Engineering degrees are the most valued. But STEM career opportunities are misunderstood.


At a time when businesses are crying out for students with STEM skills, the financial incentives are there, but students don’t know what a STEM career could mean to them.

Adzuna conducted a study of CVs belonging to recent graduates who use their Adzuna’s ValueMyCV algorithm, to reveal what degrees are considered the most valuable after leaving university. And whilst the sample size isn’t vast (the value of every degree ranked, is based on at least 50 CVs), it’s solid enough to draw some conclusions.

Overall Computer Engineering came out top. The average annual earning potential after graduation was listed as £33,555. This was followed by Electrical Engineering (£32,781), Finance (£32,159), Chemical Engineering (£31,880), Computer Science (£31,698), Information Technology (£31,162), Software Engineering (£30,839), General Engineering (£30,557), Civil Engineering (£30,047) and Mechanical Engineering (£29,958).

The picture’s quite clear. Engineering takes the majority of the top spots, with only Finance bucking the STEM trend and making it into the top three.

If you then look at the subjects according to gender. You start to see a slightly different trend emerging.

For male graduates, the results were as follows: Finance (£34,339), Architecture (£34,025), Software Engineering (£33,757), Computer Engineering (£33,393), Electrical Engineering (£32,934), Economics (£32,410), General Engineering (£32,254), Management (£31,970), Civil Engineering (£31,861) and Mechanical Engineering (£31,241). Engineering still dominates with six out of the top ten ranks.

When it comes to the female graduates, the earnings potential is different again, with Computer Science (£33,175) taking the lead. This was followed by Management (£27,989), Economics (£26,180), Education (£24,942), History (£24,771), Business Administration (£24,413), Law (£24,246), English Literature (£23,428), Business Management (£23,237) and Marketing (£23,102) claiming the last top ten slot.

And whilst there’s quite a disparity between the average potential earnings after graduation between male and females, the female graduates are not entering STEM careers (Computer Science is the notable exception). Yet, as seen in the first set of statistics, this is where the money is.

It’s something that Centrica, Britain’s largest energy and services company, spoke out about earlier in the year. Atomik Research carried out a survey on behalf of Centrica of 1,401 UK secondary school teachers and 1,063 UK students aged 14-18 back in July 2017 when exploring attitudes to STEM careers.

Nine in ten students said they were influenced by teachers when it came to decide what to do after school. Yet 23% of teachers felt they didn’t feel confident in their understanding of STEM subjects and 33% of students expressed that they felt under-informed about STEM careers.

It’s well-reported that we’re facing something of STEM skills shortage ticking time bomb. And with teachers saying that they don’t have the information they need to educate students as to potential STEM career paths, the outlook looks a bit bleak. There is still a perception that STEM is a more male biased industry, with 29% of male teachers saying that STEM careers are more for boys than girls, compared to 16% of female teachers. And 23% of teachers do not feel confident – or do not know – if job opportunities exist for girls going into STEM careers. 

There’s a very real danger that these adult perceptions are rubbing off on students with more than a quarter of girls (27%) saying that STEM careers are not for them, as opposed to 14% of boys. When asked, nearly half of all students surveyed could not think of any female role models in STEM.

Students are also put off the STEM subjects because 66% of them believe it is difficult to get into and requires high academic achievement (something the majority of teachers seemed to agree with). But teachers are open to closing the knowledge gap and suggest that businesses would be very welcome to come in to do careers talks.

This isn’t new news. For years, large companies have been trying to encourage women into these subjects. There is definitely a gender issue. However, it’s a much broader PR issue. Students need a greater understanding, earlier on, to help them make informed decisions. And unless education and business work together to radically challenge and improve perceptions of this economically-critical career path, it’s unlikely to dramatically improve anytime soon. Despite the rewards being there for the taking.

Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna said, “Brexit may mean it becomes harder to import foreign talent to serve skill shortage industries like Tech and Engineering. As such, the values of STEM degrees are likely to increase. School leavers selecting a course to study at university should bear this in mind. Having a Tech or Engineering degree on your CV is a sure-fire way to tap into significant earnings. And encouraging more women to choose STEM subjects would help plug the skills gap and even out the graduate pay divide.”

Whilst Catherine O’Kelly, Industry Development Director at British Gas, said, “There’s a clear role and need for business to provide more support so that both teachers and students have a better understanding of the exciting options that are available through STEM careers.  

“Innovation and technology are at the heart of our business and is part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, so it’s right that we encourage students, especially young women who are less confident about pursuing STEM careers, to explore the varied routes into the profession which range from apprenticeships to degrees, and are open to all.”    

Monday, 11 September 2017

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Engineering degrees are the most valued. But STEM career opportunities are misunderstood.
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