In the summer of 2014, two national and credible publications ran articles that literally posed opposite arguments and painted completely different pictures of the state of the STEM market in the United States. The Atlantic claimed that there was in fact a serious glut of students seeking positions in STEM fields, advising caution and admonishing readers not to believe that there were more available positions than prospective employees. U.S. News took the contrary stance, arguing that there was indeed a significant STEM shortage, and that students could boldly pursue STEM careers with confidence as these fields were still ballooning with opportunity.
These two articles were published within weeks of each other, and together they present the dilemma facing every Freshman; how can I adequately understand the relationship between the major I choose and the likely career outcomes associated with that major?
With our annual survey, The Excelsior Initiative methodically collects annual data which will be analyzed and presented in novel ways to help students make informed decisions that will elevate their quality of life and prevent them from sleep-walking through their undergraduate years with a vague hope that all will be well in the end. We believe that simple but all-important decisions at the undergraduate level can have a profound impact on career trajectories, and by making a substantial contribution to the body of existing (and often contradictory) information about majors and their respective careers, we plan to elevate the employment information literacy of all students.
The headlines above definitely contradict each other, but one might think simply that more substantial data could clear up the story possibly misrepresented by the headlines. This is not necessarily true. Much existing research presents a deeply complex portrait of majors and their career outcomes. The stories behind our major choices seem to recede with the horizon. We aim to help combat this elusiveness through our data collection, which will empower students everywhere to take active control of their futures. We will also track students from year to year, with the goal of ultimately presenting long-term career trajectories tracked through data, which will provide an unusually rich understanding of the patterns that characterize the careers of all common university fields of study. The mentoring we provide is the crucial supplement to the information we track; after making that decision, students are still in need of a more specific map that charts the way to a fruitful career, and our Major Correspondents are the resident experts who will help students make those key pivots at every stage of their educational career.