• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Picking a major according to the BLS job outlooks, bad idea?

  • Programs
  • Thread starter MathGangsta
  • Start date
  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'll first say I have many interests including physics, applied math, CS and EE. I was committed to EE until I started doing some research into the BLS. EE's are supposed to only have a 2% increase through 2018. As opposed to CS which has 32% increase through 2018.

I understand this going to provoke some to say "don't do a field you don't like." But seriously, being analytical and studying the research done by others all points to only doing CS. Wouldn't picking a major with this data be a scientific way to approach this problem?

http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm#outlook

http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos303.htm
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
92
0
Depends on how accurate those BLS projections tend to be, what your goals are, and how well off financially you are.

If you have some other source of income such that your expected salary from your degree is insignificant, then just pick what you find the most interesting. If you're looking to use your degree to make a living, and the BLS projections are reasonably accurate, then I would just take the set of all fields you are interested in and pick the one that gives you the highest employment/salary expectation. Which in your case looks to be CS. Of course you need to weigh how interesting you think a field is too, but this is hard to do if you haven't studied it in depth (bit of a catch 22 there). So also factor in personal interest. I doubt you will have too much trouble finding a job with an EE degree, it may just be harder than CS... that's just guessing though.

But yeah, if employability is a consideration you should probably take into account the BLS projections unless they are known to be crap.
 
  • #3
231
0
Wow, I see chemical is supposed to decline. That's different from all other predictions I've heard. =/
 
  • #4
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,571
1,656
At least you're looking at some data to start out with. It always surprises me how many people are willing to make career decisions without actually looking at any data. Granted, interpretation of the data is a little more tricky. These are projections after all and after just a cursory glance I have no idea what the confidence intervals are. But at least it's something and you wouldn't, for example, be excluding physics because of some misguided notion that physics majors don't get jobs and don't earn any money after graduation.

First and foremost remember that your academic major is something that defines your education. Your ultimate professon(s) is(are) may be different, particularly if you don't do a professional degree (ie. engineering, medicine, law, etc.).

Ultimately I wouldn't rely completely on such statistics, but I think it's a good idea to factor them in to your decision.
 
  • #5
491
2
Is it a bad idea? Yeah.. but it isn't a bad idea to take them into account, along with other sources of information.

You should look at what you REALLY want to do and see how you can get there. Then look at what you would really want to do if the first thing didn't happen, etc. etc. Once you have a list, weigh the chances to the best of your ability, ask people, search these forums, search the internet. How likely is it that you get a faculty position for physics? How likely is it that you'll be able to get a job as an electrical engineer? Which one do you like more? Do you like working with computers? If you don't, how will that affect your plans (primary and backups)?

You really gotta think about this stuff, most people don't take it seriously enough. I've been a member for quite some time and decided on physics, but I still learn a LOT from everyone on these forums. The guys here know a lot and their experiences will help you, so poke about and readreadread.
 
  • #6
6,814
12
I'll first say I have many interests including physics, applied math, CS and EE. I was committed to EE until I started doing some research into the BLS. EE's are supposed to only have a 2% increase through 2018. As opposed to CS which has 32% increase through 2018.
Very seriously bad idea. One problem here is that BLS predictions (and predictions about careers in general) are extremely unreliable. The second issue is that you can move between jobs pretty easily. If there is a huge demand for CS people, and not enough CS majors, then people will hire EE's.

Also there is a supply-demand issue. If CS jobs go up 32% but CS graduates go up 50%, then it's a bad place to be.

But seriously, being analytical and studying the research done by others all points to only doing CS. Wouldn't picking a major with this data be a scientific way to approach this problem?
You need to question the data. The other thing is that you need to be flexible. If you get a CS major and can do *only* CS stuff then you have problems.
 
  • #7
6,814
12
The important thing about data is that gives you some starting points for discussion. One reason I'm a little dubious of the conclusions is that the job productions for EE's mention that growth is limited because of outsourcing, but they don't apply this to computer software engineering.

They mention that "Jobs in software engineering are less prone to being offshored than are jobs in computer programming, however, because software engineering requires innovation and intense research and development."

Which is something I don't believe.

The other thing is that job titles are much less clear in the industry than they appear in BLS. There isn't really a clear distinction between computer software engineer and computer programmer that I've seen.
 
  • #8
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2019 Award
24,330
7,175
One other thing to keep in mind. You will be working for 40-45 years after you graduate. BLS prognostications are only supposed to be accurate for a few years (and even that is questionable).

In 1900 a career designing buggy whips might have seemed to make good sense.
 
  • #9
688
1
I noticed one interesting thing about the BLS: it contains many of the same phrases and blocks of text I read when I was a senior in high school in the 80s trying to decide on an engineering major. So the general applicability is questionable.

The discussion of engineering globalization was decent for a one paragraph summary, however.

With this in mind, I think the BLS was, and still is, a useful guidelines to take into account with other relavant factors that many have mentioned in this thread.
 
  • #10
Simfish
Gold Member
818
2
I don't necessarily trust BLS either.

The better question to ask is this: Is the job potentially vulnerable to automation or outsourcing? (with emphasis on the former). I don't think the BLS takes the automation factor seriously enough (although the scope of automation in the future will be very difficult to predict, as hardly anyone is accurate at predicting the future of AI). In any case, BLS projections would be more reliable if they included uncertainty intervals (although they don't use them for obvious reasons).

There's also the factor of *huge* breakthroughs that none of us can really accurately predict (just like none of us would have predicted the explosion in the Internet 30 years ago)
 

Related Threads on Picking a major according to the BLS job outlooks, bad idea?

  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
2K
Replies
14
Views
1K
Replies
12
Views
2K
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
5
Views
2K
Replies
23
Views
3K
Replies
18
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
2K
Top