.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a month ago | (#47322921)

It's not a clear-cut distinction. Bill Gates didn't inherit most of his wealth, but he did inherit enough to have the seed capital to be able to set up his own company and the contacts via his parents to get meetings with people at IBM and other potential big customers who normally wouldn't have talked to anyone at a small startup as a potential supplier.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about a month ago | (#47322911)

You need to separately classify people who dropped out in order to pursue more lucrative opportunities, and people who dropped out for other reasons.

Bill Gates didn't drop out of college to bum around and smoke weed, he did it because he and Paul Allen had just scored a supply contract for Altair BASIC.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321105)

FTFA:

The worst STEM majors earn more than the best high school graduates. Those in the bottom quintile of ability who go on to major in STEM have lifetime earnings of about $2.3 million, compared to $2 million for high school graduates in the top quintile of ability; business majors do slightly worse than STEM majors. The worst social science majors earn about the same as the best high school graduates, and the worst arts and humanities majors earn less.

Full time salaried job versus burger flipper - yes, that's what the degree gives you.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321181)

The worst STEM majors earn more than the best high school graduates.

Due to these factors, probably:
1) Employer policies similar to sexism. Can't pay that guy without a piece of paper a decent wage! The nerve of him/her to not go into debt!
2) Plenty of the people who might otherwise earn more money anyway go to college and university because that's what employers are demanding.

None of those means that the degree is inherently valuable, or that it makes people more intelligent. Most of it is obviously just caused by ridiculous, arbitrary standards.

There's also the whole problem of people mistaking colleges and universities as job training, which causes them to be dumbed down in an effort to let in all these losers with loans.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321519)

Except it doesn't... Skill, experience, expertise gets you a job. A piece of paper gets you a better chance of putting your foot in the door.

I have no tertiary education, I get paid significantly above-average salary than most in my field (software development, on roughly 180k AUD/year salary), and get to work with some of the best/most-interesting tech firms out there (ATAP now part of Google[x], Samsung ASP Lab, Advanced Graphics group in Intel Labs, nVidia's CUDA & Tegra teams, etc) on some relatively fun projects, and honestly have never found my lack of "academic training" to be an issue (generally quite the opposite).

A lot of the companies I've worked with, and obviously the company I work for tend to have similar views in their hiring procedures... demonstrated skill, knowledge, and enthusiasm are all that matter - and for entry-level positions, we tend to ignore undergrad degrees entirely (great, you know how to learn... but what have you learned?).

The one exception to the rule are our academic researchers who publish peer reviewed papers, we take academia seriously where academia matters - but that's about the extent of it.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (4, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a month ago | (#47321671)

and for entry-level positions, we tend to ignore undergrad degrees entirely (great, you know how to learn... but what have you learned?).

Isn't the point of hiring for an entry-level position finding someone who knows how to learn? If you expect them to know it all already, it's not entry-level.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322901)

Nope. The point of advertising an "Entry level" position is to identify which people are willing to work for low pay and submit to the whims of an "entry level" manager.
It's a good system for people who assign a dollar amount for an hour of their life. Most millionaires don't get paid by the hour. Face it. If you get paid by the hour, you will not live long enough to amass wealth.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about a month ago | (#47323279)

An entry level candidate in my field of engineering should have a solid foundation from their BS to be able to understand basic theory and concepts. Our job is to train them from that foundation in our specific field; there are fewer than 500 people a year who graduate with sufficient education to really hit the ground running.

They should have also passed the first test in the Professional Engineering process which gives them a head start in their career.

Does anybody else think it is ironic that they use the total earnings rather than the NPV at age 18 for the discussion on STEM earnings?! The bottom line is likely that the marginal increase in earnings is likely insufficient to justify college attendance for the lower quintiles if you have to pay your own way vial loans.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

jeIlomizer (3670951) | about a month ago | (#47321771)

great, you know how to learn

Sadly, there's not even a guarantee of that. And pretty much anyone knows how to learn, anyway.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a month ago | (#47321901)

great, you know how to learn

Sadly, there's not even a guarantee of that. And pretty much anyone knows how to learn, anyway.

Sadly, if everyone knows how to learn, then very few people are exercising that knowledge and doing so.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

jeIlomizer (3670951) | about a month ago | (#47321957)

Right you are. That's pretty much what's happening in most cases.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

quarterbuck (1268694) | about a month ago | (#47323189)

Full time salaried job versus burger flipper
A lot of policemen, career military, plumbers,firemen,sanitation workers,postmen/women,secretaries, dentists assistants etc. too. Some of these fields pay pretty well. The Burger flipper vs salaried job difference is easy to calculate($10 an hour vs $20+ an hour), but high school vs college does need a paper.

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

monstza (1549007) | about a month ago | (#47321367)

What about how much a spending an extra $20 000 to go to a well known university actually equates to in salary..

Would people's parents be better off just putting that money in an investment account? I would suspect so...

HERE is the data you are looking for... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322293)

http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/whatsitworth-complete.pdf

see also

http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/05/30/1554235/Whats-Your-College-Major-Worth
"The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that with tuition rising and a weak job market everyone seems to be debating the value of a college degree. Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, says talking about the bachelor's degree in general doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because its financial payoff is heavily affected by what that degree is in and which college it is from.

For the first time, researchers analyzed earnings based on 171 college majors and the differences are striking: For workers whose highest degree is a bachelor's, median incomes ranged from $29,000 for counseling-psychology majors to $120,000 for petroleum-engineering majors but the data also revealed earnings differences within groups of similar majors. Within the category of business majors, for instance, business-economics majors had the highest median pay, $75,000 while business-hospitality management earned $50,000.

The study concludes that while there is a lot of variation in earnings over a lifetime, all undergraduate majors are worth it, even taking into account the cost of college and lost earnings with the lifetime advantage ranging from $1,090,000 for Engineering majors to $241,000 for Education majors. 'The bottom line is that getting a degree matters, but what you take matters more,' concludes Carnevale."

Re:Not the data I was looking for... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a month ago | (#47323371)

They all do that. These studies look at job postings and say, "Ah, you will get this job only if you have the BS Degree!" I have that job with no degree.

They also fail to account for time spent in school not working, versus career development by experience. After 4 years of entry work, you're nearly on par with a degree-holding entrant in most fields. Extremely specialized fields--paralegal, medical--excepted; engineering does have entry jobs, and they send you to school if they want to advance you. For the most part, 8 years of experience puts you beyond a college degree and 4 years.

Biased source? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321145)

At the risk of using an ad hominem fallacy, a university professor personally benefits when people choose to attend college. An economist at a university should recuse himself from issuing reports that encourage people to contribute to his pension fund.

Re:Biased source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321575)

I'm not convinced that professors really benefit from having lots of students attend. When a university grows, the professors there don't get better salaries. Instead, the extra money is directed towards hiring administrators at remarkably high wages and adjuncts at remarkably low wages. The tenured professors don't really see much of it.

Re:Biased source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321727)

If you look at his analysis, it's not very encouraging for university degrees. While lifetime earnings may be slightly higher, overall, you're probably worse off financially.

Re:Biased source? (1)

jafac (1449) | about a month ago | (#47322251)

In general, economists are not well known for recusing, or otherwise following ethical practices which are standard in other fields. The least ethical, are the ones at the top, and those are the people who run our economy. And this is why we can't have nice things.

computer science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321159)

Nothing, because I never got one. I didn't qualify for student aid and would have had to taken out loans or pay for school myself. I dropped out after almost 2 years going full time to school and working full time as well. 160K a year self taught.

50K a year any under-grad degree can payoff (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321167)

Even for those in the bottom quartile of 'ability' (people that just limp into college).

A quick calculation based on this data says that the break-even point in opportunity costs (include any foregone earnings over 30k) is $215k for an undergrad in the humanities and 320k for the social sciences, and $460k if you do anything in a STEM fields.

So there you go: if your opportunity cost is less than 50K a year any under-grad degree, even if you are are not all that bright, may well pay off.

We're kind of assuming that if you are in the bottom quartile graduate school is a bit out of your league; though I'm sure there are a LOT of bottom quartile business majors who get reasonable MBAs and totally throw off our expectations about income and smarts.

Re:50K a year any under-grad degree can payoff (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about a month ago | (#47323311)

Not sure if the math is as favorable if you look at the net present value of the incremental earnings. Looking at individuals though, if you are bottom quintile you might be able to get a job that isn't manual labor, arguably improving quality of life. Being a tradesman though likely pays off better.

It's worth noting (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321183)

He only looks at cohorts in decades following 1955, 65 and 75. Relevance to today's graduates could be zero because the labour market has changed a lot in the last 30 years. Since 1975 average wages haven't even tracked productivity growth.

As for less income by women, a study in Australia recently found a >10% difference, but correcting for occupation, time in the force and hours worked the difference was reduced to 4.4%.

It's Worth Very Little (3, Insightful)

KermodeBear (738243) | about a month ago | (#47321259)

It gives me a paycheck every two weeks but the work is utterly devoid of personal fulfillment. If I had known fifteen years ago what to expect from a career in software I would have spent my time getting a completely different degree.

It's Worth Very Little (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321407)

I wish there were licensed software engineers who had to sign off on certain types of software projects. Similar to other engineering disciplines. People wouldn't push shit through if their license/career was on the line vs upsetting the next level of management which would only place their current job on the line.

I often wish I'd pursued EE or another of the engineering disciplines rather than CS due to the complete lack of apparent ethics, etc. in many dev shops.

Re:It's Worth Very Little (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | about a month ago | (#47321619)

That's like most jobs, but not all. Unfortunately, the fulfilling ones tend to pay less. Fortunately, you don't need to go shopping so often to fill that void if you have a fulfilling job.

Re:It's Worth Very Little (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a month ago | (#47323397)

Move up to Project Management. Learn both Waterfall and Agile. You may find that fulfilling, as you'll actually be doing something useful.

Our politicians hate us... (1)

joocemann (1273720) | about a month ago | (#47321267)

Our politicians (Obama included) continue to say we need more STEM education. They also continue to expand H1-B visas. What does this mean? It means a hypersaturation of the workforce. This merely reduces the value of the most passionate and educated people in the country. We don't need more STEM. We need more reasons for STEM educated people to exist.

Re:Our politicians hate us... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321387)

If our government wanted innovation in the STEM industry, they would repeal Section 1706 of the 1986 Tax Reform Act (some info here [nytimes.com] ). This specifically targets IT workers, and makes it basically impossible for them to individually incorporate. This is intended to drive IT professionals to seek to work as employees rather than for themselves (very contrary to the American Dream, of course), but has the net effect of driving talented people out of the industry.

The government doesn't want a thriving STEM economy, they want lots of dirt-cheap STEM labor. Their actions prove this, despite what their words say.

Re:Our politicians hate us... (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about a month ago | (#47321713)

Are 'IT Workers' really STEM, though? I thought IT was more like the data janitors. Modern day file clerks. The people who keep the laser printer humming and tell the wire-puller monkeys where to remove the ceiling tiles.

Regular Employment Beats Self-Employment (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a month ago | (#47322997)

For most people, regularized employment beats self-employment and all forms of indirect employment due to economies of scale encountered by an employer.

lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a month ago | (#47321301)

Assuming "lifetime earnings" has the obvious meaning (the actual article is paywalled), the small advantage STEM degrees have in this study is probably more than made up for the loss of a decade of investment and compound interest; it's even worse if you have taken on debt while getting your degree.

Other studies also concluded that both college and advanced degrees are probably largely break-even financially overall.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about a month ago | (#47321369)

A decade? A degree is 4 years.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321509)

Sure, when you're 17 and still living with your parents. At 40, you can't just take on studying full time with no income.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323377)

Around here, they pay non-trad students to get a degree. Very low requirements to get a ton of state grants. I know it isn't much relative to other areas, but when I was at my university, there was a guy who was about 40, was single, had two children, and he said the state was giving him about $2k/month in grants during school months. Not a whole lot of two children, but it did put him above the average household income for around here.

At least our University sold cheap yet effective health and dental insurance to students. Many of the doctors in the uni would also see you if you couldn't afford the local hospital for stuff like annual health checkups.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about a month ago | (#47321749)

With STEM degrees, you usually go on to at least a Master, if not a Ph.D. A college degree in most STEM fields isn't worth much by itself.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321907)

The study would disagree, unless I misread, the study explicitly excluded anyone who had done any postgraduate work.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (4, Interesting)

hambone142 (2551854) | about a month ago | (#47322427)

I disagree. I worked for one of those "large computer companies". Most of our technical staff had a Bachelor's degree. A few had a Masters. There was zero pay difference between the B.S. degrees and M.S. degrees. It's all based on job performance. Ph.Ds were actually a disadvantage. Most managers stayed away from them because of the perception that they would be "bored" doing normal engineering jobs.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323127)

Hint: computer science is the exception among STEM degrees, and it's only about 15% of all STEM graduates.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about a month ago | (#47322451)

Student loans are typically 10 year repayments.

Re:lifetime earnings isn't the whole picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321815)

Compound interest? You mean, like the 0.01% annual interest banks have paid out in the last 5 years? Or were you talking about Europe were nominal interest rates are below zero, at -0.10% (they charge you to deposit your money there, in addition to the regular fees). Or maybe you were talking about Japan where the 10-year bond is paying 0.80% but inflation is 2%.

I'm just busting your chops. I agree with you. STEM is basically not worth it. As a biology major I figured this out on graduation day. The whole higher education system is completely broken. Just another bubble waiting to pop.

Worth mentioning (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321371)

Take note that the study only looked at undergraduate degrees. Getting a Bachelor's degree in a STEM field opens up a lot of doors for you. However, getting a STEM Ph.D. closes nearly all doors except becoming a researcher or teacher in your field.

Industry research jobs can pay well, but they tend to be rare relative to the number of Ph.Ds competing for them, not to mention they are often subject to geographic constraints.
Academic jobs these days require a lifelong vow of poverty.
Attempts to find a job that doesn't involve being surrounded by other Ph.Ds will typically be turned down and met with the standard "overqualified" line.

Regardless of what job you wind up with after getting a Ph.D., you will have wasted the better part of a decade earning low pay and practically zero work experience that will be recognized outside of academia. That's a large opportunity cost.

Go ahead and get that STEM Bachelor's degree if you are so inclined. But take it and run straight into the job market after graduating. Don't let your college professors talk you into grad school unless you are already independently wealthy.

tl;dr: Bachelor's degress in STEM, if nothing else, show employers that you are highly intelligent and trainable. A Ph.D. in STEM, however, closes more doors than it opens and usually costs far more than it is worth.

Re:Worth mentioning (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about a month ago | (#47321733)

Post-graduate degrees can indicate somebody who instead of going out and finding a real job, decided it would be more rewarding to hang out in the labs at the University for a few years. The fortunate Post-grads find gainful work within the University Hive, as they obtain faculty positions. The less fortunate ones have put off coping with the real world for longer than most, and often have priced themselves out of the job market. I've worked with a few Ph.D. engineers before. It often isn't pretty. They worry about peculiar things, like the brand of their desktop computer, more than regular grunts.

Re:Worth mentioning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321937)

tl;dr: Bachelor's degress in STEM, if nothing else, show employers that you are highly intelligent and trainable.

That's a common misconception, but such degrees do not show that people are "highly intelligent" or trainable. A lot of college grads (even those with Bachelor's degrees and up) are unintelligent losers. This is becoming increasingly common as colleges let in more and more trash so they can get loan/grant money. But I noticed it even when I was in college about a decade and a half ago.

If you want to prove you're "highly intelligent," then you'll have to innovate in some field in such a way that it increases our understanding of the universes. Merely succeeding in the formal education environment has almost nothing to do with intelligence.

selection bias (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321383)

IANAL, I am however a statistician. This exact study has long been considered impossible because there is no good was to quantify the selection bias. The linked article does not explain why this is suddenly possible. I give an 80% chance that the result is bullshit.

paywall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321399)

Is the article available anywhere? I would be very interested in whether the author attempts to distinguish between possession of a STEM degree, and possession of a STEM education. It's the difference between having a doctor who has passed advanced organic chemistry, and having a doctor who is smart enough and dedicated enough to pass advanced organic chemistry.

really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321515)

It's worth about $238/mo to the bank ...

Completely missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321523)

If you're smart enough to get the degree you're also smart enough to realize it isn't about the earnings once you hit "financially secure."

Re:Completely missing the point (1)

jeIlomizer (3670951) | about a month ago | (#47321945)

Well, it doesn't really take much intelligence to simply get the degree to begin with.

STE (1)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | about a month ago | (#47321591)

It bugs me that so many articles about STEM fields leave off mathematics majors.

Re:STE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321917)

No, STEM has an "M" in it. Isn't that enough?

8 million USD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321693)

My 4 year public University degree has earned me 8 million USD so far.

Geology gets dissed again... (1)

Temkin (112574) | about a month ago | (#47322037)

And the geology majors get dissed again...

But hey... It's a great major for getting your conservative parents to pay for you to go co-ed camping every weekend...

My MS Mathematics degree is worthless... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322105)

3.98 GPA and a more awards than you can shake a stick at.... And the only job I could find is with a shitty timeshare marketing company. No degree required for this job.
Lol.
FML.
They should either remove the "M" from STEM or stop telling gullible young smart guys that a STEM degree will lead to a higher paying job.

Re:My MS Mathematics degree is worthless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323199)

Let me guess: Your passport has the wrong color, so you can't get a job with the local TLA?

Re:My MS Mathematics degree is worthless... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323269)

Why aren't you on Wall Street then? Don't think you're telling us the whole story.

the lead ceiling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322297)

I personally found, if you have ability, managers don't want you. They are concerned more about their ability to rise in the corporate ladder then building a team capable of building a good product. They are scared of individuals who know what they are doing.

Seen this way too many times for this not to be the norm.

My actual numbers (4, Informative)

hambone142 (2551854) | about a month ago | (#47322403)

I went to my Social Security statement and added up my income since I graduated (Electronics Engineering degree (BSEE), 35 yrs. in my career until I retired). I stayed in the technical field (avoided management). The number: $2,727,247 I went to a community college and obtained my general education, later transferring to a state university. I'd estimate my total education cost at around $3K maximum (tuition was a whopping $59.65/qtr. when I graduated in '77). Starting salary was about $1.2k/month. Ending salary was about $10k/month. YMMV

Nothing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322419)

I don't have one. Just two liberal arts undergrad degrees and an MBA. Doesn't stop me knowing a lot about STEM. E.g. teaching myself how to code. Or how to fix circuitboards and replace capacitors.

When I hire, sure I look at the degree. But I first look at if they love what they do, and what they've built. Credentials are the third on my list because I don't care what Harvard, Stanford, or West Virginia College for the "Gifted" said you were capable of doing when you were 22. I'm more interested in what you've done since then.

Show me products on shelves. Research papers written. Discoveries made. And don't forget to show me the 1000 ways you failed before making the invention/discovery/breakthrough. How you handle, process and adapt to failure is far more important than any degree. In fact... your degree after a few years of work is worth bumpkiss.

Who expects high-paying? (2)

ButchDeLoria (2772751) | about a month ago | (#47322863)

Will dumping $80,000 into an educational institution for a piece of paper let me get any sort of semi-stable career?

Selection bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323057)

He says he accounted for selection bias,
      but completing college well is a strong selection mechanism.

Clearly you have to have skills someone is willing to pay for.
    Or better yet, skills you can use to make your own business.

The college degree may be a part of this.
It is a great selector for getting a job interview which can get that first job.
It shows you have the ability to choose between work and play.
It may show you learned something useful, but showing persistance and brains is the big thing.
  Also, college may provide some connections that turn out to be more important than the degree.

Clearly, some jobs require some specific knowledge,
  but for success, all of the above may be less than half of the equation.
Attitude and luck are also useful parts.

I've always wondered how a plumber would fit into this old story.

Being a token female in the IT industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323163)

Stem degrees when your female become worthless when your in your 30's because in IT standards your judged to be over the hill and therefore not employable despite having a set of top of the range IT skills. However saying that most women come out of university with decent degrees and can do the same job at the same or better standard as the male dinosaurs that work in the industry and allowed to hire based on womens bra sizes, or who all go one the same gaming site as other IT males and only hire there friends.

Why are there so few women in IT with stem degrees?
Perhaps that's because of misogynist dionosaurs eh?

It's about life, stupid! (1)

allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) | about a month ago | (#47323359)

Wow, I really hate looking at life in purely monetary terms. I didn't really think (much) about money when I decided to go to college. I was looking forward to the life experiences; the learning, the discussions with the professors, the companionship, last but not least, the parties.

It's important to have enough money to get by, beyond that, it's the life experiences that matter, not if your college degree was "worth it" in terms of money lost vs. money gained.

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