Hey STEM Majors! It’s Time for a Reality Check.

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Today, I had a fun post planned. It involved a video and fish and SCUBA diving.

But then I got mad.

I got mad when a good friend brought this article to my attention: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/business/a-rising-call-to-promote-stem-education-and-cut-liberal-arts-funding.html?_r=0

So now I have something to say:

YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

In the past few years, I’ve met quite a few college students who seem to believe that just because they have a STEM degree, they’re guaranteed a well-paying job the instant they graduate.

Well, I hate to be the one to crush your hopes and dreams, kiddos, but that’s not how the world works.

I have one of those shiny STEM degrees from an excellent school, plus a mountain of student debt to go with it. And guess what? Employers were not banging down my door as soon as I got my diploma. I still had to work my butt off to get my first job. And I’m certainly not making $65,000 a year (yet).

It’s funny how the very same people who consistently bash millennials for being “the entitled generation” are perpetuating this entitled line of thinking, and that those who claim they advocate for less government are advocating for the government to tell students which majors they should be choosing. Don’t let the talking heads fool you – your STEM degree is not a one-way ticket to financial success and stability. Sure, the numbers look fine and all, but earning potential is just that – potential. You have to act on that potential and make it come to fruition, which takes hard work outside of the classroom using decidedly human skills. For instance, I first learned how to do research in my humanities classes. I learned to harness my creativity in my humanities classes. I learned how to formulate an opinion and communicate my ideas in my humanities classes. These skills were certainly reinforced in my science classes, but the foundation laid by the humanities has been the major driver in my success so far.

Additionally, steering students toward so-called “better paying” careers isn’t necessarily a reliable means to alleviate debt since those careers are not guaranteed. In terms of my own student debt, the most significant obstacle is for me to repay isn’t the size of the initial debt itself or an unwillingness to pay; I have no problem giving what I can over time to take care of it because it’s a commitment I made. The problem is the interest rate. How can a loan for a house that I obviously can’t afford have a lower interest rate than my education? It’s not the arts that are going to kill the economy, it’s predatory lending. Maybe we should be taking a good hard look at how lenders are crippling our financially vulnerable student population before we blame the music teachers.

But I digress. I’m certainly not advocating against STEM, but rather against ruling the arts out as useless. Yes, that science, tech, engineering, or math degree is going to look real nice on your resume, but it’s not going to get up and go get you a job or solve the world’s problems. Unless someone out there is guaranteeing you a lifetime of financial security after graduation purely on the basis of your degree, you STEM majors need to work on your soft skills, too. So take those liberal arts classes – because the expensive piece of paper you get at graduation is not what makes your career. Your career is what you make of that piece of paper.

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