Bioscience degrees accounted for 5.8% of all bachelors’ degrees awarded by Florida’s State University System in 2012-2013, nearly doubling from its share of 3.1% in 2003-2004. Meanwhile, the percentages of bachelors’ degrees awarded in STEM fields with better economic prospects – computer fields, engineering and the physical sciences – were flat or even declining during the same period.
The decline in computer degrees is particularly troubling from a workforce perspective, and Florida policy-makers have instituted incentives and grant programs to encourage SUS institutions to increase their production of bachelors’ degrees in computer fields.
At the same time, a study of average career earnings recently released by a Temple University economist and reported in Science Careers demonstrated that average earnings by bachelor’s degree recipients in the biosciences are not only lower than those in other STEM fields but also lower than the average for non-STEM degrees.
Florida’s high school science program is optimized to steer science-oriented students toward careers in the biosciences, and SUS institutions have encouraged growth in bioscience programs in part because educating a bachelor’s degree student in biosciences is significantly less expensive than educating a student in engineering or the physical sciences.
We previously posted a graph similar to the one above, but which showed absolute numbers of degrees. The above plot showing percentages gives a somewhat different perspective on the numbers.