Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Useless"? College Degrees

The Daily Beast has published a list entitled The 20 Most Useless College Majors.  The writers used the following criteria:
To find the most useless degrees college students can get with their four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, we wanted to know which majors offer not only the fewest job opportunities, but those that tend to pay the least. The Daily Beast considered the following data points, weighted equally, with each degree’s numbers compared to the average for each category, to achieve a categorical comparison that accounts for differentiation from the mean. Data are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale:
According the Beast, the most useless major, much to their chagrin, is journalism.  In what must be seen as bad news for South Dakota, horticulture and agriculture rank second and third.

The most interesting rankings are numbers eight and nine: mechanical engineering and chemistry, two STEM staples.  Although literature and English rank 15 and 19, I can console myself with the Beast's conclusion: "Several majors on this list—photography, literature, theater—suffer from low starting and mid- career salaries, but still show potential for job growth, and industry superstars can still make a very nice living."

I see a large number of students guided toward careers in engineering or sciences because these careers are practical.  Those offering advice need to remember that advice should be practical enough to help students realize that the most practical thing is getting both a job and a livable paycheck.

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