Make room in your basement for your anthropology, arts and philosophy graduates

John Konop sent me a link to a Kiplinger video highlighting the 10 worst college majors for career prospects.

(There is also a slide show that provides a lot of detail on median salaries and job prospects for these 10 majors.)

Of course, my son’s major, philosophy, was on high on the list, which included the usual suspects, fine arts, English, sociology, and anthropology.

The video contends that since college is now a major investment — with the average grad ending up $25,000 in debt –  students ought to know which majors yield the poorest return on their tuition investment.

Graduates of visual arts, theater and design programs face double digit unemployment rates. The average fine arts graduate is also twice as likely to end up working in retail as the typical college graduate.

Liberal arts majors also face a tough road. Grads who majored in English face a 9.2 percent unemployment rate and make $32,000 out of school. Newly minted philosophers face unemployment rates of almost 11 percent and earn $30,000 0n average.

However, recent anthropology graduates confront the most challenging straits — unemployment rates of 10.5 percent and salaries of $28,000, less than median pay for someone with only a high school diploma.

On other hand, I have a young neighbor who recently graduated UGA with an archaeology degree, a field that I considered as a college student but was dissuaded by the terrible job prospects even then. But he found a job in the field, so it can be done. (Of course, he has now shifted direction, but has continued with his vow of poverty. He is working in theater and living in his parents’ basement.)

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

61 comments Add your comment

guest

October 3rd, 2012
2:00 pm

Did they really think there were a lot of jobs for those majors?

Ira in East Lake

October 3rd, 2012
2:09 pm

College is NOT a trade school.

Sheeeeesh…

Gov’t and Foriegn Affairs major here – as that was and is the topic I most enjoy – that used my education properly. Meaning, it taught me how to think and write clearly and concisely and work with others… I’ll take an Anth. major over a Computer Sci. major any day if they have the communication skills. I can teack them the rest.

The truth behind these numbers is probably that the low earning majors are those majors that are the refuge of those folks that shouldn’t be in college in the first place.

HS Public Teacher

October 3rd, 2012
2:12 pm

Any high school graduate that does NOT consider job prospects for their chosen major in college is making a HUGE mistake!

I don’t think that it should be the only consideration. However, it should be largely considered considering the cost and time investment for a college education.

Just Sayin.....

October 3rd, 2012
2:31 pm

Is there anyone who is breathing who doesn’t know these things? 18 year-olds entering college just don’t want to hear it. Instead, they listened to the guy who told them something about pursuing their “passion”. Of course, that guy was rich.

B. Killebrew

October 3rd, 2012
2:35 pm

RAMZAD

October 3rd, 2012
2:37 pm

The point is lost on me, because there are enough lawyers working retail and driving taxis as there are systems engineer who can’t get into anyone’s system. We are littered with calculus junkie hedge fund whizzes who can’t borrow a step ladder if a hamburger depended on it.

It seems to me that we get educated not just to get a job but to get a life. There are some whose job is their lives, but I am not talking about those. I am asking about the philosophy graduates who can establish that they can think, follow instructions, articulate an idea, recognize and criticize nonsense, and learn something that they did not see in college.

If a job is all there is to a college education Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg, and Sir Richard Branson should be on food stamps.

MiltonMan

October 3rd, 2012
2:39 pm

While I was busting my rear-end obtaining an engineering undergrad, my liberal arts friends were partying all the time. Work/Study hard usually results in a rewarding life sustainment; blows my mind that any parent would allow their children to major in rather useless degree progrsms.

Truth in Moderation

October 3rd, 2012
2:40 pm

@ Maureen
Just curious. What kind of employers hire philosophy majors? Do they mainly work as college professors?

John Konop

October 3rd, 2012
2:48 pm

I have read that philosophy is a great major for law school and other post graduate degrees, because it teaches logic well. I have met some very smart investment bankers and lawyers who were philosophy students as undergrads. And when my dad taught law school, he said they were the brightest students on a macro and tended to hire them for research on cases for his private practice while they were in law school.

I do think liberal arts does help develop the creative side of your brain. But it is a tough degree for work if you do not off set it with a strong graduate degree.

http://www.butler.edu/philosophy-religion/philosophy/why-philosophy

Maureen Downey

October 3rd, 2012
2:49 pm

@Truth, Most of them seem to end up going to law school.

John Konop

October 3rd, 2012
2:53 pm

FYI

…..Philosophy as a preparation for graduate and professional school

You may be surprised to learn that philosophy majors regularly outscore other majors on standardized tests such as the LSAT and MCAT, because they do equally well on both the verbal and analytic/quantitative sections. Philosophy is the only liberal arts major that specifically teaches both verbal and logic skills. In addition, the most basic assumptions in law, the sciences, and other disciplines are studied not in those disciplines but in philosophy of law, philosophy of science, etc……

Lee

October 3rd, 2012
2:59 pm

On the bright side, Philosophy majors tend to make great bartenders. There will ALWAYS be a demand for those….

Prof

October 3rd, 2012
2:59 pm

@ Truth in Moderation. I have no connection with the field of philosophy. But I have heard that because it strengthens analytical and creative thinking skills, it is an excellent pre-professional major, namely a stepping-stone to a professional field that will build on the skills developed there. Law comes to mind, as does Policy Studies, and allied Business courses.

There are other materials learned in the majors mentioned here than only the literal content of the courses; there are also the thinking and language skills gained, and general training that often transfers to allied fields..

MiltonMan

October 3rd, 2012
2:59 pm

Couple of engineering friends of mine went to law school. They mentioned that is nothing more than “busy work”; both are patent lawyers drawing in the big, big bucks.

Guest

October 3rd, 2012
3:08 pm

All engineers are geniuses. Just ask one.

Dr. Craig Spinks/Georgians for Educational Excellence

October 3rd, 2012
3:11 pm

First mortgage fraudsters? Then credit card fraudsters? Now student loan fraudsters? And on both sides of each transaction? Who and/or what will stop the predation?

williebkind

October 3rd, 2012
3:38 pm

“Make room in your basement for your anthropology, arts and philosophy graduates”

Yeah! Oh no, they will become………TEACHERS!

Shell

October 3rd, 2012
3:57 pm

Oh please stop it! I was a Business major the first time I went to college. Earn B.S. and hated every job I ever got. Went back to school and earned both a Bachelors and Master an English. I loved it and I don’t regret a minute of it. Just finish a novel and started a publishing company. What we should all learn from this economy is that there is no such thing as a guaranteed job. Life doesn’t promise guarantees. When we die nobody puts your degree on your tombstone. Neither of my parents have degrees and they both are wealthy. Learn what you love and love what you learn.

Shell

October 3rd, 2012
3:58 pm

Sorry grammar nazis. I was typing too fast. Meant: Masters in English.

Mary Ann

October 3rd, 2012
4:05 pm

As a former English major with a minor in women’s studies (WHAT WHAT), who got a graduate degree in a STEM-adjacent field, I’ve done a lot of thinking about this. I think the problem is that neither a liberal arts nor a STEM education, in isolation, can prepare most young people for the job market. You’ve really got to incorporate both.

I think many kids are using undergraduate years for the kind of mind-opening, horizon-broadening liberal arts education that prepares you to write and think critically– which are highly valuable skills, but without vocation skills, very difficult to market successfully. There’s very little immediate return on such an education; you pretty much have to go to grad school to have a successful professional career afterwards, and even then you run into problems with how to apply your learning to the job market. There just aren’t as many anthropology jobs are there are folks who love anthropology. Directly applicable job skills have to be learned on the fly, and it’s hard to convince an employer to risk taking on a wet-behind-the-ears Sociology major, even if he or she is perfectly capable of learning technical skills.

On the other hand, the emphasis on STEM majors that treats a college education as a kind of advanced vocational tech program really miss the boat in terms of what education can do. I’m successful in my field because I can communicate well; many of my colleagues are equally smart but were never trained to construct a written argument, or to think from a critical perspective. They’ve got the brain power to succeed to a point but they have to develop oral and written communication skills and cultural awareness as they go. It may be easier to GET a job for a STEM major, but it may be harder for them to excel within their highly competitive fields when they lack those other skills.

We really need to direct both sets of students to take classes and think about career strategies outside their comfort zones. There’s no sense in telling kids to only follow their passion, if that passion is shared by 1 million other teens who will then end up competing for 100 jobs (as a person who majored in English because I love to read, I am guilty as charged here) without other marketable skills. There’s also no sense in so glorifying technical skills that we forget that we live in an interconnected world where just being able to derive an integral quickly– but not to explain how you did it, or how your algorithm fits in with psychological theory and should change your company’s marketing strategy– will cause money to flood into your bank account.

The two sets of skills are not mutually exclusive, but the liberal arts types (waves) don’t want their lofty ideals sullied by real-world minutiae, and the science-y types don’t want their icy rigor tainted by loosey-goosey theory and fluff.

indigo

October 3rd, 2012
4:08 pm

We now live in a society that places a premium on advanced math and science aptitude. Unfortunately, most college students do NOT have these qualities. The results of this disparity speak for themselves. This is a problem that defies any solution I can think of.

bootney farnsworth

October 3rd, 2012
4:15 pm

I’ve thought for a long time colleges are being irresponsible grinding out graduates into fields where the job opportunities are so limited.

degree offerings, like everything else, should be subject to market forces. when the job market tightens, admissions standards in these areas tighten.

bootney farnsworth

October 3rd, 2012
4:22 pm

philosophy is a vital support concept, not a degree worthy field of study.

higher education is loaded with majors which do not produce marketable skills

ABC

October 3rd, 2012
4:22 pm

Critical thinking, communicating well, knowing how to read, write, and analyze a written article should be skills taught in HIGH SCHOOL. College prep path should be able teaching kids how to analyze literature, how think critically, how to write an essay. It should be about exposing teens to different ideas, to different careers, to different courses of study. If we did high school right, there would be no need to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to learn this in college and ultimately end up with a major that no one wants to hire.

Truth in Moderation

October 3rd, 2012
4:28 pm

@Maureen
Journalism makes a good pre-law degree also. A close relative worked for several years as a journalist for a newspaper but realized it was a shrinking industry. He went to law school, graduated first in his class, and is now clerking for a Federal judge.

William Casey

October 3rd, 2012
4:31 pm

My son is a senior doing dual degrees in mathematics and philosophy. I like very much what I see. The logic contained in philosophy is going to be very useful. Math speaks for itself.

clewis564

October 3rd, 2012
4:54 pm

Some of ya’ll act like a 17-18 year old should be making 30-35 year old decisions. A lot of ya’ll didn’t understand things till later and some much later. A kid wants to be an artist, philosopher and likes English or archaeology. That’s all they’re thinking about is what they’re interested and not what makes the most money. That’s why most Americans are in jobs they hate. They choose money over happiness and their emotional well-being.

skipper

October 3rd, 2012
5:01 pm

Maureen,
It used to be that you could get a degree, then folks would give you on the job training. They figured if you were educated and well-rounded, they could teach you the rest anyway. Looks like those days are gone………………

Really?

October 3rd, 2012
5:11 pm

I have degrees in 3 of those areas and make in the 6 figure range.
Success in life doesn’t really have much to do with your degree area. It is all what you take forward into the work place and life.

John Konop

October 3rd, 2012
5:15 pm

clewis564,

In life most of us cannot be Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Bruce…………… Most of us end up hopefully doing jobs centered around our aptitude. But at the end of the day, we do what we have to do……As the great philosopher Mick Jagger said “ You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need”

k

October 3rd, 2012
5:23 pm

My husband a businessman (and business major) said that he would hire a liberal arts major over a business major because he needs his employees to have strong critical thinking and writing skills. These are skills you can’t teach on the job.

RCB

October 3rd, 2012
5:30 pm

Maureen, are you saying your neighbor’s child quit or did not take that job? Either way, changing from one job to a non-paying or lesser paying job is fine–if you’re supporting yourself and can afford to do so. Living in my basement would not be an option. Sometimes you just have to work a particular job UNTIL you find something else. Hope he at least pays rent!

Linette

October 3rd, 2012
5:31 pm

Funny, Mick Jagger doesn’t have a degree and makes millions doing what he loves. Degrees, no matter the major guarantees you’ll have a job for the rest of your life. Most of the rich people I know don’t have degrees. College education was never meant as vocational training. So what if a kid wants to study theater, art, and/or philosophy. Human life span in more than 80 years. That’s more than enough time to figure out what jobs you hate or like. If my kid wants to be an actress, singer, or whatever no traditional I tell them go for it. Nothing more pathetic than a coulda, woulda, shoulda life.

clewis564

October 3rd, 2012
5:31 pm

The arts, philosophies, plays and writings of the past are what are studied in the classroom. We aren’t training kids to be truly educated these days. It’s all about getting a job.

C from Marietta

October 3rd, 2012
5:38 pm

@ Really?

BS….. You don’t have three degrees and a 6 figure income. This article reeks of duh…..

Mortimer Collins

October 3rd, 2012
5:44 pm

” (Of course, he has now shifted direction, but has continued with his vow of poverty. He is working in theater and living in his parents’ basement.)”

Seems this young man didnt use his noodle. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. No sympathy here.

TheGoldenRam

October 3rd, 2012
5:53 pm

@ Mary Ann,

Your comment is absolutely spot-on. I was going to share the same thoughts, but you explained it so well. So I’ll just second your comment with my personal experience.

As someone with degrees in both Anthropology & History(my emphasis was Archaeology, but my school didn’t offer that specific degree), I came to truly appreciate the value in those studies only after leaving school and entering the ‘real world’. My goal had always been to go onto law school. That was how I convinced dear ‘ol dad to pay for my adventures into the humanities. He wanted a lawyer son and I played along. However, several years of working for lawyers while I was an undergrad really turned me away from the field. So I went into the private sector in a field completely unrelated to my educational focus, or so I thought. Yes, I had to start near the bottom, work hard and persevere to move up. Like the previous article noted, hard work is so key to most successful endeavors.
What I came to discover is that the skill set I attained from those studies made me a very good boss and I moved up very quickly. I was THE boss of a multimillion dollar business by age 22. I was the boss at three different companies over a 14 year span. I understood people. I could manage people and create environments conducive to success. I could relate to people from all kinds of backgrounds and specialties, communicate concepts/goals/ideals, successfully resolve conflicts/disputes and establish a climate that drew quality people to us. People that would stay, people that loved their jobs, people that cared for one another and people that made those businesses flourish.
I’m a private I.T. Consultant now(I grew up surrounded by computers. Dad founded a technology company when I was a five-year-old). I got tired of working too many hours and not being able to explore the world. Making large sums of money was great, but the novelty wore off for me. I found myself surrounded by tons of material possessions and neat toys, but also obligated to the businesses for so much of my time and energy. My love for full-time work faded away.
I like the balance I have now. Work a month, travel a month. Not necessarily always in perfect order, but keep the ratio right. I’d like to do this for the rest of my life. I don’t want to retire by the lake or go into permanent leisure mode. There is something about work that is so fulfilling. The trick is the balance. I’m a huge fan of the “4 Hour Workweek”. When you have balance in your life, you do everything better. You appreciate the different aspects of the alternative experiences.
Maybe being the son of a corporate tycoon and a 30-year elementary school teacher helped create my own philosophical view of life, but those adventures into the humanities really helped to teach me how to construct the reality I wanted.

bu2

October 3rd, 2012
6:00 pm

Nothing wrong with broadening your mind with a liberal arts bachelor’s degree as long as you intend to learn something to make yourself useful in grad school. Probably the most useless combination is a business undergrad combined with an MBA. If you are simply going for a bachelor’s, however, that is different.

Hillbilly D

October 3rd, 2012
6:01 pm

higher education is loaded with majors which do not produce marketable skills

But it does keep the money rolling in at the colleges and universities.

TheGoldenRam

October 3rd, 2012
6:11 pm

Obviously, one very important caveat. I came into college from a wealthy family. There was no issue with money, loans, etc.. One of my hobbies is tutoring college students that attend one of the three colleges in our town. I really enjoy that. Occasionally I come across seniors in the fields being discussed that have already racked up $50,000 to $80,000 in student debt. My alma mater calculates that a 4-year degree for an “out of state” student will cost about $120,000. I can’t support this type of imbalance. However it’s not the fault of the “degrees”, it’s a result of higher education becoming an industry unto itself. These are artificially inflated marketplaces selling overpriced and overvalued products. There are ways to intelligently navigate higher education, but it has become a minefield for many students unprepared for the experience and in many cases, academically unfit to even be at that level.

pull my other leg

October 3rd, 2012
6:32 pm

You should have included those going into education in this article. They can’t find jobs and will also be back in the basement.

RAMZAD

October 3rd, 2012
6:48 pm

@clewis564

I share your view.

This constant fixation on money is maddening. Please keep in mind that our country, the richest country on earth is $16 trillion in debt, and there was tons of money for “the best and the brightest” who ran our economy into a swamp. That explains the money.

If people love philosophy and fine arts- let them. We will have the best philosophers and artists this side of the moon, and we will get the true benefits of philosophy and fine arts. My problem are the people who chase the money by choosing a business they have no interest in or commitment to and then start pimping their customers with half raw skills, poor sensitivity, and the passion of a crankshaft.

East Cobb Slob

October 3rd, 2012
7:05 pm

Hey Milton Man I guess GA Tech is requiring Hindi, Russian, & Mandarin for their geeks so they can get a job overseas. Engineering must be overrated and simple since the 3rd world grads are snapping up all of the genius… I mean engineering jobs.

Give me a company run by a marketing major anytime over some engineering genius. Just because you can build a better mouse trap does not mean someone will buy it.

Progressive Humanist

October 3rd, 2012
7:51 pm

I got my BA in literature. Topped out at about $52k in business management, but didn’t like what I was doing. Went to grad school, got a masters in English ed. Topped out at about $56k teaching high school, and really liked what I was doing. Got a PhD in a field of psychology at a brick and mortar school while still working full time. Now my household income is in the top 7-8% for the country and I really enjoy what I’m doing. I’ve got $17k in loan debt, which is no problem for me to pay. Getting a BA in a liberal arts field worked well for me, but I had to keep going to school to get where I wanted to be.

I see many students today who are studying in fields that are in such low demand they won’t have a job in that field, or least most of them won’t. While college is not simply job preparation, these days students must weigh the costs and benefits and do the research beforehand. They will need to make a living some day.

My daughter is interested in biology. I will continue to encourage that pursuit.

Zippy

October 3rd, 2012
7:57 pm

Anthro major turned Shipping Manager……always a lot of laughs

bootney farnsworth

October 3rd, 2012
8:57 pm

@ hillbilly

you see the point/problem. colleges know, emphasis know, most of these degrees are market worthless, but are not gonna cut off the fiscal tap. they also count of these kids coming back for
second degrees when the first one flops.

kinda a version of planned educational obsolence

bootney farnsworth

October 3rd, 2012
9:02 pm

@ William

philosophy is extremely useful in almost every aspect of life. it should be core in all liberal arts schools. but it is not justifiable as a major, or even a minor.

the last time I heard anyone in the market for a philosopher was Dom Deluise in History of the World, Pt 1

Truth in Moderation

October 3rd, 2012
9:58 pm

“I had to keep going to school to get where I wanted to be.”

LOL! Now I get it. That’s why you are a “progressive” humanist.

Truth in Moderation

October 3rd, 2012
10:07 pm

Which famous philosopher said this:

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”
“No one ever teaches well who wants to teach, or governs well who wants to govern.”

Truth in Moderation

October 3rd, 2012
10:21 pm

Which philosopher “dissed” Plato?

“Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.”