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
Diploma

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.

Job

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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