Undergrad science and engineering are broadly useful

Although they aren’t researchers, the majority of people who earned bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering at least 10 years ago find their knowledge of those fields useful in their current workplaces.

The findings, which come from an analysis of three national databases of college graduates, were reported in August by Mark C. Regets of the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va.

Overall, 13 percent of the college grads with a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering had gotten an advanced degree in the same broad field that they started in—say, biology or computer science. Only 4 percent received a doctorate degree. By contrast, almost one-third of the graduates had gone on for advanced degrees in nonscientific fields, such as law or business.

About half of the college graduates went no further academically. Still, 44 percent of this group conduct research and development as their primary activity.

People with degrees in engineering, math, and computer science were most likely to describe their work as “closely” related to their training. However, 63 percent of science and engineering bachelor’s degree holders who didn’t go into those areas found their jobs—such as teaching elementary school or selling products—”related” to their degree field.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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