Colleges: Here’s your art degree. It won’t get you a job, but it will look terrific on your wall.

My 18-year-old son has decided on a college major. Philosophy.

I did not point out to him that I haven’t discerned much demand for philosophers.  I  just finished the book — “You Majored in What?” -  about how your college major doesn’t dictate your career, but I still wonder about majoring in a discipline with so few job prospects during a recession.

Should someone at his college have a discussion with him about the practical applications of his degree?

I ran a piece on Get Schooled the other day from a University of Georgia graduate about his lack of success in finding a teaching job, despite strong credentials. The post by UGA grad Mike Vigilant inspired this second note to me by a Get Schooled reader who works in higher education. I am sharing it here with you:

The whole Mike V. thing touched a nerve with me.

Here we (higher ed) are justifiably complaining about the quality of student we’re given to work with and the highly dishonest shell game both the Board of Regents and the Legislature are playing with our profession and our lives.

Yet, our hands are more than a little bit dirty, too.

Every year we graduate students into professions which have no place for them. Teaching, journalism, the arts, and just about anything in the humanities.

We take their money, wish them luck, and ready ourselves for them to come back 5-10 years later to pursue a new and more realistic dream.

Journalism instructors, for example, love to tell students how cutthroat the profession is and how every year U.S. colleges graduate more journalism majors than there are jobs. Yet offer them nothing on how to actually try to find work.

As part of an undergrads’ degree,  students should be required to take a class in basic job hunting.  How to look for work, how to network and write a resume in their chosen field.

Either that, or we should do the honest thing and quit teaching kids majors we pretty much KNOW they’ll have a tough time competing in.

UGA’s school of education knew — or should have — that this is a hyper bear market for teachers. To send Mike out in the world with apparently no job searching skills and an unrealistic expectation of his prospects is close to criminal.

44 comments Add your comment

V for Vendetta

May 11th, 2010
12:48 pm


This is a bit off topic, but I have often thought that we should teach more philosophy at the high school level. As a fan of Ayn Rand, it always blows my students away when I talk to them about epistemology, axioms, reason, logic, etc. I’ve often thought that literature classes would do well to include more philosophy–especially the works of Aristotle.

Tired of the rat race

May 11th, 2010
12:51 pm

But doesn’t this beg the question, what’s the purpose of higher education? Academia wasn’t meant as a career mill. It used to be that people pursued education as a means of expanding their horizons, becoming “well-rounded”, for the sake of knowledge itself, not as a career. Does it help & enable us to pursue careers? yes. is it the purpose? I don’t know any more. It’s important to help students understand the reality of the job market, but there’s a difference in teaching a career (vocational, job training, etc) and pursuing academia. I loved science, always had, and knew that’s what I’d study. I wanted to learn more, but I hadn’t thought about a career in it. I wasn’t headed to medical, pt, or dental school, I was just a true science nerd. I did struggle knowing how to transition from the academic life to the career-track, but I’m not sure if that was my college’s failing, or something else entirely.


May 11th, 2010
12:53 pm

This so-called higher ed person speaks non-sense. Since when higher education became a “job training” program? The particular UGA graduate might not have found a teaching, but there may be other graduates from other institutions who have – so, it wasn’t as if there was no job. The same goes to jounrnalism, etc., including philosophy. I’m sure UGA, like most other higher education institutions do, has a department that actually supports graduates in their job search. So, if students have no job search skill, then it wasn’t completely the problem with the university.

Philosophy major

May 11th, 2010
1:11 pm

As a philosophy major, I would imagine that your son will do just fine. The tone of your question indicates that you are setting aside the personal fulfillment that comes from studying philosophy or any other discipline in the humanities, so to address the jobs concerns. Philosophy offers excellent training in critical thinking and being able to understand an issue or topic from multiple perspectives. Particularly if combined with some good internships and study of content areas such as economics, history, and/or political science, it makes an excellent grounding for law, business, consulting, journalism, or a variety of other professions. I was a reporter for 10 years, including seven with a national publication, and found myself much more capable of analyzing issues–particularly on deadline–than my competitors. Indeed, I’m not sure anybody at the last publication I worked for had undergrad degrees in journalism, yet we turned a profit every year I was there. Can the AJC top that?
College should teach you how to think. Not give you a bunch of skills that can become outdated in a matter of months.


May 11th, 2010
1:15 pm

Dang- Maureen please get some perspective. People are driven by tehir passions and tehir desire to work in a field that brings them satisfaction. From a former art major, I must say that things have lined up well for me. Most people (and you) do not realize the economic impact the arts have in our state and our nation. In a recent Atlanta Business Chronicle article, they state teh arts are worth $387 million dollars in GA. Please use facts in not what you believe to be the truth because sometimes they are different.


May 11th, 2010
1:22 pm

In response to question about an overabundance of teachers right now, this is only a temporary issue. Who would have ever guessed just a few years ago that we would be in such crunch for teachers? I distinctly remember reading and discussing on this blog the prospect of a huge teacher shortage that was expected about this time. It was expected that baby boomers would be retiring in large numbers and the current crop of new teachers were leaving the profession in droves for better paying and respected jobs. Local counties used to go out to other states to fill positions and dozens of Teach for America members were being used to fill spots that simply could not be filled by qualified teachers. We were bringing in people from overseas to teach because we could not find enough of our teachers here in the US. The recession will end and teachers will once again be in high demand after so many retire or burn out from working under the current terrible conditions.

Kristin B.

May 11th, 2010
1:38 pm

An interesting follow up to this story would be to look at the new student organization that’s been put together in the English Department at UGA. Called “19 Weeks” (for the average amount of time it takes to find a job after graduation), the club is mentored by the Undergraduate English Department Coordinator, and works to put students in a frequently deemed “useless” major in touch with people in various fields and careers with English degrees, as well as provide resume and job hunting tips. A whole separate class isn’t needed for college students, just a new approach by professors in those fields.

You Asked

May 11th, 2010
1:38 pm

My first degree was Music Education. My second was Business specializing in Organizational Behavior. Much of what I draw on now professionally goes right back to the basics I learned about human behavior and development in the music classroom. I don’t regret my fine arts/education degree for a moment.

You never know where your career will take you and studying something you love and developing a passion for a field will take you further than an entry level job.

Of course that entry level job is pretty important too- it would be smart to take some classes in an area with practical application no matter what you intend to do.

no mas

May 11th, 2010
1:59 pm

Theology/Philosophy double major here. Not only has the rigor of thought I had to learn come in handy in the work world (20 years in IT – I learned to learn in college, and I learned logic, both of which allowed me to confidently say, “Of course I can take on that job/promotion. I will learn everything I don’t know already.”

Then eight years of social work and teaching; again I was able to draw on what I learned in college about how to think and how to learn.

I am now embarking on a new career – I am going to re-tool and work in counseling.

Don’t worry about your son.

Tonya T.

May 11th, 2010
2:14 pm

Can someone who has graduated in the last ten years come in here and comment on this? Please? Because there is a new economic reality that comes with a degree in that time frame, and I want to know what fairly recent graduates are doing with the degree.

Myself, I let my kids know that certain degrees can be pursued, but it WON’T be with our financial support. Sorry. This is one of them.

Maureen Downey

May 11th, 2010
2:16 pm

Tonya T, At the UGA graduation Saturday for public policy — the smaller one, not the stadium event later that day — I thought it would have been great to allow each of the 170 grads to tell the audience what they were doing next. I was very curious to know.


May 11th, 2010
2:23 pm

I graduated with a degree in Philosophy in 1981 and have done just fine. Went on to get a J.D./M.B.A., and have practiced law, and run businesses since then. Philosophy is a damn difficult degree and forces you to think clearly and write well, which stands you in good stead in just about any profession. I would not worry about your son one iota. He will do just fine vocationally.


May 11th, 2010
2:27 pm

I graduated from UGA in 2000 with a degree in MIS and I had absolutely no problem landing a job then. It was a combination of a bull market and having a really popular and practical degree. I had three job offers by November of my Senior year, and accepted what I believed to be the best job. I have been working in the IT field for the last decade, so my degree has paid large dividends in that regard. I am not going back to school to get an MBA, with the hopes of moving into a financial oriented career field.


May 11th, 2010
2:28 pm

should say ‘I am now going back to school….’ instead of ‘not’ in the last sentence.

Legend of Len Barker

May 11th, 2010
2:33 pm

Heard at ABAC in 1999:
“The last person to get a job with a philosophy degree was your philosophy teacher.”

I have little room to talk. I have a history degree. Since I had (and have) no interest in teaching, there is essentially zero job market for the degree. Which I want to use. I don’t want to apply the methods I learned with the degree with an unrelated job; I want to use the degree.

So this is why I’m back in college after a few years of working a low-paying job that used nothing that I learned with the history degree.

That’s not to dissuade from a philosophy degree. I don’t regret loving history enough to get a degree in it. It’s just the reality that a job is probably going to use little – if any – of the things learned with it. Unless you become a philosophy teacher.


May 11th, 2010
2:35 pm

Universities are being forced by (some) politicians to become something they were never intended to be: job training facilities. If a college student has a particular career in mind when he/she chooses a major, great! But if not, so what? The purpose of a university education is to objectively sharpen the mind for whatever may come, not to subjectively prepare a person for a specific application.

Everyone loves to say, “You just can’t get a decent job anymore without a college degree.” But that’s not really because employers have raised the bar. It’s because so many colleges have lowered the bar–at the insistance of politicians who have declared that ALL students have the RIGHT to a college education–as though all colleges were created equal and every diploma carried the same degree of dignity.

The problem we’re discussing here is the result of anti-elitism or social justice policies over several decades. Whether it’s for better or worse, sometimes I can’t decide.

Tired of the rat race

May 11th, 2010
2:39 pm

I graduated in 2001 with a BS in Biology, minor in Chemistry. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do after graduation, but I had no regrets with my degree program. I didn’t go into it with a career in mind, just a desire to learn more. I traveled and taught abroad for a bit, came back and worked in retail and management for several years. I developed many skills & found new gifts and passions through all of it. Eventually, I discovered that I had a heart, desire, and gifting towards teaching. I began looking at the possibilities, and pursuing that option. I’ve been teaching for nearly 3 years at this point. If I had known I would teach back then, I still wouldn’t have changed a thing. Obviously, I have a better grasp on content than the average Ed. major, but it’s more than that. I have to echo several of the other posts, college taught me to think. I developed problem-solving skills, challenged myself with difficult material, and was exposed to so much more than just job skills. I know not everyone is wired like this, some just want a great job, but for me it was more personal. Learning was the goal, I wanted to be a “renaissance” man. That’s what higher education was about for me, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.


May 11th, 2010
2:41 pm

The purpose of any traditional liberal arts major–like philosophy, political science, anthropology, comparative religions, English lit, etc–is to teach someone to think, analyze and communicate. I have a BA in religious studies and have worked as an IT manager, medical writer and project manager in my 10 years since college. Religious studies was a highly interesting subject to me–still is–but what I got out of it was the ability to think and communicate. It was up to me to translate that to marketable job skills.
Since I had a major I enjoyed, I was motivated to finish college in 4 years and graduate with my class.
Maureen, please don’t discount your son’s decision. He will have the rest of his life to work. Nobody is born knowing how to land a job. It’s just another thing he’ll have to learn, philosophy degree or not.


May 11th, 2010
3:00 pm

If we are still in a recession in four years when Maureen’s son graduates, I have a hard believing there will be ANY good jobs… I graduated 10 years ago in Journalism, and I now work in public policy (and never worked a day in journalism, btw). If you are going to a university, study what you enjoy. The office I work in now has hired many many people with head-scratching majors (compared to our field), and most have done extremely well. If you are more concerned about job training or future security, go to a technical school or a nursing program.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Colleges: Here’s your art degree. It won’t get you a job, but it will look terrific on your wall. [...]


May 11th, 2010
3:07 pm

Read the bios of the CEOs and partners in the Wall Street firms that brought on this economic crisis. Notice that most of them are MBAs. And the physics and math majors were major contributors in creating the CDOs and the synthetic CDOs that Wall Street peddled. Maybe we do need more philosophers, historians, journalists, and political science majors. We haven’t done so hot putting all those MBAs out there.


May 11th, 2010
3:30 pm

I graduated in 1997 with an AA from a small private two-year college. I used that meager beginning to secure a job as a newspaper reporter. I stayed in that profession for four years, working my way up to features editor for a small daily.

I went back to finish my BA in 2001 … creative writing. I graduated from GSU in 2003 and went on to graduate school. I earned my MA in English in 2005 and in 2006 I left graduate school ABD to take a full-time, tenure-track position at a small two-year college here in Georgia. I finished the PhD (in another discipline in the humanities) in 2008. I have since secured another tenure-track position and am working happily as a professional academic.

Now, that’s not to say there weren’t other options with either my BA or my MA. In fact, I currently freelance as a copywriter and make a fair wage in addition to my full time employment. Along the way, I had friends in both my undergraduate and graduate programs who went on to work in the private sector (in publishing, public relations, journalism, advertising, marketing, etc.). Others traveled on different professional degree paths, such as law school or medical school.

None of us came to the decision to study English or related humanities disciplines for the purpose of job training. We studied these subjects because they were of interest to us and provided us an opportunity to develop our skills as articulate, critical thinkers. We learned to solve problems – a skill that is of the utmost importance in many areas of our personal and professional lives. That is the purpose of higher education. However, it seems we are forgetting that more and more every year.


May 11th, 2010
3:37 pm

My Art degree got me exactly what I thought it would, an advanced and in depth realization of self, ability and place. The fact that the media and politics lie on a constant basis and promote the idea of college degree equals job should make it wildly clear to anyone that you must consider your actions and accept the consequences of those actions. One does not study the arts in order to become rich with filthy lucre, you study the arts because you want to become rich in history and culture. You cannot expect to find a job just because you finished the first adult task of earning a secondary degree, you should be applying that knowledge gained to make the ‘job’ happen. I have worked on every level of blue collar and white collar ‘jobs’ all the while retaining a semblance of artistic integrity. As far as what “we” should be doing for the students – how about advising them to get out there in the real world and make it happen, rather than Job Hunting 101 courses.

Starving Artist

May 11th, 2010
4:19 pm

I graduated on the Dean’s List in 2002 with a BFA in Visual Arts. When I entered college, I, too, was under the impression that the most important thing was to choose a field based upon your passions and strengths, and I was under the naive assumption that having a college degree would improve my career prospects. I believed that it was most important to devote my life to something I enjoyed. Needless to say, I was more than a little shocked to discover that, after graduation, the only job prospects I had were in food service or telemarketing. As it turns out, having a college degree is not enough…you must have the RIGHT KIND of degree. Granted, I learned problem solving skills, time management, and all of the other life lessons that any college major learns, but the truth is when employers see that you were an art major, they do not take you seriously. It has been my experience that most places do not even consider it to be a valid degree. After eight years in the rat race, I’ve finally managed to land a job as a secretary, and I make a whopping $21K a year. I owe more than that in student loans. I’m a Dean’s List graduate who cannot earn a living wage….and as far as doing what I love is concerned…well…I can’t exactly afford art supplies on what I make, can I? So much for doing what I love. If I knew then what I know now, I would have majored in something that would earn me a decent living so that I COULD pursue my passions in my spare time. The only thing I accomplished by earning my college degree was to get myself into so much debt that my finances will never recover. If I hadn’t gone to college, I might be able to afford a car payment, or possibly even a mortgage, but as it stands right now, 20% of my monthly net pay goes to pay off a student loan that I used to pay for a degree that did me absolutely no good whatsoever. Going to college and majoring in art was the biggest mistake I ever made, and I will literally be paying for it for the rest of my life. I could have been anything I wanted to be, but I chose to follow my heart. Tell your son to learn from my mistakes. Tell him to use his head, not his heart, when he chooses a major so that he can earn a living wage and enjoy a better quality of life.


May 11th, 2010
4:30 pm

Philosophy, arts, history, etc. etc, are NOT hard degrees. While studying at a major engineering institution, studying all the time, we often felt envious of our liberal arts brothers and sisters at a nearby university, who played on the beach all the time and seemingly never needed to study. An engineering degree and an MBA and two successful company launches and sell offs later, and well, I have the time and resources to sit at my computer and write on a blog for a small southern newspaper.

Just because people major in engineering or a science doesnt mean that they are smarter than you. It just means that, coming out of college, we are not in shock at having to work. and yes, i am generalizing, as the COO of my last company was a *gulp* art history major and probably one of the best business minds that I have ever met (and he did not get an MBA).

Bobby Colton

May 11th, 2010
4:39 pm

I was actually smart throughout college. I gradauted from high school in 2002 and from there, I went to a technical college and got a diploma in Computer Information Systems. I then picked up my Associates of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems followed my Associates in Business Admiinistration. I graduated December 2009 with my Bachelors in Management. The truth is, in this economy, outside of your Science and Nursing degrees, a business degree is the way to go. In this economy, versatility is the name of the game. I have a great degree that is so versatile. Every company needs managers. It doesn’t matter what kind of company it is. I currently work for Kmart and have been there nearly six years. They require a business degree to get into their Retail Management Development Program. This program lasts 12 weeks or 6 months, depending on which one you end up in. They offered me $30,000 to start out with, which is a joke of a salary for a college graduate from the class of 2009. I read an article a month ago on that said the average salary for a class of 2009 college graduate is $42,000. All I know is that a Bachelors degree is the new high school diploma because EVERYONE has a Bachelors degree. To really compete in this marketplace, you need at least a master’s degree or higher. It’s just the truth. In fact, most corporate jobs REQUIRE a master’s degree. I know someone who majoed in Political Science and come their senior year, they decided they no longer wanted to go to law school. Now, what kind of job is that person going to find? Or the person who majored in Sociology. Human Resource people aren’t going to give a crap about those degrees unless you have another bachelor’s degree in something else or a master’s degree. My advice to any person going into college is you better major in something where there is going to be a DEMAND for jobs like business administration, nursing, engineering, computer science, or chemistry.


May 11th, 2010
4:44 pm

I don’t think the colleges should tell students what to major in. What college, in the 1950s, was urging students to pursue computer science? Or artificial intelligence? Fiber optics?

Once again, this is best left to the students to decide. It falls in the line of “not my (colleges’)” responsibility.


May 11th, 2010
5:00 pm

Kids, go for a in demand degree. First off new college graduates have the issue of having little or no job experience, when you combine that with some random degree like Philosophy, your job prospects will be slim, unless you did some really awesome things in college or graduated from an Ivy League. Gone are the days are plentiful jobs and its best to be competitive. Let’s face it, you need money to survive, there is no way around it unless you plan on living in your parents basement for the next several years.

bootney farnsworth

May 11th, 2010
5:11 pm


they are kids for the most part. the’ve spend the vast bulk
of their lives in school – and getting a poor education at that.

exactly when did they have the opportunity to learn networking
skills for the field of their choice?

when did YOU learn these skills?

students should study what they wish, just as they ultimately are
responsible for keeping up with their credits. no one is saying

what we in higher ed should be doing is providing them honest,
real world support.


May 11th, 2010
5:22 pm

Yet they continue to manufacture all types of new degrees too asuage those who can’t hack or don’t have the tools to get a real one either practical or at least traditional ie literature art etc. Fact is there are too many people in college, not everyone gets to be an astronaut.
Want fries with that?

Georgia Teacher

May 11th, 2010
5:24 pm

I started out as journalist. I worked for the college newspaper, switched majors to Communication (Media Studies), and went out and worked in a couple of real cruddy places (MDJ, anyone?).

After years, I had some moderate success as a journalist, but got tired of covering the same ol’ stuff year in and year out. Then I became a teacher. Best move I ever made.

The lessons I learned as a journalist: in order to get anywhere, you have to work in some really cruddy places, both in terms of location and quality of management. After bouncing around from newspaper to newspaper, you might be able to land yourself a gig at a major metro paper… which will pay you nothing because of the prestige of working there (ie There is more demand for the job than supply).

The real problem with journalism (other than print journalism is dying, leaving newspapers no clear way to make money), is no one wants to put in the time. No one wants to “earn their stripes” working the crappy jobs, like writing obits and city council stories for a rural paper, first.

The other problem is a matter of statistics that will change drastically in a few years. Look at the average age in a major market media outlet and you will find a lot of baby boomers who have not retired yet. Once that generation retires, there will be a lot of openings.


May 11th, 2010
5:35 pm

TWO VERY SUCCESSFUL MEN…..BILL GATES….& RUSH LIMBAUGH found college a total waste of time….That lesson was taught in the 1900s.. For most….college is a total waste of time….& $$$$$$


May 11th, 2010
6:24 pm

Bootney: Are you in favor of high school counselors “cooling out” students’ dreams? Telling them they have no hope of going to med school with Ds in all their courses?

I would hope students would do what I did, and what I had my children do: shadow various professionals whose job they are interested in. Do the research.

Good grief–should we give them tests and tell them what they are “fit” to do? Or do we allow them choice. Perhaps we can withhold financial aid if we think they are pursuing the “wrong” degree!

Or, maybe we should follow the “good old American way” and allow them to make their own decisions, based on whatever information they have in hand?


May 11th, 2010
7:12 pm

There’s a little known federal dept. named the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This bureau employs personnel to “track” the labor market trends. The data published by this bureau is helpful for students that take the time to research an occupation prior to graduating from high school. The research should start as early as first grade! Check out the O’Net Center for an explanation of skills required for an occupation. As a retired educator here’s a tip to those who desire teaching….major in education, not history, sociology, biology, or business administration. These majors are credible, but you will need to understand learning styles, cultural differences, family development/economics, and the list goes on! Teaching isn’t easy, but if you stick with it beyond three years, you can make a difference. I know I did and I’m glad! 40 continuous years!

bootney farnsworth

May 11th, 2010
7:28 pm

The comments here amaze me.
No wonder the state of education in Georgia is so pitiful.

I’m talking customer service and economics, and most here
are spouting political talking points.

Its a very simple business concept. Give a superior product,
folks come back. Give a less than product, folks go elsewhere.
And your good name is probably even more important.

The job is teaching folks – teaching. Not assuming they know
everything except for what you personally have to inflict upon

When you help prepair kids for the future, you get a better rep,
better results, and a better ROI.

Should these kids be better prepaired than they are?
Are they? Nope.

Unless you take some perverse pride in being a resident in
one of the stupidest states in the country, that’s where we
come in.

We teach them. Even sometimes things they ought to already know.

Again, basic economics: we can spend our time preparing them to
compete in the modern world, or we can spend our money supporting
them on welfare.


May 11th, 2010
8:17 pm

Oh good grief, parents don’t send kids off to college to “find themselves”. We send them to college to prepare for the next stage of their lives, which usually means getting a job and becoming financially self sufficient.

You want “critical thinking skills,” how about this, you’ve got $5 to last until payday and the car is out of gas and the baby needs formula.

Of course, it may all be a moot point. Obama “stimulates” us a couple more times, we’re all going to be in the soup line.


May 11th, 2010
9:46 pm

How can you expect a career academic to advise anyone on how to get a job, they are riding one of the best gravy trains going – tenured professor. If you want to dedicate you life to existing in a think tank, then view college as a great mental exercise. But, for most the idea of a job is pretty appealing after accumulating four or six years of student loans. Sorry, but the military model of training people to do something they have the ability to do is far more effective.


May 11th, 2010
10:29 pm

To all of those who say that a degree in the arts, humanities, social sciences, etc is not lucrative – who say higher education is about job training – I say, okay, fine. Please stop crowding our institutions. Two words for you: Technical College. It is not the mission of Colleges and Universities to handle “job training.”

I also move that colleges and universities get rid of the following: Nursing, Education, Criminal Justice and Business Administration. Of these, I loathe education programs the most. There is nothing so useless in the world than education departments. These departments are infamous for being the major of last resort for students who can’t cut it in the major disciplines. I suffered a handful of MEd students in a few of my graduate-level courses. They were the worst kind of student – completely incapable of independent study.

You want a “military model?” Then, by all means, GO TO TECHNICAL COLLEGE. Academia has suffered non-academic business types meddling in our affairs long enough. Case in point, Erroll B. Davis. I am fed up with idiots such as Davis turning the academic sphere into their own little corporation. And I’m really fed up with plebes in the public thinking they KNOW how things should work.

Oh, and @ Please – my friend, the arts, humanities, etc. are equally as challenging as your precious engineering degree. It’s all incredibly rigorous. Regardless of the PhD, we Liberal Arts folks are still representative of that small 1% of the population capable of achieving that level of education. Our contributions are just great as your own. Spare us you airs.

Mike Vigilant

May 12th, 2010
1:02 am

[Divided into two parts in an attempt to evade the filter]
This issue resonates with me because I faced similar issues at UGA. My first major was Broadcast News. I naively thought I would be going straight from the graduation ceremony to the CNN anchor desk. Nobody told me anything different. I will never, ever forget the day I went online and researched broadcast news jobs, and the shock to discover that I was making more hourly as a part-time retail employee than many people in my major field. I was completely shocked and taken aback by that realization.

After a year of personal crisis where I thrashed between every major, I decided that my interest in economics should take me to business school. I was unsatisfied and bored with the first semester of business school. Fortunately, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day–that I enjoyed talking about and sharing my passion for econ with people, and that’s what led me to Social Studies Education. Though it wasn’t without challenges, it was the happiest time of my college career, and I look back on it fondly.

Mike Vigilant

May 12th, 2010
1:24 am

Two issues: As to whether to pursue your dreams or choose a more down-to-earth major, I don’t see that as a zero-sum game. I think the key is being informed. Ms. Downey, I hope you impart to your son the importance of looking into career fields and majors early, and doing the homework I neglected to do about what happens to people in your major AFTER college. That said, others have commented that philosophy majors are able to find work in many fields, which is an encouraging first bit of news for your son.

As for the role colleges play: I very much like Kristen B.’s comment about the department-level work being done with UGA English majors. I think that’s the sweet spot–individual departments. Not all professors will have the ability [not to mention the connections] to be helpful, and efforts at the school-wide level I don’t think will matter much. I experienced exactly one frustrating session at UGA’s career center focused entirely on my resume (not the reason for my visit) and never went back.

As for the education field, here’s an idea I’ll throw out there, which I just completely made up: Instead of placing student teachers basically wherever’s easiest for the college, how about working with school districts and placing student teachers in schools with anticipated openings for that exact position in the near future? Sure, it’d be a little more work for the college, but students might have a better chance of being hired right out of school, and schools will have the opportunity to extensively review the student teacher before hiring them. For administrators, I think watching a semester of student teaching might be more indicative of success than a twenty-minute interview. Just a thought.

Chicago interloper

May 13th, 2010
9:56 am

I always advise my students when pursuing a degree in History to do so as a double major. A BA in History does offer jobs outside of education. However, there are so few of these to justify majoring in the degree for its own sake. Moreover, most require graduate work at the MA level.

Art School Graduate

May 24th, 2010
2:46 pm

I am a recent college grad (2008) with a BA in Crafts concentrated in ceramics and fibers and a minor in Studio Art. It was never once hinted that I would get a job out of school, just instructors making mention of which pieces I should include in my portfolio to get into grad school. I work full time serving coffee to the working stiffs of Atlanta and I can honestly say I feel like I got more out of my education and am enjoying life a bit more (albeit quite frugally, but who needs money to have fun?) than those coming in for their latte every morning. Yes, I desire to have a career outside of the world of retail, but rather than rush into art school or possibly going back for a new career altogether, I am enjoying my twenties and figuring out what I want to do with myself for the rest of my life that will truly make me happy. I loved my time in college and the only thing I would have done differently is gotten my BFA instead, but how was I to know I loved fibers more than ceramics till much later in my college career? A degree in art/humanities/etc may not seem like a worthwhile investment when you look at it from a career perspective, but from a life perspective, I feel like it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. I may not yet have a career, my art school education has given me the knowledge and patience to realize that just like art (or even attaining any kind of degree), life is about the journey not the destination.

Luvis D. Ansah

June 18th, 2010
4:41 am

A degree will get you an interview, but it won’t get you a career.

Unless you want a specific technical skill (eg engineering, medicine, law) you can get a long way in business with a combination of good communication skills, reliability and confidence. These are the most important things any individual can have to succeed.

Im a VP af a multinational software company earning mid six figures and have no education past high school. Many of my colleagues have degrees in fields totally unrelated to what they are doing now. You can alway study something part time if you find you really enjoy it later in life.

Life is short – do what you enjoy so you can do it well.


August 18th, 2010
2:59 pm

As a recent college grad with a BA in Business, I do absolutely NOTHING with my degree. I however also have a CNA certificate and still cannot find a job, but guess what my education has taught me?; HOW TO THINK! Having a philosphy career is great because it teaches you how to analyze situations and to come up with solutions. Critical thinking and common sense is something that the world lacks and need more of, If your son is looking for a “job”, than he can pursue a Masters or PH.D. to actually teach Philosphy, however just having a degree in Philosphy can open the door for him for many jobs in law and business.

I now own 2 businesses that are doing very well…I was exceptionally good at Philosophy while attending college by the way….I think your son is going to do fine, do not push him to do anything else but what he loves.Trust me, it is better that way.