Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren’t): Ignoring health care and end-user programmers

December 1, 2017 at 7:00 am 2 comments

The NY Times linked below attracted a lot of attention because it claims that CS is the only field where demand outstrips supply. There’s a big asterisk on the graph below — the claim that there are more life sciences graduates than jobs “does not include health care occupations.

This report still underestimates the demand for CS in industry. Here at Georgia Tech (and at many other schools, as I read Generation CS), a huge part of our undergraduate course load comes from students who are not majoring in CS, but they expect to use CS in their non-software-development jobs.

“There is a huge divide between the computing technology roles and the traditional sciences,” said Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist. At LinkedIn, researchers identified the skills most in demand. The top 10 last year were all computer skills, including expertise in cloud computing, data mining and statistical analysis, and writing smartphone applications. In a recent analysis, Edward Lazowska, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, focused on the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment forecasts in STEM categories. In the decade ending in 2024, 73 percent of STEM job growth will be in computer occupations, but only 3 percent will be in the physical sciences and 3 percent in the life sciences. A working grasp of the principles of science and math should be essential knowledge for all Americans, said Michael S. Teitelbaum, an expert on science education and policy. But he believes that STEM advocates, often executives and lobbyists for technology companies, do a disservice when they raise the alarm that America is facing a worrying shortfall of STEM workers, based on shortages in a relative handful of fast-growing fields like data analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and computer security.


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rademi  |  December 1, 2017 at 7:42 am


    First off, I very much agree with the suggestion here that combining computer science with another specialization is the way to go.

    I should also note, though, that jobs tend to be difficult to find because everyone is looking for specialists, and matching your specialization to an employer’s needs for specialization tends to be difficult.

    Another issue here might be that there’s an economic tendency to favor jobs which provide minor benefit to a lot of people over jobs which provide a huge benefit to few people. Serving a lot of people in a small way gives you more of a steady employment situation. Taxes can have a huge impact here, though.

    Another issue which might be relevant, though, is security. There will always be bad actors, and people tend to not like their encounters with such people. That said, the sheer complexity of computer systems and the economic need for simple solutions suggests that security will tend to be only partial (see previous paragraph for why). Implementing something in hardware will tend to provide immunity to internet propagated malware, but markets are more limited there (needs to provide a non-trivial benefit because your cost per unit is non-zero).

    Anyways, these are the issues which I think motivated the bureau of labor statistics numbers. But note the gotcha: finding ways to benefit people in a big way will tend to alter [for a time] both the specializations needed and the associated economics. (Also needs someone who can convey this usefulness to people who haven’t seen it yet – sales and marketing are essentially what you need to hook specialized products up with specialized needs. But identifying the needs in the first place takes a completely different approach, and building it out to be available takes yet another completely different approach…)

    Hopefully I made enough sense for it to have been useful reading my comment here.

  • 2. David Young  |  December 1, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    The Times’ bar chart does not really support the notion that there is a shortage even in computer science, does it?

    Surely there are still many graduates in life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering who go into computing.

    I wonder how the BLS arrives at its figure for job openings? It seems like an easy thing to miscount. Even if we suppose that an opening counted by BLS signals a firm’s actual intent to hire (i.e., firms are not just building a stable of résumés), not all job listings are alike. They do not ask for the same level of experience, for one thing. Can we meaningfully compare graduation rates with the total number of openings when an unknown proportion of openings are not entry-level?


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