By Roberta Rincon, Ph.D.
Manager of Research
Society of Women Engineers
June 15, 2017
The value of a college education is argued in some policy circles, centered on the question of whether graduates possess the education and skills necessary to reach their career objectives. The problem is really whether individuals have the necessary information to make those decisions when they decide what level of education to pursue and what major to choose. There are plenty of data available on how long students take to complete their degrees, how often they switch majors, and what job placement rates look like by field of study, institution, and location. But a recent report released by the Strada Education Network and Gallup asks questions that go beyond these typical education statistics. Through surveys of more than 122,500 U.S. adults, they asked:
If you had to do it all over again, would you still …
- Pursue the same level of education?
- Pursue the same area of study?
- Attend the same institution?
The purpose of the survey was to gain an understanding of how satisfied people are with the education decisions they have made. Two findings stood out to me when reading this report. First, STEM graduates at all education levels were the least likely to report any type of regrets associated with their educational choices. At higher educational levels, the percentage of people who would have done something differently goes down, regardless of major.
Second, those who completed degrees later in life indicated that they were more satisfied with their education decisions. This has two different aspects. One is that those who are under 30 years old may need more guidance to help them achieve their goals. Another aspect of this finding is the potential that exists to encourage more individuals who may have chosen a different educational pathway (delayed entry into college or part-time attendance, for example) to pursue and continue to earn their degrees.
We know that there is a need to educate young people about what an engineer is and does. These findings indicate that mentors and role models can play an important part in helping to provide more information and support to assist young adults in choosing to pursue a STEM education – and that those that choose to study STEM are less likely to regret that decision.