The college of science might have the fewest number of graduates at Weber State University, but these students have huge earning potential once they graduate.
Graduation numbers might suggest students are afraid of the sciences. The college of science has had the fewest number of WSU graduates every year since 2004. The science degrees that have the lowest number of graduates are chemistry, math and geoscience.
“Chemistry does have a reputation for being challenging,” said Laine Berghout, a chemistry professor at WSU. “Students think that they cannot be a scientist. However, that is a misconception. All it takes is curiosity.”
In order to graduate in a timely manner, students need to take the chemistry course series as freshmen. If students decide to major in chemistry after they already have their associate’s degrees, then it might take a little longer to graduate, since they will have to catch up on freshman chemistry classes. A degree in chemistry prepares students for careers in pharmaceuticals, medicine, dentistry, nursing and teaching. Starting salaries for those with a chemistry degree are $28,000 to $42,000.
Due to the economy, the job opportunities for chemistry graduates in Utah are currently low to moderate.
“In order to get a math degree, a student must be willing to spend a lot of time and effort,” said Paul Talaga, math department chair.
This time and effort might scare some students away. However, Talaga said that due to the poor economy, the math department has seen many returning students seeking a degree. He said that math is a cross-discipline that can lead to many different jobs. A math major can lead to teaching, actuarial science (math and statistics), computer science, operations research, biomathematics, finance and cryptology. It can also be a base for engineering and computer science degrees.
In 2009, Les Krantz, author of Jobs Rated Almanac, rated a mathematician as the No. 1 best job in the United States. Krantz used work conditions, pay and growth potential as the factors in his decision.
Kurt Badenhausen, who wrote the article “Most Lucrative College Majors,” said that math majors usually double their income once they have gotten some experience under their belts.
“The kinds of majors where you learn to integrate mathematics and science with the everyday world have a tremendous benefit in terms of earnings potential,” Badenhausen wrote.
Geosciences is another major in the college of science offered at WSU. Six students graduated with a geosciences degree in 2011. Geosciences majors learn about rocks, fossils, gemstones, minerals, satellite mapping and volcanoes.
“Geosciences is a challenging and exciting program,” said Adolph Yonkee, the geosciences department chair. “One reason for the small number of students in the geosciences is the fact that high schools do not teach geosciences classes. Students are not exposed or aware of this great career opportunity.”
Geosciences careers include environmental jobs with water resources, geologic hazards, petroleum, mining and teaching. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the geosciences are expected to grow by 22 percent between 2006 and 2016. The average salary for a geoscientist is $89,000.