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'Undercover Science Commandos'

The Guardian recently reported that about half of science graduates in the UK find work related to what they studied. While some say that this kind of trend leads to a shortage of STEM scientists and will lead to young students shying away from the sciences, the paper's Imran Khan says a STEM degree prepares students for a wide array of careers, and that this versatility should be lauded. "Statistics show that if you study engineering, physics, or chemistry as your first degree, you're almost 90 percent likely to be in either full-time employment or further study three years later," Khan says. "That's because a STEM degree gives you a huge range of skills that are in demand in wide variety of jobs, not just in science. Isn't that a good thing?" If anything, he adds, science graduates should be encouraged to take on careers outside of science like teaching, politics, civil service, and the private sector. "The scientific method should be more embedded in society, not less. In the UK, we have only two MPs with a PhD. China, the most populous country and fastest growing economy in the world, has been led for the past eight years by two men who are professional engineers," Khan says. "I'm not saying it's better — but wouldn't it be nice to have some diversity among all the lawyers and economists?"

At New Scientist's Big Wide World blog, Charlie Ball of the UK's Higher Education Careers Service Unit says that technically, he has "failed at science" since he is a science graduate with a "non-science job." According to the HESA's Destination of Leavers Higher Education Survey last year, about a third of employed physical science grads from UK universities were working in science or research six months after graduation, Ball says. "Are those physical science grads not doing science lost to us? Is it a waste of their education?" Ball asks. "No. A lot of us are essentially doing science — even me. We are undercover science commandos. Science is, after all, essentially a method, rather than a set of industries. It is good that we do what we're doing. It is good for science and for society."

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