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Are Goals to Become a STEM Professor Pipe Dreams?

  1. Apr 4, 2014 #1
    I really enjoy physics and chemistry and do OK in math (not stupendous, but OK at it and enjoy it) and have been pressured by my parents to choose a STEM major like computer science or engineering (the latter of which I have zero interest in).

    I'm a freshman right now and still have time to explore these fields, but more than anything I enjoy figuring out "why" questions in the sciences. I like the process and I like the material quite a lot. Nevertheless, I'm aware of how tough the life of a Ph.D. tenure-seeking job applicant can be. My advisor has already said that that's the life of someone who has to have deep passion for what they do and be willing to accept unemployment in academia, given the difficulty of the job market.

    I'm wondering if folks know what the statistics are for people becoming professors in STEM fields and just how hard it really is? How much is potentially myth and how much is fact? I'm hoping to do more research into this over the summer, but wouldn't mind hearing the perspective of others who may have experience already or getting some reading recommendations on this topic.

    Greatly appreciate the feedback and your time! -AA
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  3. Apr 4, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I worked it out in another post here by multiplying together the fraction of people who finish college, get into grad school, finish graa school, etc. I seem to remember it was in the 1-2% ballpark.
  4. Apr 5, 2014 #3


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  5. Apr 5, 2014 #4


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    I have read the article in Science Careers as well as the link on the nonacademic careers of STEM PhD holders from the American Institutes for Research (AIR), and found it very interesting.

    A question I have about the methodology of the AIR study is that, for the purposes of their analyses, jobs in engineering, physical sciences, computer sciences, mathematics, statistics, agricultural sciences, biological sciences, or other scientific and engineering occupations were codes as STEM-based careers. However (please note the bold), I'm wondering how the AIR determined whether a nonacademic job would be considered a job in math or statistics. This is particularly a question that applies to statistics, since many jobs that involve statistics aren't specifically referred to as statisticians (this is particularly true for those involving data mining or market research, where the job titles could be given various names from statistician, data scientist, data analyst, marketing research analyst, etc.) For the purposes of this paper, are ALL of these jobs identified as statistics jobs? And what about actuarial jobs -- are these jobs identified as math or statistics jobs as well?

    A similar question emerges for math graduates -- would someone working as quants on Wall Street be counted as a STEM-based career? Would a math PhD working as a quant be considered as someone who left STEM, even though his/her work may involve considerable amount of STEM-related skill?
  6. Apr 8, 2014 #5
    Appreciate that Zz. I'll take a look tonight.

    That's an interesting way of calculating it. I was thinking more along the lines of how many people who have already graduated from a Ph.D. program will wind up in a professorship type of job?

    I've heard philosophy, for example, has one of the worst rates, but that was merely chit-chat on a different forum without statistical data.

    If I find some interesting stats or facts, I'll post them back here. :)
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