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Education News

Study Analyzes Recent Grads' Unemployment By Major 314

Hugh Pickens writes "A new report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce called 'Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal' analyzes unemployment by major. It shows that not enough students — and their families who are also taking on student loans — are asking what their college major is worth in the workforce. 'Too many students aren't sure what job they could get after four, five or even six years of studying a certain major and racking up education loans,' writes Singletary. 'Many aren't getting on-the-job training while they are in school or during their semester or summer breaks. As a result, questions about employment opportunities or what type of job they have the skills to attain are met with blank stares or the typical, "I don't know."' The reports found that the unemployment rate for recent graduates is highest in architecture (13.9 percent) because of the collapse of the construction and home-building industry and not surprisingly, unemployment rates are generally higher in non-technical majors (PDF), such as the arts (11.1 percent), humanities and liberal arts (9.4 percent), social science (8.9 percent) and law and public policy (8.1 percent)."
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Study Analyzes Recent Grads' Unemployment By Major

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  • by liamevo ( 1358257 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @11:49AM (#38774136)

    Anyone else sick of encountering this kind of thinking?

  • by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @11:51AM (#38774148) Homepage

    All they do is get you past HR filters. Most people who are good at their jobs also do them as a hobby or have a genuine interest. Although it doesn't help either when you have $100k in loans and employers offer you $12/hr jobs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, 2012 @11:55AM (#38774170)

    Yes. I'm also really sick of the student loans crap. I worked my way through college, and busted my butt for a couple of tuition-only scholarships.
    I didn't borrow a cent, and people who think work starts after graduation definitely shouldn't.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @11:59AM (#38774198)

    If you are rich enough to use it in furtherance of your hobbies, then by all means do so.

    The problem is that schools SELL education and are not in the business of telling students that a particular major is a stupid choice if you want food, clothing, and shelter after graduation.

    Once you have money, you have the power to pursue other interests. If you don't have money, you are, generally speaking, "fucked", and it's not out of line to remind potential education consumers of that.

    MANY young people entering college have heads full of feathers and won't figure this out on their own.

  • Rocket Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by datavirtue ( 1104259 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:05PM (#38774254)

    Study what interests you and inspires passion. If nothing inspires passion in you then you had better gain some type of technical skill. Everyone in my college is either pursuing a "business administration" degree or "computer technology." It is getting ridiculous. Business administration should be something you study along the way in any degree program. The demand for technical people is so high in the IT industry that most people following that degree path will likely get jobs, regardless of their skills. The amount of engineering students is microscopic in comparison to the rest. I haven't met anyone yet who is studying engineering to become a systems developer, it is a lonely path. During labs I spend most of my time tutoring people.

  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:05PM (#38774258)


    Sure, in IT.

    You try to get a job in applied materials or life sciences or education.

    Just try explaining to the nice HR person you like hanging around a lot of prepubescent boys as a "hobby."

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:05PM (#38774260)

    I see the results of "engineering-only" education every day. I see co-workers utterly lacking critical thinking skills or any curiosity, passively accepting whatever the mainstream media or the software vendors tell them, and who get insanely defensive when you poke holes in the wet toilet paper of their core political/cultural/technical/economic/religious beliefs. I see walking, living proof every day that technical competence != global intelligence.

    Some of this is neurological, of course. I work in the software industry, an area filled with more than its share of mildly autistic souls. The rest, however, could have had their worldview drastically enhanced with a couple of courses in comparative cultural anthropology, a few philosophy courses discussing epistemology and some critical studies of human history, just as the liberal arts crew would benefit hugely from some significant study of math, physics and engineering.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:06PM (#38774270)
    I would say so, except that our system, has made vocational schooling a joke, where lazy dump people who can pass college go.
    Most people who go to school is because they need an advantage in the market. I was programming professionally while I was in high school, but I went to college because I knew the system wouldn't allow me to advance without a college degree. Then later I got to the point where work wouldn't respect my business decision so I got an MBA to force a degree of respect.
    It would be great if people who went to collage for a real education, however for most people it a licences to get paid more then minimum wage.
    If you want college to be for the pure education and learning, we need respectable vocational training for many professional activities.
  • Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:07PM (#38774274) Homepage Journal

    Having everyone go to college hasn't made Americans smarter.

    It has made universities dumber.

    Even though I had been coding since 5th grade, I didn't know what I wanted to go to university for until late into highschool, when ultimately it occured to me that I may as well get the paper that says I can do what I already enjoyed doing.

    My dad called some larger IT and software employers' recruiting departments and asked what sort of degrees they screen for, and more importantly, what degree-issuing institutions they look for.

    Their answer was, roughly, if you have a CS degree, it doesn't matter where its from (unless its from MIT :))

    So I went through the Barrrons College guide and made a list of schools that had CS and separate compE programs; i ranked them by cost and by SAT score of average incoming class. I restricted my search to schools that were ranked above ... 50th or 100th? place in "engineering", however arbitrary that is.

    Then I went and talked to those schools, got a rough idea of which ones would give me what kinds of academic scholarships, and then chose a subset of state universities to apply to.

    Part of this process is being honest about yourself. I beleive that technically, I met all of the admission requirements to get into Caltech. I noted howeer, that their average incoming freshman had SAT and ACT scores around 5 to 10% higher than where I had tested. Additionally, tuition at that time was around $30k/year.

    I figured that there was little sense in struggling to get into the bottom half of the Caltech freshman class, only to pay a six figure sum and to have to work my ass off just to keep my head above water and hopefully graduate. Certainly I expect I would have had a more rigorous experience, and networked with higher caliber professors and students, and perhaps had a better pick of employers for internships and eventual employment.

    But honestly, while I have _some_ smarts and _some_ drive, there are obviously people who have more of _both_, and I see little reason to compete with them if I don't have to :)

    I was accepted to UIUC (then a top 5 CS school), but they knew they were a competitive program and they offered me no financial incentives to attend.

    Ultimately, I went to the University of Nebraska, which offered me a full ride, allowed me to coast in non-interesting courses, and allowed me plenty of 1:1 time with professors who were interesting. The more mid-pack freshman class allowed me to differentiate myself easily from my peers in areas where I excelled.

    I left school with a good GPA, plenty of knowledge that I didn't have when I started, and a full time offer at a software company you may have heard of. And no student debt.

    The point of this is that if we're not equipping American kids to do even a rudimentary cost-benefit analysis; if they have no idea why they are _going_ to a university... well, they probably have no business going, and it is abhorrent that US taxpayers are paying for them to go.

    I am romantically in favor of the idea of the mysty eyed dreamer going to school for indian tribal botany or some other esoteric pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. That's actually probably closer to the original idea of the university. But that experience is something he or she needs to pay for privately -- asking me to help is ridiculous. Making it national policy and funding it at the federal level is suicidal.

    The debt-treadmill of university is insidious. Making it easy to get the money to go means more people are going, and in response to the rising costs that are a natural consequence of more demand, the Feds loan out more money. And so the cycle continues, and we have more and more entrants with less and less ability to pay who have no idea what they are going to do once their 4-6 years of partying are over and they need to start paying off the debt they accured.

  • by Elf Sternberg ( 13087 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:18PM (#38774332) Homepage

    An old idea, floated in the 19th century by highly conservative economists, the capability tax was the idea that people should be taxed based upon what they were capable of earning, rather than what they earned. The idea was to discourage smart people from going into art, the humanities, liberal arts, and so forth, and encourage them to go into meaningful, productive fields, where their capabilities would be put to full use. Whether or not you enjoyed the work was irrelevant, and only liberals cared about that.

    The paper is basically encouraging us to think in these term, to ask students to go into fields they may well hate, because that's where they have to go to (1) get a decent education, and (2) make enough to pay off their ultimate student loans.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:19PM (#38774342) Homepage

    Formal education is the only education that has any value....

    Anyone else sick of encountering this kind of thinking?

    Experience is worth FAR MORE than education. Yet I see a lot of jobs with a BS/BA degree requirement that have zero need for such a thing. For example Advertising sales position, WTF does that need a BS for?

    Luckily I dont have to deal with it, but I rarely see a new grad with a nice shiny new CS degree that can actually do the job.

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:24PM (#38774368) Homepage Journal
    A degree can be useful to provide basic process skills and techniques in problem solving. While technical training and the like can provide targeted skills for immediate employment, however those skills may not long be in demand. For instance, it is one thing to know how use MS Office, it is another to have general skills in office applications and the ability to write an effective memo or technical report. It is one thing to complete simple assigned tasks with supervision, it is another thing to have advanced time management and organizational skills so one can plan and complete complex projects with minimal supervision.

    In any case, the linked article did not limit itself to degrees. The evidence seemed to suggest that have a experience before graduation was important. That was the way it was during my time of graduating when the economy was not in great shape. Most people I know who got jobs had significant related experience prior to graduation, some paid, some volunteer. And I don't think we expected anyone to give us a job, at least not for a lifetime. Many of us created situation in which we were valuable, and if that value lapsed we created new situation in which we were valuable. This level of expectations, in which employers or the government was required to employ us simply because we existed, was not so much emphasized.

    I don't want to come off as lecturing, but the current language in the presidential campaign seems particularly counter productive. Everyone is taking about a few select job creators being in control of out lives, which is not really the case. We can all be in control of our futures, at least to some extent. We don't have to wait for some Ayn Rand savior to give us a sense of worth. We can do it for ourselves, through work, through education, through creating of products. And that is products, not just taking a bit off the top in transactions.

  • by FoolishOwl ( 1698506 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:26PM (#38774382) Journal

    And there's no good reason for that. Studying literature is a matter of reading books and discussing them, and the cost of producing a book has gone down over time. Textbooks are notoriously overpriced. Some fields require more expensive equipment -- but in general, that equipment has become cheaper to produce, or at worst has stayed at the same price. College instructors aren't particularly well paid.

    So where's all the money going?

  • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:39PM (#38774472)

    Even though I had been coding since 5th grade, I didn't know what I wanted to go to university for until late into highschool, when ultimately it occured to me that I may as well get the paper that says I can do what I already enjoyed doing.

    Stop right there. People like me and you have conservative path to moderate success, which is a good thing for the bulk of the population to do. But based on the sentence I quoted, have you ever stopped to think how lucky you are to be born with an interest and talent that also happens to be one of the more reliable ways to make a living? Seriously... imagine if the biggest sector of the US economy was ballet. Would your rational process translated into success for you as a ballet dancer? Or might you struggle?

  • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:51PM (#38774542)

    So you missed out on arguably the most important function of college: networking.

    It doesn't matter what you know as much as who you know, always been the case and will remain the case.

  • by sgt scrub ( 869860 ) < minus punct> on Saturday January 21, 2012 @12:53PM (#38774564)

    They are definately not places to go to take some courses out of curiosity. If you want to take some courses out of interest you have to go through all kinds of bullshit. I wanted to take some courses on data forensics at a local Jr College. Because they were not available as continuing education courses, they wanted me to transfer to the school. I didn't want to go through a transfer process to take a few courses so I told them no. As a result they wanted me to take placement tests. They also said I would have to take standard courses for the associates degree, english, math. etc... before being able to get INTO the classes.

    "Hi. Prior education? Yes. I received my ___ in ___ at ___ in 19__. And um huh? No I don't want to transfer to your shitty little Jr. College, that wasn't even built when I graduated, as a freshmen. I just want to take those 3 classes. Test what? Take 101 & 102 what and what?"

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @01:00PM (#38774614)

    What you are missing is that the value of your education is revealed when you are trying to sell your labor or products of it. So the value of your education is only what other people are voluntarily willing to pay for it. This doesn't mean you shouldn't study French Poetry. But it would be a bad investment to pay alot of money to do it when you could find places on the internet to learn and discuss it for free. This is something many people do for leisure.

    Many people in today's Pop culture confuse leisure and labor because there are some exceptional artists and athletes that are able to make considerable amounts of money doing what is in essence a leisure activity. Playing the guitar and singing is something most people do for fun. But if you are exceptional at it some people will pay money to watch you have fun. The same with sports. Most people play for fun. There are a few that are so good at it others will pay to watch them play a game.

    Borrowing money is only reasonable if you are building your productive capacity. Borrowing money is smart if you are building a factory, buying capital equipment, or learning a marketable skill. Borrowing money to learn a leisure activity is not a smart use of your time or money. So where you are confused is you should only borrow money to learn a job skill. But once you have that skill and are earning a higher income you can use that money to learn a leisure activity. Borrowing money to learn a leisure activity leaves you with no way of every paying back your loan.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @01:01PM (#38774624)
    The "HR filter" does have a rational idea behind it. The college degree does demonstrate one important thing. That the holder can *finish* a long, sometimes boring and somewhat bureaucratic process. Many people can start a "project", only some of them can finish a "project".

    In computer science the university program does offer valuable training. While it is possible to be self taught in these topics very few individuals will actually do so. People who are self taught tend to only study those topic they are interested in. They tend to have obvious gaps in their knowledge compared to the university trained. I only know one self taught person who had the discipline, initiative and ability to read and understand university level textbooks on the full range of topics covered in a university program.

    I would agree that some levels of debt seem insane and make it hard to justify the university education but to be honest the problem seems somewhat exaggerated. If one goes to a state university and works part time when class is in session and full time in the summer one can still graduate debt free or with minimal debt. IIRC the average tuition+boarding cost for a 4-year school is US$13K per year. Even without working at all the debt would be about half what you cite.
  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Saturday January 21, 2012 @01:21PM (#38774810) Homepage

    It is important to remind people that college is not a trade school

    Actually, historically that's exactly what colleges have been - vocational and trade schools. The belief that they are otherwise not only runs contrary to that, but also seems to be utterly without foundation. Even a liberal arts degree is vocational, it was meant to produce teachers and individuals with the knowledge and skills to take their 'proper' station in life.

  • by Will.Woodhull ( 1038600 ) <> on Saturday January 21, 2012 @01:22PM (#38774816) Homepage Journal

    Collegiate neocolonialism is a more fitting term.

    Catch the suckers while they are young, hook them with blue sky visions of grand careers. Milk them, but oh so gently so their tits don't get sore, with student loans that will put them in debt for years to come. What better way could there be to assure that your tenured nest is comfortably feathered? Of course you want to do this in such a way that not only will they pay and pay for their undergraduate years, but they will also desperately seek to continue the experience by doing post graduate studies, with yet more loans. Gee, if you structure it right, you can make sure that in order to avoid facing a debt they do not have the skills to pay down, they will need to keep learning all the stuff you do not mind teaching, and that they have no time left over to learn any of the stuff that would be useful in getting a real job.

    A lot of employers really like the idea of having a pool of warm bodies to draw from when they need more help. A student with a B.S. or B.A. is a wonderful thing to hire, because they have demonstrated that they know how to be mushrooms (one hand washes the other, you have to go along to get along, etc) and they have these wonderfully huge debts to pay off so they cannot just walk away. It doesn't matter to the employer what the degree is in; all baccalaureates are interchangeable cogs as far as they are concerned. What matters is that college graduates have proven that they have what it takes to keep themselves in the dark and eat whatever sh*t is fed to them, and that they have fscking huge debts so that when you push them a little beyond their moral or ethical boundaries, they will go along with it rather than facing an unemployment line.

    In the USA, it has taken more than 50 years for colleges, businesses, and government (student loan programs, etc) to develop this neocolonial system of eating its young. The system has not grown very fast, chiefly because it depends on a kind of doublethink blindness of what is really happening among its supporters, and you can never build things at speed when you need to keep one hand from knowing what the other is doing. But at this point the overwhelming majority of professors, business leaders, and civil servants who administer the programs are products of the system itself. That is, any tenured professor with less than 30 years in his c.v. is a product of the system itself and learned how to go along to get along, not to look too closely at what is happening around him, etc, etc. It lets them preserve the fantasy that they are really good people who are doing the best that can be done in a bad situation.

  • by toadlife ( 301863 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @01:32PM (#38774914) Journal

    College is not more expensive today. It's just that the state has subsidized less and less of the cost over the couple of decades, making it appear to cost more.

    This what people 40 and older don't get when they bitch and moan about students not being able to work their way through college like *they did* when they went to state school. It'd be pretty damn easy to work your way through college if tuition were still around $1000 a semester, but it's not 1980 any more.

    Banks, of course, have stepped in and filled the gap. I've seen a few prognosticators predict that the next financial bubble to pop will be student loans.

  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @01:52PM (#38775070) Homepage

    Unless you want your brain to still function well when you're older []. Summary of findings: Those with 4-year degrees have brains which, in terms of capability, are 10 years younger by middle age, and beyond. So it's not just about getting a job right out of college. It's about still having a well-functioning mind when you're 50, 60, 70.

    What would you pay to be ten years younger, in other words? Makes college education look cheap, at about any price.

  • by wanzeo ( 1800058 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @01:54PM (#38775110)

    One theory I have is that undergrads overpay to make up for grad students who underpay. Many grad students are going to school for free or nearly so, especially if they teach. They are usually there for more than four years, and at large research universities their numbers nearly match the number of undergrad students. Also, they tend to use the more expensive equipment that the school has to buy to attract them to the program.

    If I had to do college over, I would have gone to a small school that only did undergrad. That way I wouldn't feel like my tuition was going straight into the graduate program, while I sat in a 300 person lecture.

  • Mod parent up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @02:01PM (#38775162) Homepage

    One of the most insightful posts I've seen on slashdot.

    You might like the related links in this comment of mine, btw: []

  • by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @02:26PM (#38775334) Homepage

    College networking is not very useful. As an exercise, networking is about give and take; you need to be a valuable contact in order to attract valuable contacts. And as a college student, you are incredibly interchangeable and ultimately not very useful. Almost the only people you successfully 'network' with are the other college students you go out drinking with, and as far as contacts go, they're just as useless as you. It is absolutely not worth the tens of thousands in debt you seem to suggest. The only useful contacts you'll gain at university are professors and work related contacts from internships and jobs, and those are the contacts you'll gain from standing out from all of your 'networking' peers by working hard.

    Now, it's possible that one of your drinking buddies is going to be successful 10-15 years down the road, but you're going to have plenty of opportunity to network usefully between now and then, when you have real experience and expertise you can market yourself with, instead of "that guy who was really good at beer pong back in college."

    Justifying potentially tens of thousands of dollars of debt so that you can 'network' with a bunch of other college students is about the worst financial advice I've heard.

  • by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @03:23PM (#38775724)

    I have to call BS. Working a minimum wage job in most areas of the country isn't enough to pay for rent and food, much less college tuitition and books. You make about $1200 a month, with takehome of about $1000 a month.

    With the average rent of $600 a month, $200 a month in food costs, $200 a month in transportation costs, that's pretty much it.

    Could you live more cheaply? Possibly, but a number of things would have to happen in order to make that feasible. You'd have to live within walking distance of both work and school (highly unlikely, unless you get really lucky). You'd have to be able to survive on Ramen or get free food from work (possible, but even ramen isn't as cheap as it once was). You could have roommates, but that means a larger house which raises the overall rent, and thus the average cost.

    But even if you got your costs down to $500, that only leaves $500 left for tuition and books, and in many cases books alone can cost most of that.

    Ok, so maybe you get two part-time jobs and work 60 hours a week (most minimum wage jobs have strict no-overtime rules in my experience) that's only going to give you another $400 a month, which gives you a total of $900 for books and tuition (that includes lab costs, fees, etc..). $2700 per quarter, $11,200 per year. I don't know of any accredited school with tuitions that low.

    Ok, so that means you need to live at home, have your parents pay all your food costs, and live within walking distance of school and work.

    Most aren't that lucky.

  • by bgeezus ( 1252178 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @04:17PM (#38776005)
    That's a rather uninformed point of view. Many graduate students go to school "for free" because it is part of their compensation for performing a job (research, teaching, etc.). Grad students who are being paid to do research are generally being paid out of faculty grants -- money that's coming from the federal government (i.e., taxpayers) or from private institutions, NOT from undergraduate tuition. Grad students who are being paid to teach or to grade assignments, etc., are playing an active role in your education. If the school doesn't have graduate students, then it has to hire someone else to perform those same duties. Not to say that there aren't advantages/disadvantages to going to a school without a graduate program, but it's quite myopic to think that most of your tuition was going to support grad students.
  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @04:52PM (#38776237)
    Wow. That's a pretty big chip on your shoulder. I'm not going to try to knock it off (not that I could), but I disagree completely. There's no organized system to create unemployed, in debt college graduates. You're taking a shortcut in that you're manipulating a very complex system in order to fit a story that only exists in your head that you have created out of your own anger and frustration. The requirements for being employed in this economy have changed, AND the US is in the middle of a big, permanent, unavoidable downward adjustment in standard of living. College educations are invaluable in teaching people how to reason and creating well-rounded human beings.
  • Re:No, you can't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Saturday January 21, 2012 @05:02PM (#38776305)




    You haven't had to look for a job for a while, huh?

    A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

    Companies all over the place are violating labor laws left and right. Even if you could afford to bring suit against them (which most people who are impacted by this stuff can't), you're disposable.

  • by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @02:54AM (#38779109)

    No, that's how it works. US wages are falling because they were artificially inflated by the inability of most of the rest of the world to economically compete following the devastations of the two world wars and the collapse of the colonial empires in the 19th and 20th century. Those things left countries like China, India, all of Africa, even South America in economic ruin. The US on the other hand was made more powerful by all of those events. This resulted in the insanely high standard of living relative to the rest of the world that Americans have enjoyed for almost 3/4 of a century.

    That period of history is coming to an end. Those countries devastated by war and colonialism are developing new infrastructure that allows their people to work at a level that formerly only Americans, Europeans, and the Japanese could previously work at. And the Europeans and Japanese were only at that level because the Americans paid to rebuild their countries after the war.

    Suddenly the Chinese, the Indians, and others can all do the same work. However there isn't that much new demand for work, at least not compared to sudden increased supply of labor. Whether demand will eventually increase proportionally as standards of living rise in those countries (and their consumption of goods rises too) remains to be seen, but it hasn't risen proportionally yet.

    The result? American wages will fall and unemployment will rise as other countries start doing some of the work. American standards of living must and will fall, but why would the price of college fall? There are more people trying to go (because wages are falling in jobs they'd have taken without them) than ever before with more money to spend than ever before thanks to the "generous" lending programs. Demand is up, and the supply of money to spend on it is up, so prices rise. It's fairly straightforward.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...