Lesson of the Day: ‘In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure’

Lesson of the Day: ‘In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure’

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Featured Article: “In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure

In this commentary, David Deming argues that technical skills taught in college can sometimes have a short shelf life, while a liberal arts education often prepares graduates for jobs that haven’t been invented yet. In this lesson, students consider the correlation between skills and salary, and then explore the paths people take to get the jobs they have.

What career do you plan to pursue as an adult? Will it require college, and if so, what do you think you will choose as a major? To what degree, if at all, does the salary you expect to earn factor into your career aspirations?

With these questions in mind, spend 10 minutes writing about the future you envision for yourself in terms of education, job training and career choice. Where do you see yourself in five years, or 10 years? How about 20 years?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. What is STEM? Put into your own words the two reasons, by age 40, the salaries of people who majored in fields like social science or history have caught up with their peers who majored in STEM fields.

2. What sorts of non-STEM career paths raise the average salary of social science and history majors by age 40?

3. How does the gain in salary by age 40 compare for female STEM majors versus social science and history majors?

4. How do college course catalogs serve as evidence that knowledge and skills become obsolete over time in many STEM fields?

5. What skills, according to a survey mentioned in the article, are the three attributes of college graduates that employers considered most important in 2018? How do you think this list is different from one in 2008? What might employers be looking for in 2028? Why do you say that?

Identify someone whose career path interests you. This could be a teacher or staff member at your school; a family friend or friend’s parent; or someone in your neighborhood. Ask them: How did you get the career or job that you have now? What steps did you take? And, why did you make those choices?

Then, reflect on David Deming’s commentary about careers and salaries. Did anything you learned in your interview mirror, or challenge, anything in the article?

Finally, share with your class some of the takeaways from your brief interview. Does anything from the article or your interview have relevance to your own possible career path?