Update: I just took a moment to think about this post, and I’m a bit embarrassed. So I’m going to take another run at it, by adding some additional commentary to the bottom of the post. Let me know if it makes any difference to you.

Picture of part of the Very Large Array (VLA), from FlickrAccording to a Wall Street Journal’s report on ranking of 200 jobs (from best to worst, it looks like) in America, those jobs that are closely ties to one STEM discipline or another are ranking very highly. College bound students, take note! The list is here, but I’ll share an excerpt.

RankJobAcademic Discipline
1ActuaryMathematics, Economics, Accounting
2Software EngineerComputer Science
3Computer Systems AnalystComputer Science
6MathematicianMathematics (Abstract or Applied or Computational)
8StatisticianStatistics (or, at lots of schools, Mathematics)
13Technical WriterWriting and any/all STEM discipline
15Web DeveloperComputer Science
16Industrial EngineerEngineering
18Aerospace EngineeringEngineering
33Civil EngineerEngineering
34Computer ProgrammerComputer Science
36Petroleum EngineerEngineering, Chemistry
42Nuclear EngineerEngineering
64Electrical EngineerEngineering
71Mechanical EngineerEngineering
80Attorneyfor Patent Attorney, any STEM area
90VeterinarianAgricultural Science or Biology
111Agricultural ScientistAgricultural Science or Biology
For fun and for those who might have just started (or are thinking about starting) college, I've added in a column that suggests the undergraduate major traditionally required by the career. I've also chosen not to include careers relating to human medicine, and I've left out those careers that may not require a baccalaureate degree. I've left out salary information, which the WSJ's table does have. If you like this type of list, you should check out the Jobs Rated Almanac. This book should be in any good library and certainly in any self-respecting campus Career Center. A couple notes are in order, I think. First, my table above is pretty old-school. The discipline-as-silo-school. The nature of careers is changing as is the nature of higher education. They are becoming more interdisciplinary, more team-based, and less degree-based. More colleges and Universities are reacting to the new needs of industry, but the reaction has been slow. It's difficult to teach old-school professors new ways of looking at themselves and the world, but that's not an excuse for sloth. Second, this post itself has overtones of celebrating that old-school approach to careers and education. That was inadvertent and reflexive, activated by the WSJ's report itself, I think. American institutions of higher education must adapt more quickly to the changing nature of the STEM fields and the way they serve industry and government or they will face obsolescence. It's not clear where that competition is going to come from (the University of Phoenix?), but technology is changing the playing field for everyone (not just the music industry).</p>

We in higher education need to address these changes head-on. We can't take a wait-and-see approach, nor can we sit back and run thought experiments to determine the ideal way to revise higher education. We need to approach this challenge in a way that mixes a business-like ethic (weighing short- and long-term expected costs and gains) with entrepreneurialism without losing touch of the liberal arts principles that prepare people to be intellectually agile and adaptable throughout life. Enough said for now. In closing, here are a couple sites that have information about STEM-related careers. The first site provided the WSJ with the job rankings highlighted in this post.