Avoid This Useless College Degree if You Want to Get a Good Job

Liberal arts degrees have developed a bad reputation lately – here’s why

May 25, 2014 at 12:30PM

Source: Flickr / gadgetdude.

If you have recently graduated college with a four-year degree in liberal arts, you will almost certainly have a difficult journey on the road to job attainment and work satisfaction.

A recent study by Millennial Branding and Beyond.com lays bare the awful truth about liberal arts degrees: employers are not interested in them, and do not plan to hire applicants who have them.

How bad is it? Of the nearly 3,000 employers polled, only 2% said they were actively looking for such graduates. On the other hand, 27% of companies are looking to hire those with degrees in engineering or computer science, while 18% desire applicants with a business degree.

The scariest part is that 84% of employers also say they are desirous of candidates with good communications skills – the very characteristic that liberal arts majors are known for.

Fulfilling, perhaps – but not very marketable
The notion that a liberal arts degree is not one of the most marketable is not new, and seems to have gained traction since the financial crisis.

A 2007 publication from the Bureau of Labor Statistics entitled, "What can I do with my liberal arts degree?" speaks volumes about the angst students were feeling seven or eight years ago about the job prospects for graduates of liberal arts programs.

Interestingly, this particular publication declares that a liberal arts education prepares students for the workplace because of the communication skills such degrees bestow, and which employers covet.

Obviously, today's hiring managers are not seeing the correlation.

The path to underemployment?
For liberal arts graduates, underemployment has become a real problem, as many find themselves procuring work far below their level of educational attainment.


Source: Flickr / Kate Hisock.

A research paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York published earlier this year found that 52% of those with liberal arts diplomas were laboring in a job for which no bachelor's degree was required. Only 20% of engineering graduates, by comparison, were in that situation. 

Similarly, jobs website PayScale notes that liberal arts majors are often underemployed, and generally wind up with median starting salaries between $30,800 and $36,200. A recent Pew Research Center Study shows that only 43% of those with liberal arts, social science or education undergraduate degrees reported working in a job that very closely mirrored their major.

A stunning 28% said that their current work has nothing to do with their degree subject – compared to 15% of engineering majors, and 12% of business majors.

Choices matter
Does this mean that everyone should avoid the liberal arts like the plague? Not necessarily, but it pays to know exactly what line of work you prefer before choosing a college curriculum.

For example, though the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that graduates with degrees in foreign languages and literature are currently starting work at salaries well over $40,000, a little research is in order to ascertain whether or not the types of jobs represented are the kind in which you may actually be interested.

An important lesson from the Millennial Branding survey points up the fact that 64% of hiring authorities would consider an applicant without a college degree, and that attitude, communication, and the ability to work as a team are of the highest importance when considering applicants.

When it comes to landing a good job these days, those factors might turn out to be the skills that matter the most.

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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