The study of liberal arts, defined by Merriam-Webster as the pursuit of “general intellectual capacities (as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocational skills,” has been glorified since antiquity as necessary in turning students into well-rounded citizens. Well, we don’t live in ancient Greece, and in the modern world, a liberal arts degree is not the counter-weight to massive student loans that it once was. Here’s why you should find another major.
5 The Future is STEM
Casey Research points out that emerging nations such as China and India are beginning to dominate the industries that demand technical skills. This, the research shows, is because their college graduates—who disproportionately attend American schools—opt for degrees in the so-called STEM studies: science, technology, engineering and math. More than ever in a global economy, high-tech skills lead to high-tech jobs with high pay. A generation or two ago, English lit and gender studies degrees could lead to well paying, low-tech jobs. Today, those jobs are disappearing.
4 It Just Doesn’t Work
According to Casey Research, a recent study from Georgetown University aggregated the five top majors that have the worst unemployment statistics (these numbers were crossed against popularity). All of them were in the liberal arts. A total of 19.5 percent of clinical psychology majors were out of work. Miscellaneous fine arts degrees failed to get a job 16.2 percent of the time. About 15 percent of United States history majors are unemployed, as well as those who majored in library science. Educational psychology was the only one to go under 15 at 10.9 percent.
3 Community College
Despite the assumption that four-year schools are better than two, you could do better for far less money and in less time at a community college than you could with many liberal arts degrees. On the “Forbes” list of the best paying community college taught jobs, everyone from medical sonographers to registered nurses to dental hygienists average more than $60,000 a year. Radiation therapists and construction managers pull in about $75,000 to $85,000, and air-traffic controllers make six figures—all without the burden of university debt.
2 Starting Salaries
College loans are more costly than ever, and for the lucky grads that land a job in their field right out of school, most will enter the “real world” saddled with mountains of debt. “Forbes” has a list of the degrees that bring the highest starting salaries. None of them is in liberal arts. They are computer engineering; chemical engineering; computer science; aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering; mechanical engineering; electrical, electronics and communications engineering; civil engineering; finance; construction science/management; and information sciences and systems. All of these degrees fetch more than $50,000 a year. Philosophy is great — unless you’re reading it in your room in your mom’s basement.
1 Marketable Skills
As the economy creeps along and jobless numbers remain painfully high, employers are able to be much more choosey when picking from the masses that are banging on their doors. A recent study by the U.S. News University Directory says the six most marketable degrees are computer science, accounting, finance, engineering, business administration and business information systems. A degree in anthropology might make you a more well-rounded person, but you went to college to get a degree, and the degree is supposed to help you get a job.