Dos Margaritas Por Favor: Science, Music, Photography, and Other Rants

Too Narrow a Focus?

Posted in Uncategorized by jheil on September 23, 2009
Jeff Actually has a job. I haven't asked him what he gets paid.

Jeff Actually has a job. I haven't asked him what he gets paid. It's probably something decent.

Disclaimer: This post is based on heresay and speculation. It is written in a casual tone and should be not be taken as an indication of my literary incompetence.

I was talking with someone today about what people do with degrees and they were saying “people with science degrees make the least amount of money”. Even less than art’s they said. “Hey I have a science degree” I thought. I was mildly hurt/offended. My degree… worthless? Worthless… like a BA you say? Even more worthless than a BA!?!? Way to trigger my inferiority complex.

It was a rather general discussion, but one of the themes was that if you work in Science with a B. Sc. you could be a lab tech making $16/hr or in quality at some food company.. blah blah.. the usual things that you can think of the apply to biology focused science degrees. I guess we are biased being in Biology. Anyway, I disagreed about the scope of jobs being that narrow. The counter argument I was given was that other jobs I mentioned, such as potential management positions, were jobs an arts grad could do and they would be more qualified, since they could write and understand social issues and stuff like that.

I thought “ARE SCIENCE GRADS REALLY THAT DUMB? ARE ALL THESE MED SCHOOL REJECTS, WHO SPENT ALL THEIR TIME NARROWLY FOCUSED ON SQUEEZING EVERY RELUCTANT PERCENT OUT OF THEIR CORE SCIENCE COURSES, REALLY THAT INCOMPETENT AS TO TOTALLY DEVALUE MY DEGREE? Am I incompetent? Is that why I’m in grad school?”

Well… no… I guess I’ve shown myself to be somewhat competent. I’m confident that I can go out and do well at a wide range of things. I took a wide range of courses in my undergrad. Oh, by the way… here is an embellished window into my regular inner dialogue… I mean monologue.

ANYWAY… ahem…Should undergrad science education (especially life sciences) get away from just pumping people full of results with a few methods sprinkled on top? I say yes. Make them all take english. I never took english, I opted for 2 sociallogies, 2 psychologies, 2 philosophies for arts courses, and I didn’t like most of those courses. I however managed to take useful things away from every one of them. Make science students take arts and arts students take science I say. Wheter it be english or whatever. Make them all write essays.

Anyway, by not thinking this through fully, or providing a very reasoned arguement, more of a gut feeling, I have left PLENTY of room for comments. Fire away!

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2 Responses

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  1. Andre Masella said, on September 24, 2009 at 5:55 am

    It’s not about intelligence, it’s about market pressure. There are too many science graduates to fill the available jobs. Look at physicist: there is no question they are damn smart people, but there aren’t enough particle accelerators in the world for them all to get physics jobs.

    Engineering avoids this problem in two ways: most schools do not have engineering programs, the size of engineering programs is more restricted (that is partly done by failing people/making it so unpleasant they drop out).

    It’s interesting if you look inside the computer programming world: your value is mostly determined by the languages you know. Java and C# programmers are a dime a dozen. Every college and university teaches those languages, so the market responds and they get paid much less than programmers with other skill sets. The education system is good at keeping up with the new technology, so whatever is popular becomes saturated.

    In short, not getting a job with you {B,M}. Sc. is more about market pressure than your smarts.

  2. Eddie Ma said, on October 12, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Sounds like we can be confident in getting shafted on average.

    (p_being_hired_for_a(poorly_paying_job) * value(poorly_paying_job) == value(niche_job) * p_being_hired_for_a(niche_job))


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