An Underemployed Physics Ph.D On The So-Called Shortage Of So-Called “STEM” Workers

From: An Underemployed Physics Ph.D [Email Him]

I read with great interest article, National Data: “Stem Shortage” Shouters Suppress Salient Statistics and I agree completely with your conclusions. I am a recent physics PhD graduate. Since graduating in 2012, I have been having a really tough time financially.

Starting in January, I took a part-time teaching position at a local community college. I`m teaching four credit hours and this college pays part-time (“adjunct”) faculty $830 per credit hour per semester; in my case this will amount to $3,320 of income for the entire semester from January through May. Right now this is my sole source of income. Of course the part-time instructors receive no benefits and I currently don`t have any health insurance, which is worrisome to me.

Prominent leaders in government and business are always talking about the supposedly dire shortage of “STEM professionals”, whatever that means, and are always begging for more students to study “math and science”.

These very vague statements are incredibly misleading and dishonest. It`s not enough to be good at math and science.

The major corporations mainly want engineers and those with very specific technical skills. Graduates with non-engineering STEM degrees (e.g., physics, chemistry, biology, or mathematics) face an uphill climb to even get an interview for positions in private industry, regardless of whether they have developed strong technical skills during their studies.

There is a glut of foreign and domestic engineers for employers to choose from, so there`s no reason for hiring managers to “dig deep” in the applicant pool when they can have their pick of applicants with exactly the degrees they are looking for.

As recently as a few years ago, the phrase that was repeated over and over by politicians and business leaders was “science and math”, as in: “We have a dire shortage of science and math teachers”; “We don`t have enough people who are good at science and math”; and “We need our kids to study science and math” (somehow I doubt that the Obamas are steering their children into science or math related professions — interestingly, our political and business elites don`t seem to give their own children the same educational advice that they offer to other people`s children). Now the STEM acronym seems to have replaced the worn-out phrase “science and math”.

I appreciate your use of honest statistics and analysis on the STEM employment situation.

Actually, I feel kind of dirty using the “STEM” acronym; this acronym seems to have been created as part of an aggressive and sustained propaganda campaign, and by using it, it appears I have bought into the propagandists` terminology.

I don`t like how this acronym lumps together widely disparate scientific and technical fields as if one can mix and match all those “science and math” people who are all supposedly in such desperate and ever growing need in our present economy. Clearly the managerial class that is in charge of hiring don`t mix and match STEM degrees much.