What about a career in science?

According to a report in today’s edition of The Guardian a study, using data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, by researchers Birmingham University concluded that too many rather than too teenagers  may be studying engineering and sciences. This suggests that the advice that the government has been giving students may be wrong.

The study showed only 55% of chemistry and physics students were in jobs related to their degree. Photograph: F1 Online / Rex Features

Only about half of all science graduates find work that requires their scientific knowledge, a study has shown, casting doubt on the government’s drive to encourage teenagers to study the subject at university.
A study showed 46% of engineering students and 55% of chemistry or physics students were in jobs related to their degree six months after graduation.

The researchers from Birmingham University analysed data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency on students who graduated from UK universities in 2008 and 2009. About a quarter of engineering students were in roles that did not require a degree six months after graduation, and 12% were in sales or admin work, the researchers found. Engineering and science degrees are among the most expensive for universities to run.

The study – Is there a shortage of scientists? A re-analysis of supply for the UK – argues that there may be too many science graduates for the labour market.

Ministers from all political parties and the Confederation of British Industry have argued the opposite for many years.

The government has protected the funding of places on science, technology, engineering and maths degrees, while spending on other courses has been cut. The Council for Industry and Higher Education told ministers in 2009 that it could not “stress too forcibly our concern at the critical shortage of graduates and postgraduates with science, technology, engineering and maths capabilities”.

Could this be the result of our politicians really have no business advising pupals what subjects they should study? Could it be that the advice they have been giving is based only pm a hnch that advising young people to study the sciences is right.  It certainly goes down with the electorate.

Emma Smith, professor of education, equity and policy at Birmingham University and one of the study’s authors, said the drive to boost the number of science graduates might have led to “too many people studying science for the labour market to cope with”.

She said that while it was possible that the problem might lie with the quality of science graduates, it was more likely that the scientists were not in work related to their studies because “the shortage thesis is wrong and there are no jobs waiting for all of them”.

She added: “It is astonishing … that so few new graduates go into related employment. The figures suggest it is not easy or automatic for qualified engineers to get related employment in the UK, despite the purported shortages.”


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