Students are often told that a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will lead to a long and profitable career.
For many, this is true. STEM majors consistently have some of the highest rates of employment and the highest incomes. But according to a new study, published Tuesday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, half of all people pursuing careers as scientists at institutions of higher education drop out of the field after just five years. (By comparison, in the 1960s, half of academic scientists remained in the field for 35 years.)
The research, lead by Staša Milojević, associate professor at the Indiana University School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, tracked more than 100,000 scientific careers over 50 years across physical sciences, life sciences and engineering and computer science.
Milojević and her team discovered a steep increase in what researchers describe as the "dropout" rate among academic scientists, as well as a dramatic increase in the number of scientists who worked as temporary or supportive researchers.
"Between 1960 and 2010, we found the number of scientists who spent their entire career in academia as supporting scientists — rather than a faculty scientist — has risen from 25 percent to 60 percent," writes Milojević. "There seems to be a broad trend across fields in science: It's increasingly a revolving door."