Job prospects 'poop' for science graduates: British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Loughborough.

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

SCIENTISTS and engineers are poorly paid and new science and engineering graduates are three times more likely to be unemployed than those graduating in the law.

A police inspector earns about 180 a week more than a graduate engineer, Professor Alan Smithers, from the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Manchester University, told the annual meeting. In fact, the salaries of graduates in science and engineering 'tend to lag behind those in many other fields', he said.

About 2 million out of a total workforce of around 25 million are employed in science-based ocupations, he said, although this figure included about 500,000 nurses and midwives. It was doubtful that there was a real shortage of scientists and engineers because if there were, the salaries should rise to attract people into those professions.

In April 1993, a scientist's average weekly earnings were 464.3 whereas those employed in marketing and sales, or business and finance were earning about 550 a week, while a solicitor's average earnings exceeded 621. At the same time, the rate of unemployment among graduate engineers in 1992 exceeded 15 per cent whereas the rate for business graduates was around 14 per cent. In law, however, the rate of unemployment was 5.4 per cent.

None the less there was still a need to improve Britain's scientific literacy, Professor Smithers said. He proposed there should be a 'threshold exam' leading to a maths and English certificate at the end of primary school to denote a child was ready to go on to secondary level. A child who did not reach the threshold would have to receive extra evening or holiday tuition until the exam was passed, allowing them to entry to secondary school.