More Evidence Of A Higher Education Bubble: Even Scientists Can’t Find Jobs In Their Field

by Hans Bader on July 9, 2012 · 3 comments

in Economy, Employment, Politics as Usual, Zeitgeist

Even “very good chemists with PhDs from Stanford can’t find jobs” in their field, and end up working in menial positions, like “low-wage office temp.” As The Washington Post notes, “There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs. . . it’s questionable whether those youths will be able to find work when they get a PhD. Although jobs in some high-tech areas, especially computer and petroleum engineering, seem to be booming, the market is much tighter for lab-bound scientists — those seeking new discoveries in biology, chemistry and medicine.”

Countries’ success has little to do with how many of their citizens graduate from college. As Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson notes, “Some robust economies have workforces with a much smaller share of college degree-holders than the United States: Germany’s rate is 26 percent. Some other countries with higher rates (Japan: 56 percent) are floundering. And some with higher rates (Russia: 55 percent) lag well behind the United States economically.”  Many of the fastest-growing jobs don’t require a college degree to perform. As Samuelson notes, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only 20 percent of U.S. jobs require a bachelor’s degree or more. About another 10 percent require some post-high school instruction, including an associate’s degree. Against this need, the United States is already producing a workforce with about 30 percent holding a bachelor’s degree and another 10 percent with an associate’s degree.”

As bad as the job market is for science grads, it’s still better than for many liberal arts majors. Even if science majors don’t get jobs in their field, they can usually get at least some job outside their field, because employers realize that science majors survived a rigorous education that required hard work and a dose of reality. By contrast, a degree in a politicized major such as gender studies is less likely to lead to a well-paying or college-track job, since it may show nothing about a student’s work ethic or critical thinking skills;  grading in such fields is much easier.

In such politicized majors, professors generally share their students’ ideology, and may give students, their ideological allies, high marks for mindlessly parroting left-wing propaganda, or promoting certain ideological causes on campus.

The Wall Street investment firm that hired my brother after he got a master’s degree in computer science hired only people with degrees in business, finance, computer science, math, physics, or engineering. It did not hire any liberal arts majors.

An increasing number of Americans have gone to college in recent years, at enormous expense. But most of the increase has ended up in unskilled jobs that require no more than a high school diploma to perform competently. For example, 5,057 janitors have Ph.D’s or other advanced degrees. By one estimate, 17 million Americans have economically useless college degrees, a number that the Obama administration’s policies would increase further.

Recent Education Department rules have forced some low-cost for-profit colleges to increase tuition, and recent changes backed by the President have produced “huge paperwork screwups” for people with student loans “that have thrown thousands of borrowers into default, more than doubling the number of defaulters since December.” The Obama administration has also sought to cut back on useful vocational education that leads to well-paying, skilled blue-collar jobs that are in such high demand that thousands of vacant positions can’t be filled.

Michael Nemelka July 10, 2012 at 10:35 am

Yes but…Two candidates with equal experience and attributes are finalists for a job that does not require a 4-year degree. One finalist has a degree the other does not. Who gets the job? The finalist with the degree.

JH July 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I would take the candidate who was smart enough to realize that a degree is not worth the price. If the finalist doesn’t have a degree but actively knew this and tried to make the best of a bad situation, I would take that person.

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