Wednesday, June 3, 2015

College degrees

Number of students who received a Bachelor's degree in the United States for specific displines

Source of data
It was my intention to include a visual that linked discipline to typical pay but that proved impossible.

In some cases there are solid linkages between the name of the discipline and the Bureau of Labor Statistics labels.  Business is a good example of this.  Perhaps most of the people who graduate with a Bachelor's in Business find a job in Business.

In other cases a Bachelor's degree has almost zero brand value.  Two or three results are likely to occur.

One is that the student pursues a Graduate degree.

Another path is to pursue jobs outside of their field.  That artificially inflates the averages wages reported by graduates.  Psychology majors working at fast food restaurants do not get listed in the statistics as "Psychologist".  That statistical quirk is sometimes called "survivor bias". This path is often combined with the first path.  A Psychology major might easily decide to pursue a Law degree after being exposed to the withering job market for Psychology majors.

The third path is to nibble away at part time gigs until they have a fat Curriculum Vitae and land a job.  My closest friend from high school pursued a career in Fisheries and Wildlife.  He landed his first full-time job with benefits at the age of 37.

Follow your heart

I sat through Belladonna's commencement ceremony.  Yup, nearly every speaker advised the graduating students to "follow their hearts."

This advice would be OK  if the student first filtered their probable paths based on
  • Job availability 
  • Starting wages
  • Availability of fall-back professions
The last bullet refers to the fact that there are not many alternative careers for students who are tracking for tenure in Romance Languages at an Ivy League University.

Most tragic are first generation college students who simply do not know better.  They lack family who have been-there/done-that.  They are poorly served by the Education community.

1 comment:

  1. Agree completely with your message. If one chooses to be a starving artist with eyes wide open to that then so be it. But it seems far too many young people are given the well intended but flawed "follow your heart" advice. The devil is in the detail: i.e., also don't just pursue a path that pays the highest if you dislike that type of study/work. There is a middle ground but ultimately paying the bills must be done. Reference Dr Laura's coal miner's pride example.


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