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Three quarters of Oz science grads can't get science work

STEM-boosterism creating chemist-slash-baristas, and IT is still boring

If you actually want a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) job, be an engineer: science graduates are mostly under-employed, but three-quarters of engineering graduates get work within four months.

The gap between a supply inflated by STEM-boosterism and a lack of demand is funnelling a lot of science graduates back into further study, think tank the Grattan Institute finds.

The study, Mapping Australian higher education 2016, found employment outcomes for bachelor of science graduates are 17 percentage points below the average for all graduates four months after graduation, at around 50 per cent.

Of those, only half – or 25 per cent of all science graduates – managed to get employment in their specialty.

Well, things have to be better in IT, right?

Only a little, according to the Institute: a CompSci bachelor graduate still has a one-third chance of not getting an IT job four months after leaving university. The study also found that IT students aren't happy with their skills development, and are more likely to drop out of their studies.

IT only turned out 3,300 completions in 2014, and attrition rates could be as high as one-third.

The industry blames universities for the quality of courses, the institute says.

And engineers? Not only do they have the best employment outcomes, they have the highest proportion of STEM graduates in managerial roles.

Drilling into the numbers: the report says 112,500 science grads got their parchment in 2014, meaning more than 84,000 are either unemployed, re-enrolling in another course to try and get work, or working outside their fields.

Another point the report makes is that for all the Turnbull government's blather about innovation, even when there's science behind a new business (rather than just an app), the scientist is unlikely to be needed in the long term.

“But scientific and research skills are not a major on-going need for innovating businesses,” the report claims.

The full report is in this PDF. ®

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