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.

Another way to invest in your future
The smartest investors know that dividend stocks simply crush their non-dividend paying counterparts over the long term. That's beyond dispute. They also know that a well-constructed dividend portfolio creates wealth steadily, while still allowing you to sleep like a baby. Knowing how valuable such a portfolio might be, our top analysts put together a report on a group of high-yielding stocks that should be in any income investor's portfolio. To see our free report on these stocks, just click here now.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers