Myth #3

Myth #3: If you have a STEM major or "practical" major, you're more likely to get a job.

Reality - Not all STEM majors are the same.  Some fare better than others.  However, non-STEM majors with a defined plan and experience can actually come out of college doing far better.

In the ten years between 2008 and 2018 the cost of college has gone up by 37% overall, and this trend does not seem to be slowing anytime soon. This has caused many students to evaluate the returns on investment from their education much earlier than their parents. This push to find a “profitable'' degree has caused many to look at a STEM degree as the golden ticket to gainful and stable employment after college. Unfortunately the situation is not that simple.

The driving factor behind this misunderstanding are the high starting salaries available for many grads in the STEM field. While majors like Computer Science or Petroleum Engineering are two of the highest paying majors out of the gate, these earnings plateau over time. Interestingly enough, the average mid-career earnings of STEM majors and liberal arts grads are around the same. The high attrition rate in STEM is one major cause of this. “Between the ages of 25 and 40, the share of STEM majors working in STEM jobs falls from 65 percent to 48 percent”, writes David Deming in The New York Times. New tech skills are always in demand, meaning recent graduates will be at a premium in these fields. The downside of this focus on new talent is a lack of retention that causes salary growth to slow in the mid-later career years.

Greater earnings growth is actually seen among the traditional overlooked majors like History or English. The “soft” skills such as critical thinking and the ability to adequately express yourself are crucial in today’s ever-changing job market. While they won’t get you a job offer, soft skills will help you stand out among your peers and help contribute to the salary growth liberal arts grads see on average. Beyond this the skills built out in these courses don’t change every year and are incredibly difficult to automate.

While many STEM grads can have some excellent starting salaries this is not the case for everyone. Technology and engineering grads may have the highest starting salaries but that’s only half of the acronym. People studying the natural sciences or non applied Mathematics can find themselves without many options after graduation. This is because not all STEM degrees are created equal. For example, a graduate in Biology will be most suited to pursue an advanced degree in medicine or a related field. If they choose to enter the job market right after undergrad they will most likely find themselves working as a lab tech or in education. While these aren’t bad options, by any means, they will not net the salaries that pull so many towards STEM. This shouldn’t dissuade anyone from pursuing a degree in pure science or math, just don’t think that simply majoring in STEM will be a magic solution when it comes to finding a decent job.

A degree isn’t what makes or breaks you, it’s all about your plan.

So many people focus on what major will get them the best job instead of thinking about what will make them actually employable or happy in their career. When choosing your major, it’s important to first learn what career paths you’re interested in pursuing and then work backwards with respect to what major and classes will help you learn the skills necessary for your desired path. Most people start with determining their major, without the end destination in mind. If you want to pursue a career that requires analytical thinking and processing, a STEM major makes sense.  However, many other highly lucrative careers can leverage other degrees.

Not sure what paths make sense?  That’s where PathMatch comes in.  We’ve built a matching algorithm that matches personalities, strengths, interests, and many other variables to in-demand and often highly lucrative careers.  Take our free career assessment to learn what career paths fit and check out our flexible plans to get the support and guidance you'll need to become a competitive applicant.

Prepping like this will do much more for you than majoring in the “right thing” since most employers only care that you have a degree. What they REALLY care about are the real world skills that can add value to their business, not if you understood Thoreau or can model a windfoil. So instead of driving yourself crazy trying to fit into the STEM bubble, focus on building out a plan to maximize what you’re already good at with some real world skills you can work on outside of the classroom. This will do so much to not only improve your hireability, it gives you a path. Having a path to help navigate your way through the application process brings peace of mind, while others will be rushing to build out a resume and you'll have projects as proof of your skill. A defined plan will help you build out the experience to get hired right out of college.

A great way to illustrate this is two students from the same school.  Student #1 was a Sociology major who had 3 internships.  She received an offer from her internship and didn't have to search for a job prior to graduation.

example good resume

Student #2 worked through college as a photographer, but had no relevant internship experience.  It ended up taking him almost a year to find a job and he made $8K less than Student #1.

example bad resume

The moral of this story is: Any major + relevant experience is far more compelling to employers than a STEM major with no relevant experience. Having a plan for what you want to do, developing the skills employers need you to have to hit the ground running, and demonstrating value needs to start as early as possible. If you need help, please feel free to reach out to hello@pathmatch.com.

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