The Opportunity Cost of Teaching for Seconday STEM Instructors



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Many school districts across the United States face severe shortages of high school science and mathematics teachers. Moreover, college graduates that major in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field face unique opportunity costs when deciding to enter the teaching field. An analysis of the opportunity costs faced by STEM majors between teaching and non-teaching careers may offer superintendents and principals an insight into the decision making process of STEM majors. Through this understanding, school districts may be able to reduce the shortage of mathematics and science teachers they face annually. This mixed-method study utilizes the following two research methods: the archival research method and semi-structured interviews. The data sources included for salary information are the National Association of College and Employer (NACE) survey data on STEM major starting salaries from 2009 to 2017, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) survey data on median salaries for STEM majors from 2009 to 2017. The first analysis will include creating linear plots for 10-month adjusted salary for STEM teachers and nonteachers. Salary differentials will be expressed in dollars. The second analysis through semi-structured interviews will gather input and insight on why STEM majors enter and stay in teaching. The results indicate that all STEM majors earn higher salaries than STEM educators at all experience levels, with the exception of first year salaries of Science majors. The interview data indicated that teachers with STEM majors work in education because of the interaction with students. While wage differentials may turn potential teachers away from careers in education, once an individual commits to education the ability to work with students keeps them in the classroom.



Opportunity cost, Teaching, Teacher Salary, STEM majors, STEM teachers