Houston, We Have a Problem

May 26, 2013

On May 16, the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton released a report, “The Biggest Bang Theory,” which discusses strategies to attract specialists in the STEMM professions: science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. It was worth reading, but it had a huge void. It was silent on the importance of compensation. The only statement acknowledging that pay is relevant was the reference to “pay disparities” in the concluding paragraph of the introduction.

The report emphasized how important those professions are to government — “mission-critical” was the phrase. STEMM specialists account for 28 percent of the workforce — almost 525,000 — and almost half are age 50 or over. Less than 20 percent are under age 35. A serious brain drain is inevitable in the current climate.

The report’s focus was on recruiting, selecting and onboarding new graduates. It’s these jobs where the pay disparity is the widest. The typical 2013 graduate in a STEMM field starts at a salary in excess of $60,000. The current class of petroleum engineers is starting at over $90,000. And those are averages — graduates of the better universities and those with the best grades can command even higher salaries.

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