STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Anything to do with the traditional world of get a degree, get a job as well as its alternatives
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7Wannabe5
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STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I am currently attempting to determine whether or not I want to complete (at some expense) the M.S. degree course I embarked upon around 18 months ago, while feeling quite ill, confined to "brain in box" activities, and concerned that I might find myself in desperate need of better medical insurance/care. I am seeking estimates of (a) percentage of general population that possesses each of the below listed skills, (b) the independent and/or conjoint valuation of these skills on the current market within context of full-time job market, (c) the independent and/or conjoint valuation of these skills on the part-time, flexible, self-employed, and/or personal-use only markets; IOW, what would you pay, or recommend that somebody else pay, in order to acquire each of these skills/degree if not currently in possession, if you (or the more slacker individual you are considering) would not be likely to sell these skills/degree on full-time job market and/or would only sell them on the full-time job market for hard (and unlikely) maximum of 8 years?

1) Competence in application of Baye's rule, probability distributions, hypothesis testing, linear regression.

2) Competence in database design and SQL.

3) Competence in Excel and coding in R, Python, and Java.

NOTE: I find myself tending towards likely completing the degree just for the more irrational reasons humans tend towards wanting to complete marathons.

zbigi
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Re: STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Post by zbigi »

Re: part-time, flexible and self-employed. I'm not aware of (m)any opportunities like this. In the world I know, everybody wants their staff to work full time (or, ideally, all the time), and to be long-term employees whose value for the firm grows every year. This approach is not neccessarily due to exploitation or greed, but just accounts for the fact that developers or data scientists work on on complex problems, so e.g. hiring two part-time workers is going to be less efficient than hiring one full time (or, ideally 50+ hours per week) person, who will fit entire problem space in their brain and will not spend time on coordination with their peer.

IOW, in my experience, any other arrangement than full-time employment is rare and requires being established. Exception I'm aware of is an excellent scientist colleague, who was sometimes pulled into quick collaborations over a paper, but I'm not sure if he was paid anything at all for that, or if he did it just for sport.

jacob
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Re: STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Post by jacob »

One thing that comes to mind is not to seek employment in the obvious field(s) of those skills but to use them to optimize routine work in fields that usually employ grunts in grinding-type labor with the goal of spending 2 hours to do 8 hours of work: Admin work that mainly requires jockeying/coordinating spreadsheets.

macg
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Re: STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Post by macg »

I would argue that you don't need a degree to learn any of those things, and especially 2 & 3. And when I was a hiring manager, I cared less about formal education than I did ability, current knowledge, and the person's attitude/propensity for growth/learning.

To the other's points:
- as noted, part-time is rare but not impossible. An option might be the freelancer sites - which could also be used to learn more & broaden your experience. I haven't used any of them in over a decade, so unfortunately I have no current insight into how good they are anymore. Back in the day I was able to make some side money through the company that is now called UpWork.
- +1 to Jacob's points

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mountainFrugal
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Re: STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Post by mountainFrugal »

+1 on points above. Working on independent projects that show you know how to do the various components will likely be a better use of time. You can create a portfolio of projects with code, explanation, questions, etc. There are many more people gunning for the top jobs that pay really well. Like @jacob said, there are likely many more jobs that you could get done in a few hours, but do not pay as much. Multiple of those jobs? ;)

mathiverse
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Re: STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Post by mathiverse »

One of the perks of being a student is access to internship opportunities which require student status. These have much less competition than full time roles and entry level roles. You often get paid really well for them. They improve your resume for the future better than anything else you could do (ie better than projects or schoolwork or research). You may find preparing for interviews easier and more fun than schoolwork. The best thing is that they may be convertible to full time offers that allow you to drop out and stop spending money on a degree program.

This leads me to suggest that one option is to focus on finding an internship at companies that will let you drop out if you perform well there while phoning it in on the schoolwork because it doesn't really matter for your goals. The best case is that you don't have to waste your time finishing the degree and can get on with the few years of full time work or maybe even part time work if your internship goes really well and you're at a particularly flexible company.

Another tactic here is to get multiple internship offers and then take a semester off to do all of the offered internships (assuming some of the companies will let you do it sometime other than the summer which many will). So, for example, company 1 as a "winter" internship (Jan - April), company 2 as a summer internship (May - Aug), and company 3 as a fall internship (Sept - Dec). Then you get paid for the next year instead of spending money on two semesters of school and at least one of the internships will likely be convertible to a full time job if you choose the companies well and if you do well.

Another tactic is to take a leave of absence from your school and use that semester to apply for internships which you then line up as above. You still qualify as a student for the purposes of applying to internships, but you can skip the schoolwork and use that time for applications and interview preparation. You could alternatively enroll in a cheaper program like community college to qualify as a student and have access to internship opportunities.

Another important point is to emphasize the fact that you're graduating in a year or less. Companies prefer "rising seniors" and students going in the last year of their grad degree because they can lock them in as full time employees post-grad right after the internship. Versus earlier year students who have multiple years to go who might intern somewhere else next summer and never return to their company. Of course, you plan to drop out and start immediately, but the point is that the fact you only have a year left increases your odds of getting an interview and an offer. Some companies only hire interns with a year left of school.

I guess my advice is start applying for jobs and you may find you can earn with the skills you already learned without doing the whole degree. You may not have to pay anything else given what you already know.

This is the strategy me and several of my other drop out friends used to break into the industry as software engineers. Data science internships seemed more competitive and less common than SWE jobs. In addition the job market is worse than it was when I was doing this, so ymmv. Though I suppose there is no reason to limit yourself to data science. I'd apply to any internship you think you can perform well at whether it's software engineering, data science, data engineering, data analyst, IT, or whatever. Honestly the bar is fairly low for performing well at internships, so you might be a good candidate for many different roles.

zbigi
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Re: STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Post by zbigi »

I'd add one more big factor to the discussion - age. What is the likelyhood that an internship will be granted to someone pushing sixty? Companies do internships to invest in young people, who have no life experience, can be shaped into whatever company needs, and will hopefully stay for a long time.

Not to mention that many managers will psychologically have a hard time managing someone who's twice their age. Being a woman is a mitigating factor here though (managing an older man could be intimidating for a 30 yo male manager, while an older woman, not neccessarily so).

7Wannabe5
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Re: STEM Degree/Skill Valuation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

jacob wrote: optimize routine work in fields that usually employ grunts in grinding-type labor with the goal of spending 2 hours to do 8 hours of work
mountainFrugal wrote: many more jobs that you could get done in a few hours, but do not pay as much. Multiple of those jobs? ;)
Wouldn't the existence of these types of jobs constitute an opportunity for Nanny McPhee-like self-employment?
macg wrote:freelancer sites
Will check out.
mathiverse wrote:internship opportunities which require student status
The program I am in is a bit too "bootcamp" like in structure to allow for internship break. Also this:
zbigi wrote:What is the likelyhood that an internship will be granted to someone pushing sixty?
There's also the fact that I haven't been full-time employed by other (except for brief temp teaching gigs) since 2001, so I am pretty much gone feral. Also, my Crohn's disease is currently for the most part in remission, but my physical vigor is definitely still sub-par.
Being a woman is a mitigating factor here though (managing an older man could be intimidating for a 30 yo male manager, while an older woman, not neccessarily so).
Well, I have successfully signaled submissive to much younger men on a few occasions (although not my preference, and prior to my recent lapse into more Mrs.Santa Claus appearance), but I think it might be more difficult to achieve in a context where I am also attempting to highlight my math skills. This is why having the fact of the degree to prove my competence might be key to my ability to then sell myself on my superficial appearance/manner being highly correlated with soft people skills. IOW, I am imagining a situation in which a grouchy head elf might want to hire a Mrs. Santa Claus-type who is fluent in the parlance of toy-manufacture as middle-management.
mountainFrugal wrote:Working on independent projects
I graduated with a B.S. in Math (actuarial science focus) minor in General Science (near minor in English Lit) way back in '90, after cycling through 5 different majors (Engineering, Physics, Education) and 3 universities, a year off for work/fun sabbatical, another year off to have first child, etc. Since then my interest in Math/Science has mostly been on the back-burner (except for my reading habits, and the occasional tutoring gig, and the extent to which it applies to gardening) to the other 5 or 6 balls of interest I am usually juggling, although I have forever been quite aware that it is my most lucrative skill, because I have always been "good at math for a girl."

When I was running my rare book business, it annoyed me that I had to pay for third party software services to manage my database/sales/pricing etc., but I didn't have the time/focus to devote to learning enough about the topic to hack a system for myself. So, that is rough description of my intrinsic motivation for taking on this course of study while I was knocked down with Crohn's. Now that I am feeling somewhat better, I am veering back towards "Would Rather Be Gardening", especially since I have to eat way too many cookies to power my brain/the-thing-that-doesn't-exist-which-we-refer-to-as-will-power to do math-stuff-by-myself all the time, but the sort of independent project I would intrinsically like to do would be something like combining the concept of an intelligent re-pricing mechanism with the wisdom of Dan Quinn's "Discards: Your Way to Wealth."

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