A cranky question about STEM salaries

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I have a cranky question. On the one hand, we have a constant drum roll of people saying that we need more employees who are proficient in STEM (science technology engineering and math). If that's the case, then why are recent college graduates majoring in science and math seeing the smallest year-over-year hikes in starting salaries than any other discipline?

On Thursday, the National Association of Colleges and Employers published a summary of its survey of starting salaries for the graduating class of 2013. The good news is that starting salaries are up 2.4 percent in general, with some disciplines commanding larger hikes and others, i.e. math and science, lagging.

Even engineering graduates, the most highly paid, saw a below-average hike in starting salaries. And computer science graduates actually experienced a 2.5 percent decrease in starting salaries, to $58,547 from $60,038 a year ago. So how does that help the STEM shortage argument? 

The average starting salary for 2013 grads was $45,327, up from the average salary of $44,259.

On the actual dollar side, engineering grads were still the most highly paid, commanding starting salaries of $62,062, up from $60,639. But the real bump went to business majors, who started at $55,635, up from $51,541. That's the biggest bump, up 7.9 percent. Engineers and business folks were the only two major categories of graduates to earn above the average.

Math and science salaries weren't at the bottom. These grads were being hired at $42,731 -- earning more than humanities and social science majors and teachers, but less than graduates in engineering, business and education. But the 2013 offers to math and science majors represented a 0.9 percent increase over 2012 offers of $42,355. How desperate can we be? 

On the positive side, even humanities and social science majors, who always bring up the bottom, managed to gain 2.6 percent over 2012, earning $37,791, up from $36,824.

As a person in the perpetually struggling newspaper business, I was heartened to see that 2013 starting salaries for communications majors were up 3.7 percent to $43,835 from $42,286 in 2012.

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