By Roxanna Coldiron
STEM majors, those degrees centered on science, technology, engineering and math, might be in high-demand for employers, but are STEM majors in high demand for college students?
The National Bureau of Economic Research uncovered that STEM majors often come with a higher tuition than non-STEM majors. Engineering tends to be the most expensive major at $569 per credit hour or more, while humanities majors can cost as low as $280 per credit hour.
The cost of tuition factors in the decisions that students make when choosing a major. While STEM jobs might offer higher salaries overall, it isn’t always enough to incentivize students to choose STEM majors in college. Students who choose to major in the STEM fields take on a higher price tag for their education, which includes incurring more student loan debt over time. Earning a STEM degree also tends to take longer for many college students.
A higher salary can be a decent incentive for STEM graduates, but it isn’t always enough to retain these employees. Student loan payments can overshadow an entry-level STEM salary when graduates also have to contend with the cost of living in their cities and the possibility of starting their own families.
Employers have a new challenge in retaining and incentivizing STEM graduates beyond offering a slightly higher salary than in other fields. What are today’s high-demand graduates looking for in their employers? Numerous studies have determined a variety of solutions for employers who want to retain and incentivize their STEM talent.
Today’s college graduates value a work/life balance. This means that they want an opportunity to enjoy life outside of work and independent from their careers. Employers with inflexible scheduling policies might see more turn-over than their counterparts that offer flexible scheduling.
What is flexible scheduling? This can vary across industries. Employees might choose to work four 10-hour workdays instead of five 8-hour days that allows them an extra day off during the week. Another possibility is letting employees choose their work start times to allow for parents who take their kids to school or for early errands in the morning.
Working from home
A telecommute policy that allows employees to work from one to two days a week, or even all the time, can be a great incentive for attracting and retaining STEM talent. Technology positions, such as those in programming, can be done over the internet and do not require that employees be in the office. Find a telecommuting policy that works for your company and provide an open means of communication so that everyone remains on the same page, even if they aren’t in the same office.
Student loan repayment
More companies are offering student loan repayment assistance as an employee benefit, and it seems to be paying off in employee retention. What does student loan repayment assistance look like? Again, this can vary according to the employer. An employer can offer to pay up to a certain amount toward student loans every year, or they can match a certain percentage to what their employees pay out every month. Another possibility is to pay one or two months of student loan payments for employees. Financial wellness should become part of the company’s overall strategy for increasing and incentivizing STEM talent in the workforce.