Career advancement office sheds light on the pro-STEM bias, says that it’s a myth


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

The basement of Technological Institute. Data collected by Northwestern Career Advancement showed that non-STEM majors were equally attractive as STEM majors in the job market.

Priyanshi Katare, Reporter

Despite common perceptions among students that science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors are more likely to be hired, recent data shows that this may not be the case.

Data collected by Northwestern Career Advancement over the past five years showed that non-STEM majors were equally as attractive as STEM majors in the job market. A vast majority of industries house several different majors, and even though each industry is looking for qualifications and skills, they are still extremely broad, said Mark Presnell, the executive director of NCA.

“Since July of 2018, we’ve posted over 28,000 jobs and internships on Handshake,” Presnell said, referring to an online platform rolled out last year that connects students to potential employers. “The top industries were education, data analytics, marketing and finance. Apart from data analytics that would require quantitative competency, the rest are extremely inclusive.”

According to the data, 72 percent of sociology majors were employed within 6 months of graduation. This compares significantly well to gender and sexuality studies (62 percent), economics (86 percent) and history (70 percent) in Weinberg. McCormick showed a similar trend, with employment of computer engineers at 78 percent and that of industrial engineers at an exceptional 95 percent.

Presnell said the major doesn’t really matter because recruiters look for specific skills and not specific majors. The major a student studies is an entry point into the industry, he said.

“To be successful you need to find a major that engages you and that you can do well in,” he added. “Then pair that with minors and certificates that allow you take specific courses. In general, expose yourself to a broad range of classes.”

But some non-STEM students still feel lost in the job market. Weinberg first-year Karina Zadorozhny said there is a common perception that non-STEM majors are “easier,” which is why STEM majors may appear more attractive to recruiters.

Weinberg first-year Pranavi Ahuja said it feels like STEM majors are better off in terms of opportunity and payment.

“While I am a firm believer of doing what you are passionate about, it seems practical to be a STEM major,” Ahuja said.

Some of the stigma surrounding humanities majors is recent, Presnell said. The software boom of the early 21st century has created a culture centered around the likability of a STEM major, he said.

Yet despite these perceptions, Presnell said these stigmas are often self-imposed “myths” among students. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a single pathway to success in particular career fields, he said.

“This myth takes many forms — you have to be a biology major to go to medical school, an economics major to go into finance, a computer science major to work in technology, or an English major to work in publishing,” Presnell said. “These are just myths.”

Weinberg sophomore Monisha Mundluru said that in an extremely sophisticated tech environment, social sciences have an augmenting effect. They help personalise products, campaigns and research toward humans and the evolving trends, Mundluru said.
According to Presnell, this outcome can be explained by the translation of a degree to the industry.

“Every major is equally competitive, provided you are able to articulate why you want to be there,” he said. “To have a very successful career there are less specific skills that are necessary. It depends on your ability to analyse the data, to write and to problem solve.”

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