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Education Science

Why Science Is a Lousy Career Choice 694

Hugh Pickens writes "President Obama had a town hall meeting at Facebook's headquarters last week and said that he wanted to encourage females and minorities to pursue STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). However, Pastabagel writes that the need for American students to study STEM is one of the tired refrains in modern American politics and that plenty of people already study science, but they don't work in science. 'MIT grads are more likely to end up in the financial industry, where quants and traders are very well compensated, than in the semiconductor industry where the spectre of outsourcing to India and Asia will hang over their heads for their entire career.' Philip Greenspun adds that science can be fun, but considered as a career, science suffers by comparison to the professions and the business world. 'The average scientist that I encounter expresses bitterness about (a) low pay, (b) not getting enough credit or references to his or her work, (c) not knowing where the next job is coming from, (d) not having enough money or job security to get married and/or have children,' writes Greenspun. 'Pursuing science as a career seems so irrational that one wonders why any young American would do it.'"
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Why Science Is a Lousy Career Choice

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  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:18PM (#35931340)

    Think. Which job position will get outsourced more likely? Engineering or managing? Before you answer, consider: Managers make that decision.

    Do I need to write anything more?

    • Wait, did 10th grade call asking for the In Crowd back while sticking nails in the tires of Nerds?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This demonstrates the common strategy to achieve failure:

      But the problem is more general than one of outsourcing.

      As a company grows, it grows from a few engineers to engineers plus managers, to engineers plus managers plus managers of managers.

      As a company shrinks, it often shrinks from the bottom, because the decision power is top down.

      So a common failure state is a company full of managers, with no-one to do the work.
      The upside down pyramid structure will inevitably fall.

      Whether staff is reduced or outsou

      • You forgot about the third option when it is time to downsize. Acquire small company with profitable ratio of engineers to managers, relocate some of your extra managers to the formally profitable company making it barely profitable and making the larger company profitable, repeat until too large to fail then stop spending money on buying successful companies and start spending money on buying politicians.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:48PM (#35931824)

      If car manufacturing in the UK is anything to go by, the cycle works a bit like this:

      1. Companies outsource manufacturing to cheap overseas country.
      2. Manufacturing more-or-less collapses in UK.
      3. The UK now has a large number of skilled workers who have experience building cars and a shortage of work for them. It's fair to assume they'll work for slightly less than they used to demand, and shipping cars is remarkably expensive. So a number of foreign manufacturers set up factories in the UK.
      4. Manufacturing brightens up - though the factory owner is no longer a British company.

      Examples: BMW manufacture the Mini in the UK. (They also manufacture a number of engines. Yes - the UK ships car engines to Germany for BMW cars!)

      Toyota, Honda and Nissan also have factories in the UK.

      • by Thud457 ( 234763 )
        This is exactly what happened in the US. We can still afford to build cars here, Honda, BMW, Subaru, Kia & others do so. It's just the American-owned companies that chronically can't seem to cut it. Some people would point out that Detroit manufacturers had a union workforce, while the foreign companies steered clear of that situation. The people building the cars stays the same, it's just where the profits go that changes.
        • by bware ( 148533 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:05PM (#35932998) Homepage

          Tariffs played a large role in this. Honda et al. can avoid paying tariffs if some large fraction of the car is manufactured/assembled here. Otherwise there's as much as a 25% tariff. For years the Japanese could make cars cheaper than Americans, so this didn't matter, but then when prices started approaching parity, they started moving factories over here to get around it.

          The tariff on trucks was much higher, and that's why there were no full-sized Japanese trucks in the US until the laws changed around 1999. The Japanese manufacturers lobbied hard to get those changed (and the US companies lobbied hard against it - some deal was made) so Toyota/Nissan could compete in the very profitable F150 market, and traded off moving entire factories here to get it.

        • by TopSpin ( 753 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @04:10PM (#35933914) Journal

          This is exactly what happened in the US.

          The grandparents hypothetical 'cycle' had nothing to do with the presence of foreign auto manufacturers in the US.

          During the late 70's and early 80's 'domestic content' laws and regulations were both enhanced and created in the US that assess tariffs on imported autos based on the percent of value add by foreign vs. domestic industry. As a result, multiple plants opened (and remain open) in southern US by the late 80's. By 1989 all imported autos were subject to these content requirements. Trucks and SUVs were eventually reclassified [] (yes, these demands were met) to fall under this regime as well.

          The Reagan administration also negotiated hard limits on Japanese imports. Annual caps on imports were voluntarily agreed to between the US and Japan. Reagan also applied heavy tariffs on imported motorcycles; he noted in his memoirs that the only remaining US motorcycle manufacturer was on its last legs at the time. Today that company is healthy and once again has domestic competition.

          The reason, the only reason, any foreign auto manufacturers pay for US labor is to avoid heavy tariffs. This paradigm was established back when the US had leaders willing to leverage the fact that importers needed the US more than the US needed the importers.

          Which president most recently granted MFN status to China and signed NAFTA?

          Look it up. Learn something. There is no need to resort to speculation and theory about why things are as they are; there is actual history one may study.

        • This is exactly what happened in the US. We can still afford to build cars here, Honda, BMW, Subaru, Kia & others do so. It's just the American-owned companies that chronically can't seem to cut it.

          To be fair, Ford can.

  • Is it really that we have too many scientists, or just that we have too many mediocre science grads who don't realise that the quality of their degree comes nowhere close to matching that expected of the science graduate even two or three decades ago?

    And of course Obama, and any member of the ruling elite, wants more people in a technician role. Supply up; wages down. It's only a matter of time the middle class is eroded sufficiently that onshoring's time will come.

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:21PM (#35931388)

      doesn't matter how mediocre they are, why get 1 mediocre scientist in America thats going to bitch and whine about pay, when you can get 5 mediocre scientist in India who will suck your ass for cheaper all together

    • or just that we have too many mediocre science grads

      If that were the problem, you would expect the mediocre ones to be the ones leaving science due to not being able to get jobs, but that's not the case. If you look at the science people working in finance, they're mostly Ivy League. They aren't leaving science because they can't find jobs in science. They're leaving because they can have a much better life doing something else. Society benefits greatly from scientific discoveries, often for many decades after the scientists making the discoveries are de

      • This applies to a tiny minority of science grads - it's the Ivy League / Oxbridge label that gets you the job there, not the degree. The reason most science grads aren't going into science isn't because they have such an amazing alternative waiting for them.

        And a science grad who runs to finance at the first opportunity is not necessarily going to make a good scientist.

        The basic point is: our science grads aren't good enough.

    • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:25PM (#35932396)
      It isn't just that the science grads aren't good enough, its that the science itself it harder than it's ever been before. All the low hanging fruit that could be figured out by an individual or small team as already been done.

      "It was a game, a very interesting game one could play. Whenever one solved of the little problems, one could write a paper about it. It was very easy in those days for any second-rate physicist to do first-rate work. There has not been such a glorious time since. It is very difficult now for a first-rate physicist to do second-rate work." -- P.A.M Dirac, DIRECTIONS IN PHYSICS, 1978, P. 7

  • long hours, potentially hazardous working conditions (get splashed with 1 mol sulfuric acid.), and heavy work loads.

    Yeah, there is a reason I gave up my career and degree in chemistry for IT.

    • long hours, potentially hazardous working conditions (get splashed with 1 mol sulfuric acid.), and heavy work loads.

      Yeah, there is a reason I gave up my career and degree in chemistry for IT.

      Presumably that reason is the hazardous conditions; surely you still get the long hours and heavy work load. And no respect.

  • Reward (Score:4, Insightful)

    by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:19PM (#35931364)
    The reward of solving a problem through hard work and proper application of knowledge is the feeling at the end. That is why young American's still choose to do it. There are a number of hurdles to get addicted to that feeling, not the least of which is that I can probably make more money doing something else.
    • That is true for the people that stick with it.

      Americans could be more greatly innovative and productive, but globalization and our lack of protective tarriffs..... well.... now outsourcing and insourcing has pretty much washed what 'value' is left of our educated and skilled workers in the US.

      When rent is $100/month in India, its very easy for someone in India to take $5k a year pay. When it is $1500/month in the US, and there is now an overabundance of willing-to-work scientists due to pushing STEM educa

    • The reward of solving a problem...

      This only holds up if you assume that "How do I pay for my kids' braces?" or "How can I make a living off the labor of others?" are not satisfying problems to solve.

  • by sdguero ( 1112795 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:20PM (#35931370)
    That is my main reason for sticking to Engineering.

    Sales guys, stock brokers, marketing people... Those positions are not rewarding, and you have to leave your soul at the door. Science, Engineering, Construction, Mechanics are the jobs for me. Always will be. I couldn't live with myself knowing that my livelyhood came on the back of others, earned by shiesting a percentage out of something I didn't build because I shuffled some paperwork and talked on the phone. Those people live empty soulless lives. They cheat on their partners. And they drive like assholes on the freeway.
    • What kind of twisted, self-righteous bullshit is this? I've known plenty of underhanded, socially-maladjusted, smarter-than-thou, back-stabbing engineers in my short time here. Explain that.

      If you're going to start throwing out anecdotal crap as evidence to justify your blind hate for people with other talents than yourself you might as well give up. I'd expect a man of science such as yourself to at least try harder.

      • Socially maladjusted and smarter-than-thou is pretty standard in Engineering. Both of which are side effects of people who live with passion. In a dark world full of people trying to get at you, passionate people tend to become jaded and feel isolated. The smart ones tend to assume everyone else is stupid.

        Backstabbing and underhanded happens rarely in Engineering, and not usually by Engineers. Rather, its the people that don't have the brains to hack it, and/or don't understand the feeling of reward that
    • Another way of describing it: Sales guys, stock brokers, marketing people, managers, accountants, and a lot of other people are professional liars. They operate in an environment where people are constantly lying to them, and they in turn are constantly lying to others. When you're lying at least 40 hours a week, then lying to your friends, family, spouse, or children becomes a lot easier.

      Engineers, scientists, etc by contrast are in an environment where attempts at lying will likely be caught very very qui

    • I agree with you which is why I've stayed with programmer to the point where now it may hurt me. How does one change a career with an established life at 50+? The US has snipped away at the safety of risk to the point where only the financial jobs have potential, and I cannot lose my heart.

      i will say though that sales, marketing, even stocks are a necessary part of the engine. We build something, that is what we do well, but to get people to buy it, in numbers takes *good* marketing, *honest* sales and t

    • by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:53PM (#35932854)

      All the stock brokers are now being pulled from MIT & co.'s STEM programs. Aren't you glad knowing the guys making all that money loved science & designing things in High School?

      Google & others are making significant progress towards populating marketing with the same crowd too. There is also a lively field of academic business research desperately trying to ensure that STEM majors are more qualified than undergrad business majors.

      Sales may take slightly longer though. Sorry, people still love a good bullshit artist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dripdry ( 1062282 )
      I'm sorry, but it shouldn't be the job you direct ire toward, it should be the people themselves and their work ethic. As a financial advisor and ex IT person, I found IT to be completely unrewarding. There was no meaningful interaction with people, I got no recognition, and the hours were awful!

      Now, by working very diligently to inform my clients about their benefits, researching investments and applying strategies to help them make more money than if they'd hired me, and finally presenting it to people
  • They don't. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xanthines-R-yummy ( 635710 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:20PM (#35931374) Homepage Journal
    As a relatively young MD/PhD student I've noticed that there are relatively few Americans in any of the PhD programs at my university. My perspective is from the biomedical sciences, but still. Most are Chinese or Indian students and most of the American students are already planning for industry, consulting, or some other non-research job. I would also add that e) stressing about writing grants every few years and progress reports for those grants every year - is a deterrent for continuing a career in science.
  • Deja vu (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "The average _____ that I encounter expresses bitterness about (a) low pay, (b) not getting enough credit or references to his or her work, (c) not knowing where the next job is coming from, (d) not having enough money or job security to get married and/or have children"

    Same could be said substituting "teacher", or many others.

  • by guspasho ( 941623 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:25PM (#35931466)

    Basically, honest labor is so passe. Why would anyone choose to do it when you can make so much more money through corruption and fraud, and theft? It's so much easier and more rewarding!

    • I've been talking a lot about this with my family lately... the culture in the U.S. is so screwed up right now that people almost always get punished for doing what is morally and ethically right while people that ignore those rules almost always get rewarded. Let's face it, knowing that you "did the right thing" doesn't put food on the table or assure a decent retirement... at least not in our age. It certainly doesn't make a corporate loyal to you if you live in the corporate world.

      Japan has such a succ

      • After he begs forgiveness he lays them off anyway and has a driver take him to the driving range to relax hitting a few balls, then goes and singa karoke and drinks himself into a stupor.
        • by kikito ( 971480 )


          How about not having a single supermarket vandalized for supplies, after a tsunami? And instead, getting a perfectly self-organized queues of hundreds of meters, for getting basic things like water?

          Can you honestly say that the same thing would happen in your country? I can tell you in mine (Spain), it wouldn't. They are just better at this social, group thing.

      • by guspasho ( 941623 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:01PM (#35932026)

        I found this Wikipedia article rather interesting.'s_stages_of_moral_development []

        Of the various stages of ethical development I take pride in guessing (not necessarily objectively, mind you) that I may be at stage 6 of ethical development. But take what you know of the typical corporation and they are almost always at stage 2. Only the smaller ones who have a large stake in the communities in which they operate, ie not investor-owned, and tied to a single community, even reach conventional development. I find it interesting that the justifying "philosophies" of libertarianism and objectivism would reject this model, saying that only stage 1 and stage 2 exist, stage 2 obviously being morally superior, and any further stages are still manifestations of stage 1. But our culture as well as our economy do not reward anything beyond stage 2, they disregard it or even punish it.

  • The simple answer for a lot of people is that their families tell them they should pursue a "higher career" - anything requiring multiple degrees and loaded with professional prestige. In North America, this particular idea is reinforced by High Schools which tout "University level" streams vs. "Applied level" streams, where you are either destined to become a well-educated individual with a prestigious career, or you are going to be a laborer barely living paycheck to paycheck because you didn't study enou
    • by drb226 ( 1938360 )
      But if you are passionate about being prestigious, it's a double win. Hm...
    • While interesting, and perhaps somewhat true, your point is complete ancillary to the topic at hand. Both financiers and scientists have almost certainly followed a "college track" in high school and graduated with at least a bachelors, probably (almost certainly in the case of scientists) more. If anything management and finance are (slightly) easier to get into with less education than science or engineering. While it's certainly true that to a guy making 25K a year fixing cars both science/engineering

  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:30PM (#35931508) Homepage Journal

    While there are plenty of stupid people out there, not everyone is. The smartest are moving away from these careers in droves because of these outsourcing issues. The final result of outsourcing in the messed-up corporate mind is that *everyone* will become a manager and that's the only job that holds any worth and it is the only job worth doing. It's also the only job, therefore, that deserves a living wage. If we stubbornly follow this as a country then we're is MASSIVE trouble.

    • We've already made that choice.
    • Especially when the engineers/scientists/etc over in India realize that they can break away and form their own company that will undercut their former boss by not having to support his American middle/upper_management lard ass.

      There are the consequences of building up your own future competition.

    • by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:48PM (#35931826)

      Management can also be outsourced. Eventually those engineers in India will realize that having the manager in your own timezone is a good thing. It isn't like management requires years of training and heaps of intelligence. All you need is good people skills and some competence in assigning the right resources to the right problem. Most people have some of the former, and the latter can be easily learned by playing Empire Earth. Once the manager is in India, why bother having a US presence at all? The only thing it gets you is having to pay US taxes. India is not a bad place to live, when you have a job. The endgame, therefore, is to have everyone and everything move to India. The US will be populated exclusively by HFT traders, who will be too busy grabbing each other's money to notice.

  • Because finance jobs could never, ever be outsourced to a country where they don't expect multi-million dollar bonuses every year.

  • Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:31PM (#35931534) Homepage

    Solution: destroy "financial services" industry. At this point it serves no purpose whatsoever, just sucks resources. Trade and investment can be handled without giant middlemen running their scams.

    • They did destroy themselves in 2008, but thanks to the Fed and the US govt bailouts, they were saved. Now they're bigger, more powerful, and more destructive than ever. Note that Bush started the bailouts at the beginning of the crisis, and Obama continued them. So essentially you have a two party system where both parties have the same policy on the financial system. Yay for democracy!
      • In 2008 no one could predict when exactly they will destroy themselves, so when shit hit the fan, the fan was spinning and we all were still standing around it. So government converted the fan into a shit pump, as that was the only thing that could be done at that point without being prepared to get rid of the shit.
        If the government will know when it is going to happen (because it will orchestrate it), thing will go into a completely different direction.

        Of course, US government will be the last on Earth to

    • That's not entirely true, as satisfying as it would be.

      If I'm, say, a college president with a background in history, charged with among other things managing a large endowment, I'm going to hire some folks who know what they're doing to handle the finances. I'll have them vetted and watched by the people in my college that understand economics and business and finance and stuff, but in the end I'm going to need a financial services provider to handle it. Same story goes for anybody inheriting huge sums of

    • Ha! You might as well go fight a war on jealousy. Destroy the financial services industry? Is this supposed to be serious? This isn't Fight Club and you aren't Tyler Durden.

      Ok, I'll play along just for fun....
      1. What financial services would you destroy first?
      2. What financial services would you leave intact?
      3. Are there any necessary financial services according to your model of "how things work"?
      4. What would you replace this system with that would work better?
  • by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:31PM (#35931536)

    Tell us, Mr.President, why did you major in law instead of engineering?

  • What makes the diversion of science grads into finance jobs even worse for the overall economy is the type of finance jobs they are filling. The work done by quants & black-box traders (not much diff unless you want to pick nits) can most charitably be described as speculation; and some observers prefer the less fashionable term "market manipulation". Thus our scientists are being diverted from work with high social value (basic & applied research) to work with very low or negative social value.

    • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 )

      well that and all the chinese scientists we train in the west go home now. And depending on where you are, that can easily be 30-40% of your grad student body.

      Where I am we're about 80-85% foreign (out of about 120 grad students in comp sci). Of those, about half are from the PRC, but some are from the ROC too, and I cannot, as a casual observer, tell the difference. Nor do most of the students from the PRC talk to me, since there are enough of them they cluster together.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      Yeah, our CEO does a lunch and learn with our department a couple times a year and back in early 2009 one of his biggest rants was about how many of the brightest people went into finance instead of science and engineering. His favorite statistic was that for every civil engineer we graduated one hundred and something jobs were created but for every finance major we graduated we lost one thousand jobs. He did his very best to keep people on during the recession and while we had to severely trim a few depart
  • by heypete ( 60671 ) <> on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:34PM (#35931582) Homepage

    Now you tell me!

    I got my bachelor's in physics in 2010. I've been doing IT work to fill the gaps until I go to graduate school. Fortunately, I got into the schools that I was looking for (any Slashdotters in Switzerland that want to get a beer sometime in the next few years? I'll be in Bern.), so I'm a bit excited. Moving from the US to Switzerland will be a refreshing change, and will allow my wife and I to fulfill our our love of travel (in our copious free time, naturally).

    I suspect that science in Europe will be about as bitter as science in the US, but it'll be a different kind of bitter!

    • I suspect that science in Europe will be about as bitter as science in the US, but it'll be a different kind of bitter!

      I'm guessing it will be more of a hoppy bitter than a bilious bitter ;-)

  • You are better off with a Science or engineering bachelor combined with an MBA OR an MBA AND an advanced science/engineering degree. With that approach, you are far more likely to capitalize on new ideas than is either a pure business toady, or a pure science geek
  • by macwhizkid ( 864124 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:42PM (#35931710)

    I work as a research associate at a name brand school. I've seen this article cited a few times, usually by discouraged graduate students.

    For me, I guess it all comes down to what you want out of life. Greenspun's argument basically comes down to the fact that science/tech is at risk of being outsourced, and people should instead be real-estate agents, doctors, and lawyers. Well, news flash, lawyers are being replaced with software, many doctors want a career switch, and real-estate agents, well, I'm not even going to go there. I just find it too insulting to compare somebody who's chosen to advance humanity's exploration of the world we live in with somebody who wants to make a quick buck by match-making sellers and buyers. Hell, if anything, the last decade should have taught us that the internet is rapidly doing away with middlemen. Go ask your local bookstore/pawnshop/consumer electronics store how business has been recently.

    Most people find it easier to follow in the footsteps of others (teachers at school, professional parents, etc) rather than ask the hard questions: "What am I good at?" "Will somebody pay me to do it?" "Can I be the best at what I do?"

    Work is work, and nobody said work is entirely fun. If you have a job you truly enjoy every minute of every day, congratulations. Most people go their whole life without finding it. But, there is a big difference between a job with some enjoyable aspects and rewards vs. a job you truly despise.

  • Not that engineers, developers and IT folk aren't relatively well compensated, but it doesn't compare with what a lawyer or a manager can pull down. Those in power (executive management, lawyers, politicians), have the power to control their own salaries. Those in engineering, not so much. Inevitably, this leads to the dysfunctional parasitism that has infected the current economy of the USA.

    It's all about the money honey.

  • Thought we scientist were all part of a global conspiracy making up shit for the mythical FUNDING, so we can wallow in the cash? Did I miss a memo there?
  • I have a science degree and 25 years later I am now doing a masters in Comp Sci and rediscovering my love of maths and science. But I have never worked in science. When I graduated from university I could have gone to make weapons (legitimate career but for me? no thanks) and do something else, so I did something else. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that scientists are, in general, more likely to be poorly socialised males. Certainly when I was at university the first time the "computer hackers
  • by smoothnorman ( 1670542 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @01:51PM (#35931866)
    The solution to a problem of this sort is historically obvious: unionize. There have been attempts in the past, but money and self-interest neatly rendered it pathetic. If scientists could ever manage to organize, (they love meetings, why can't that ability be leveraged in a more profitable fashion?), particularly if they could emulated some of the far superior efforts made by the engineers, then you'd see dramatic change. Of course, the prospects are not good, and someone will point out that globalization will kill any such effort, but the tools (internet) are now available...
  • Relative income (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:04PM (#35932064) Homepage

    In 1970, engineering and law paid about the same. The IEEE tracks this. Dentistry paid better. Real estate sales paid worse, on a par with auto sales.

    What happened? Something few want to admit. Major parts of science are mined out. The return on investment from pure research has dropped since the 1970s. There was a long period when a small team might produce something like the tungsten-filament light bulb or the transistor. Now, it takes an army of researchers to get a minor improvement. That's why the big corporate research labs went into decline in the 1980s and are now mostly gone. Notice that high-energy physics hasn't produced much in the way of products in half a century. (Low-energy physics has produced substantial results, though.) Semiconductors have made huge progress, but huge resources were required to accomplish that. A modern wafer fab costs billions. The payoff for cleverness has declined, and salaries have declined accordingly.

    (Biology is still making real progress, and has plenty of work ahead. Outside bio, though, things are slow.)

  • by Yold ( 473518 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:10PM (#35932170)

    I was hoping to see some intelligent discussion of the pros/cons of choosing careers in science, but of course this is Slashdot, and all career discussions must degenerate into bashing mangers, finance, and boo-hooing the dangers of outsourcing. So let me inject some positive and rational comments into this mess.

    The financial industry is full of climbers, and it sucks to work with those people. Smart people get jammed into confining roles with no ability to solve problems or exercise creativity. I know some really smart people who have left finance to return to academia, leaving behind $500K+ salaries. Almost everyone I know who works in finance/accounting hates their job or boss.

    There are plenty of jobs outside of management that pay livable wages. Live within your means, and find a spouse who makes a decent living too. Americans are so damn greedy they don't understand that driving an economy car and living in a normal house doesn't mean that you are poor.

    Finally, outsourcing. HAHAHAHAHA. Having seen it in action, I think it's hilarious that people feel threatened by it. Sorry folks, American and European universities still churn out the best qualified engineers in the world. The people willing to work for $5 /hr aren't nearly as competent, and you have the global economy to thank for that. Would someone please offer some evidence of a outsourcing success story?

    My friends who work in science (PhD candidates, receiving full-tuition and stipends) get drunk on Tuesday nights. They travel to conferences in San Francisco and Prague. They set their own hours and work on stuff that means the world to them. There is some guidance in their research but they call the shots and decide what to research. That is pretty damn cool. One of my friends has parents who are professors and they sure do alright.

    If you want to work in science, or engineering, don't listen to the Slashdot haters. There is plenty of opportunity left in this world, just work hard and get your stuff done; you can make a living doing something that you enjoy.

    • Outsourcing is a threat because senior managers are under financial pressure and think engineers are a fungible commodity. They don't learn the truth until they wreck or nearly wreck their company going down that road.

      If you want to see the results of outsourcing on a massive scale, Google 'Dreamliner delay'.

    • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:05PM (#35933002)

      Americans are so damn greedy they don't understand that driving an economy car and living in a normal house doesn't mean that you are poor.

      People have a warped view of things thanks to TV, I think. Saw some cop show last year where they went to a detective's home, and she lived in some palatial apartment with a view that would impress Richard Branson.

      I'm doing really well in engineering. I have my little house in a quiet neighborhood. Just bought me one of those new big MINIs. I can flex my time, and have leisure time to do what I want. But to a lot of people, because I don't live by myself in a 4000 sq ft house and have two $100K+ cars, I'm a big loser.

    • by lurker5 ( 937330 )
      This is what is totally astounding to me. I have an engineering degree from a Midwestern US university and am able to afford my own townhouse, provide for my stay-at-home wife who is taking care of our 1 year old daughter, have a car (that mostly sits in the driveway), able to buy the highest end organic food, have a ton of free time, enjoy music, cinema, theater and have enough money left over for a hobby or two and save for retirement. Generally an intellectually and emotionally satisfying life. All of th
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:13PM (#35932210) Journal

    Just like factory and repetitious office work, sci/tech is yet another casualty of globalization. The laws of math and physics are the same in Timbuktu, yet the wages are roughly 1/4 of what they are in the USA. Obviously this makes USA sci/tech workers too expensive from an economic perspective.

    Instead, STEM students are flocking to fields where security issues override labor costs, such as finance and defense. It's often too risky to offshore finance and defense because it's harder to control such information in the third world where the incentives to cheat are higher to an individual and the local legal system is generally beyond the reach of a US organization.

    Brains are becoming a cheap global commodity, but security is not.

  • by AtlanticCarbon ( 760109 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:14PM (#35932230)

    I'm always amazed how every profession thinks they have it the worst. The grass is always greener on the other side. If you look at Department of Labor statistics, science and engineering is a _comparatively_ good place to be. The problem is people want the economy to reward their intelligence and overall contributions to society. That's not how it works. It works on supply and demand. There's always going to be a huge demand for people that can sell things. Does that mean you should be in sales? If you do you're not really that into science to begin with.

    Most "meaningful" jobs won't pay you tons and tons of money. Maybe that's because you're getting satisfaction out of your job unlike a corporate lawyer who looks over SEC reports for 12 hours a day. I imagine this is built into the wages. As others have said, do what you enjoy.

  • We're not lacking science-trained professionals nor academics. And the problem isn't that the science-trained are going into other fields. The problem is that politicians are trying to re-purpose education to be a means of fixing the economy... which it's not.

    Students and education are not factory systems into which you can blindly invest capital with a rational expectation of getting more money out the other end. It may happen, but it's not of a very high nor reliable return. And if it doesn't turn out to be particularly profitable (additional investment into STEM), will all that invested support be taken away?

    STEM investment is not a silver bullet to economic woes. There is no silver bullet. STEM investment is the result of the following logic: "Something must be done. This is something. It must be done."

    Over-investment in STEM comes at the cost of the humanities, arts, and physical education all of which are necessary for a healthy society. Get your heads out of your collective asses and listen to actual educators. Fund each portion of academia as necessary to prepare students for a wide variety of career and life choices. Variety and preparation, not homogeneity and mandates, will advance our civilization.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vlm ( 69642 )

      Students and education are not factory systems into which you can blindly invest capital with a rational expectation of getting more money out the other end. It may happen, but it's not of a very high nor reliable return.

      You need to look into the federally guaranteed student loan system. You can't discharge those loans in bankruptcy, and if by some miracle you lose anyway, the govt will make you whole. Also the rates the students pay are pretty high, at least compared to something like T-bills.

      Yes the students lives are ruined as they're turned into debt serfs, but the destruction of the middle class has always been the purpose of govt, right?

      Ever wonder why an education bubble is brewing? Why tuition goes up 15% per yea

  • by DetriusXii ( 632162 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:31PM (#35932504)
    I finished optimistically in my Masters in physics in 2005. I was going to take a few months off before starting my PhD to look for jobs and accept one because I was undecided about doing a PhD. I discovered that no employer was really looking for a physics education and I returned to the PhD program bitter. Being a graduate student eventually ends and ultimately, that education needs to be translated into sustainable work. Otherwise, it's just lost income opportunities by consuming time to get an education. Being able to start a family matters and being able to settle down and buy a house matters. And the people saying that science education is so valuable and so important to do aren't making those sacrifices themselves. They're the ones with their own house and vehicle and starting their family life. I ended up retraining as an accountant but I then realized I was incredibly bored after six months, so I took computer science instead and I discovered I liked it a lot more. And the material is interesting to read even outside of class. And I get job interviews too. I still think it's a challenging market as a programmer in Saskatchewan, but there's still more demand for it than in physics or engineering. Other friends who stuck it out for the PhD are now discovering that things are going awry for them. They can't find jobs and they don't have the income they thought they would. There was an article [] basically explaining that jobs that are safe are jobs that can't be shipped over the wire. The trades and the health sector seem to fit that category. There just isn't a demand for science and I cringed when I heard that the Liberals have education tax credit plans for university students. it just seems to be flooding the market with more university majors without employer demand for the degree.
    • []
      "Upon publication of Disciplined Minds, the American Institute of Physics fired author Jeff Schmidt. He had been on the editorial staff of Physics Today magazine for 19 years. ...
      Who are you going to be? That is the question.
      In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. H

  • by Baby Duck ( 176251 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:20PM (#35933214) Homepage

    Ars Technica has a highly-related article []

    Most PhD students in the sciences (unlike those in other fields of education, such as medicine or law school) are fully funded through research assistantships, teaching opportunities, and fellowships. With so many graduates these days taking jobs they are overqualified for, some educators and economists believe this money is simply being wasted.

  • by tsa ( 15680 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:23PM (#35933284) Homepage

    This post is not a flamebait but the truth. Not only in America but also in most of Europe you have to be crazy to become a scientist. I know 'cause I am one. The changes of making a career beyond the job of Post-Doc are tiny, which means getting a fixed position at a university is out of the question. Our government wants the Netherlands to be in the top five of the best research conducted in the world, and in order to reach that goal has thought it wise to has rip at least 300 M€ from the science budget. All universities now have to lose personnel. This means not only do you never know where your next job comes from, but there is also a small chance that you get fired during a research project. If I were a student now I would really think twice before starting a scientific career.

  • The Real Science Gap [] basically makes the same point - the jobs are horrible for scientists, so lots of smart people avoid the field.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"