Lately, a massive debate has been ongoing on the issue of whether there is a shortage of science and engineering graduates prepared for the labor market or if this is a complete myth. Overall, it looks like it depends on how you count your numbers to form a conclusion on the topic. One thing that does seem clear is that the number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related jobs fluctuate with market demands, thus the need for skilled for workers in specific fields can change over time.
One current example may be the geosciences field based on a recent report from the American Geosciences Institute that concludes there are more geoscience job opportunities than students, especially students who have the quantitative skills that employers are seeking. Major energy challenges facing the global community may drive an increased need for geoscientists in the near future who are trained to locate ideal sites for tapping into energy reservoirs (e.g., hydraulic fracturing).
“Jobs requiring training in the geosciences continue to be lucrative and in-demand, according to a new report. Even with increased enrollment and graduation from geoscience programs, the data still project a shortage of around 135,000 geoscientists needed in the workforce by the end of the decade.” —AGI, 2014
This example demonstrates that it is important for students and STEM professionals to stay on top of the science and technology sectors that are hiring and to remain flexible in career goals. If you are thinking about a college major or a career change, it may pay to keep up with job market demands. Below are a few ideas on how you can track the current labor market trends.
1. The National Science Foundation publishes an annual Science & Engineering (S&E) indicators report on the status of STEM education in the U.S. You can find data on the number of degrees awarded by field and employer statistics.
2. The Occupational Outlook Handbook maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a wealth of job forecast information from degree requirements, projected trends in job outlooks and information on related fields.
3. The O*NET Resource Center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor is an interactive application to explore a comprehensive collection of career paths, including job outlook information by state and salary. Increasing wages in a field can be a good indicator of positions that are in demand.
4. By scanning job boards and talking to employers at events such as career fairs, you can get a good sense of what fields are hiring and what might be the expected employment needs in the future.
Source: American Geosciences Institute. “More geoscience job opportunities than students.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2014. .