20 January 2012

Unemployment rates for recent college graduates

From an essay entitled "Not all college majors are created equal," in the Washington Post:
Too many students aren’t sure what job they could get after four, five or even six years of studying a certain major and racking up education loans. Many aren’t getting on-the-job training while they are in school or during their semester or summer breaks. As a result, questions about employment opportunities or what type of job they have the skills to attain are met with blank stares or the typical, “I don’t know.”

And don’t get me started on people who borrow heavily to get an advanced degree without really knowing whether it will lead to a fatter paycheck that can easily service the debt. In some cases it will, but for some academic disciplines, the salary bump isn’t as much as people expect.

Maybe a new report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce will help encourage students to make better choices about which college and degrees they pursue. “Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal” answers the question that many people are asking in the aftermath of the recession. Is college still worth it?

For most, it is. But it all depends on your major, the report concludes. 
Details and hundreds of comments at the link.


  1. Lots of people buy cars they don't need. Lots of people buy clothes that don't look good on them. People buy unhealthy food, cigarettes, alcohol.

    What kind of moron assumes that people would buy education any more wisely than they do anything else?


  2. In response to Anonymous Chuck, a lot of us were told that if we got a degree, it would lead to Good Things, like better employment opportunities and a secure lifestyle. It Was Expected. An office job, with suits and ties and a predictable of advancement were assured.

    Of course, this is simple credentialism at work: as the Wizard said to the Tin Woodman, those fellows have no brains than you have but what you don't have is a diploma.

    A degree is not an education and that's what we need to get back to. If you look at the many examples of high school entrance exams (!) from 100 years ago, you realize that people were expected to know a lot more about their world than we expect our kids to know.

    Some example questions from a high school entrance exam from 1911, taken in rural Indiana [more at http://wp.me/p56dN-L2]:
    • In what state and on what waters are the following: Chicago, Duluth, Cleveland, and Buffalo? State an important fact about each.
    • Name and locate two countries in the following are important products: wheat, cotton, wool, coffee.
    • Write on the Panama Canal, telling who is building it, its location and importance.
    • What causes the change from day to night and from winter to summer?

    There is an effort to find out what the applicant knows, how well they have been paying attention to the world around them.

    I think since WWII we have seen a big change in the way a university education is administered. As we have de-emphasized the skilled trades and made a degree required, we have allowed trade schools to set up shop on university campuses.

    What, for example, would one learn at a College of Communications? If you are learning about writing, critical thinking, rhetoric, those would be in the College of Liberal Arts. If you are learning about the technical aspect of broadcasting via radio or television, you would apply to the College of Engineering. If you are going to be a camera operator or video editor, why the blue blazes are you investing four years of your life learning a set of skills you could master in a quarter of that time? All this tells me is that we are taking technical jobs and wrapping a degree around them, for reasons I don't know. Self-esteem? Faux professionalism?

    I have a special animus toward so-called journalism schools as I think they are at the root of the anemic media we endure today. If you look at the analysis and probity of the news today, you have to wonder what these kids learn over four years. Granted, two years or so is spent on core classes, your nutritional allowance, but that leaves two years, about 60 credit hours on the semester system, for professional education.

    The high cost of education is also linked to decreased subsidies from the states/federal government, as it's been decided we don't want or need to invest in the next generation(s). The people who could take and pass that test would have understood that a vote to lower property or other taxes means reduced spending on the services they fund.

    If the ballot clearly said a vote on proposition 1, Lower Property Taxes, will result in reductions in x fewer policemen, y fewer teachers and a higher teacher:student ratio, and reduced library hours, maybe it would be easier to figure out.

  3. "In response to Anonymous Chuck, a lot of us were told that if we got a degree, it would lead to Good Things, like better employment opportunities and a secure lifestyle."

    Of course you were told that. It's called 'advertising'.

    And sugary cereals are a healthy breakfast for kids, smoking makes you look cool, spray-on hair looks real, and lite beer will make you lose weight, right?

    You are supposed to learn a little critical thinking BEFORE college.


  4. I think the idea that colleges should be trade schools is absolutely retrograde thinking. Not only are jobs not not stable and predictable anymore, but we know that everybody is going to have to shift roles and constantly learn and use new skills. If you learn how to learn and meet challenges, your investment in education may pay off. People who pick a degree with a lifetime job in mind will sooner or later find themselves marooned unless they adopt a practice of constant education and adaptation.

    Eventually, even the most adaptable of us will be challenged by technology and cheap labor that increasingly can replace even esoteric skill sets.

  5. I agree completely with BJN. In fact, I've always referred to the phenomenon in a similar fashion: too many Americans now think that college is a white collar trade school.

    If you want to train for a particular industry, become an intern/apprentice in the field. Don't waste money on a college degree.

    People have different aptitudes and interests. We wouldn't want everyone to get a degree in whatever the current top paying field is right now, because it's not going to be the right career for everyone, and there are thousands of other fields that need workers too. A happy mechanic is more successful in life than a miserable middle manager, even if the manager brings home an extra $10,000/year. Besides, very few people will be in the same industry for their entire working lives. Mindlessly picking one particular career path based on current trends could leave you where the coopers and buggy whip makers were, once upon a time.

    College is where you learn how to learn, so you can make informed decisions for the rest of your life. It's not about training you for a particular job.

  6. My son-in-law Brian was able to get the WiFi on my router working, when dozens of tech experts could not. He majored in English Literature, and says that there is no substitute for a liberal education when it comes to solving problems.

  7. I think it's about time we separate education (as in learning how to learn) from job preparation. We should all go to school to learn how to read, write, do math, reason, and, basically, think! One should apprentice at a job or profession to learn how to do it well. For the most part apprenticeships of this kind no longer exist and the burden is placed on institutions of higher learning. One way or the other, the fact that a college education in this country costs an arm and a leg is ludicrous. -- RAC


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