education: the subject where you can just make shit up

I grow discouraged.

So here’s Liz Dwyer, education editor and blogger at Good.is, asserting that “Recent college grads still looking for full-time employment—or faced with the prospect of moving back home to live with mom and dad—are probably cursing their English and philosophy degrees.”

Totally. I mean, those fruity humanities degrees are probably worthless, right?

No! It’s not true! It’s just not true. If you actually bother to check the facts– if you aren’t just intuiting the world but instead check the facts– you’ll find that English and philosophy majors, like most people with bachelors degrees, are doing quite well. They are employed at far higher rates than the general public and earn far more than the general public. Dissatisfied grads are entitled to curse the world for failing to provide them everything they dreamed, but the facts tell us that as a group they are, in any reasonable context, in good shape.

What little evidence Dwyer has comes from Payscale.com. Dwyer herself points out some of the problems with Payscale, but leaves out the biggie, which is that Payscale does not publish sample size. (If someone is giving you statistics but is keeping the sample size private, run away.) They don’t include people with advanced degrees, which severely discriminates against certain majors.  But even if we take Payscale’s own numbers at face value, mid-career English majors make $67,500 a year. Philosophy majors make $72,900 a year. The median household income in this country is $50,221.

Part of the problem with people’s understanding of employment and compensation is that people who went to college tend to assume everybody went to college. Less than 28% of Americans above 25 has a college degree. If you’re working for a (generally quite good, I think) publication like Good and you are surrounded all the time by other college graduates, you might look around you and say, pretty much everybody has a college degree, and boy, there’s so much unemployment. But the truth is, as much as we need a better job market across the board, the unemployment rate for college graduates is dramatically lower for people with a college degree– 5.4% for those with only BAs, 10.3% for those without.

The objective reality is that most English and philosophy majors are fine. Sure, there are plenty of outliers in that group who are looking for jobs, but averages and medians have to be our interest if we are considering public problems.  And what we find when we check the reality of the medians and averages is that worrying about college graduates of any major is to misplace our priorities. That’s what empiricism tells us. If Dwyer has tears to shed, she should shed them for the large majority of Americans who don’t have a bachelors degree.

I like Good a lot, most of the time, and I read Dwyer’s blog daily. But her job is to produce journalism about education. She has a responsibility to get it right. There’s no indication that she did anything for this post beyond what fifteen minutes of Googling would tell you. The post fits the typical, intuitive but entirely wrong narrative that college educated people often assume, that there’s this dramatic reduction in the employability of less “practical” majors. Paralegal and law studies strike me as an entirely practical major, but if Payscale’s numbers are accurate, they do far, far worse than English and philosophy majors.  (Of course, this also points to the absurdity of exempting those with advanced degrees, such as law degrees, from your sample.)

I don’t want to pick on Dwyer. But her readers are less informed than they were before she posted that, and it’s likely that the record will never be corrected in that space. (Does she care? Do her editors?) And it’s part and parcel with what strikes me as the number one biggest problem in blogging, the most glaring and consistent issue I have: bloggers mistaking their suppositions and deductions for the truth. Just because things make deductive or intuitive sense doesn’t mean that the are true. Understanding reality requires checking reality. There was a time when doing that was understood as what professional journalists do.

There’s just no accountability on the blogosphere, I’ve decided. If it doesn’t come from the individual bloggers, it just doesn’t exist. If you’ll excuse me, I need a beer.

Update: I wrote that those without BAs have an unemployment rate of 10.3%. That wording suggests I’m including those without high school diplomas, but such a figure would be far higher. I should have written that 10.3% is the rate for those with only a high school diploma.






99 replies
  1. 1
    WarMunchkin says:

    Just like to state, I’m a recent graduate in hardscience, and still can’t get a job.

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    @WarMunchkin

    What’s your degree in?

  3. 3
    Keith G says:

    In our hyper-connected digital world, where one worker at a keyboard can do the work that ten used to do, just how many engineers or mathematicians do we need graduated each year?

  4. 4
    Davis X. Machina says:

    …you’ll find that English and philosophy majors, like most people with bachelors degrees, are doing quite well.

    Good. Next convince the world that Republicans aren’t the party of fiscal responsibility, and that Democrats aren’t soft on defense.

    STEM is the only thing state legislatures will happily pay for, and the tighter the money is, the more this will be the case.

    In twenty years you won’t be able to get a BA from a land-grant institution, a few showy exceptions like Ann Arbor excepted.

  5. 5
    Marc says:

    “And it’s part and parcel with what strikes me as the number one biggest problem in blogging, the most glaring and consistent issue I have: bloggers mistaking their suppositions and deductions for the truth.”

    Amen. Call it the Yglesias effect.

  6. 6
    Lee says:

    Philosophy major 1987. I do well.

  7. 7
    MikeJ says:

    Philosophy major 1987. I do well.

    Do you, or do you just *think* you do?

  8. 8
    stuckinred says:

    Davis X. Machina

    That’s a pretty broad statement don’t you think?

  9. 9
    stuckinred says:

    From the outgoing chancellor of the University System of Georgia”

    Q: How would you change the system to prepare students for the future?

    A: I’d restructure it in a way that immediately people would dislike; that is every student should have three years of rigorous liberal arts.

    In 1900 in order to graduate from University of Wisconsin, you had to have four years of Greek. You were an educated person when you got out of college in 1900. … Back then going to college was about ideas and learning. It was not about, can I get through here as fast as I can and get a job.

    Knowledge on the job is fleeting. You can learn job knowledge if you’re smart enough to learn. You can learn enough to be effective at just about any job. But what you can’t learn is how to write, how to comprehend and how to think. … My sense is if you understand culture, if you understand politics, if you understand anthropology, you are in a much better position to lead organizations than if you understand a narrow discipline.

    Q: It may surprise people hearing this from an engineer.

    A: I’m a reformed engineer.

  10. 10
    slag says:

    There’s just no accountability on the blogosphere, I’ve decided. If it doesn’t come from the individual bloggers, it just doesn’t exist. If you’ll excuse me, I need a beer.

    Calm down, Francis. If you’re looking for accountability, you’re just as likely to find it here as anywhere else. Of course, in saying that, I’m probably just mistaking my own suppositions and deductions for truth.

  11. 11
    Freddie deBoer says:

    Let’s do a study, slag!

  12. 12
    slag says:

    Let’s do a study, slag!

    Don’t think I haven’t considered it.

  13. 13
    Disgruntled Lurker says:

    Ugh.

    Philosophy Major. Dropped out half-way through a PhD program due to drug addiction.

    Self-Employed and doing quite nicely, thank you.

    But I did analytic philosophy. Those folks studying Continental are probably up shit creek. (I kid).

  14. 14
    Disgruntled Lurker says:

    a few showy exceptions like Ann Arbor excepted.

    Incidentally, a very good philosophy program.

  15. 15
    bookcat says:

    I hope some recent PHD’s in English come on here and tell you their first hand experience. Because I can tell you second hand they are NOT doing well. Maybe you only mean BA’s b/c grad students in this field are struggling.

  16. 16
    Freddie deBoer says:

    Again, bookcat, no– the unemployment rate for people with PhDs is 1.9%. Anecdotes are not data!

  17. 17
    stuckinred says:

    data are fucked too

  18. 18
    Mike Kay (The Base) says:

    in addition to teaching and areas involving writing, what kind of jobs are available for philosophy graduates?

  19. 19
    Suffern ACE says:

    @bookcat – who does well when they start? I guess it is fair to question F r e d d i e’s use of the employment stats since they only take into consideration folks who are 25 plus. The experience of those 22 year olds who graduated 3 years ago at the beginning of the tight labor market isn’t yet reflected. It seems to be a bit of a capitulation for the future to take the last three years and extrapolate out a lifetime of underemployment. More likely than in the past possibly, but as likely to be that way for the college educated vs. the rest of the pool in the long run seems unlikely.

  20. 20
    bookcat says:

    Anecdotes are not data, true. But how many of those unemployed are applying for unemployment, given that they were likely full time students. I d not wish to scare people away from humanities degrees. So I appreciate you wanted to avoid fear based reporting. I truly do. But my experience is not based on a few cases. Nothing I can say will sway you, but any recent Phd in English reading this will know what I’m talking about even if they got a job. There are far far far more applicants for teaching positions than teaching positions. To any out there lucky enough to land a job congrats to you.

  21. 21
    jwb says:

    stuckinred: Funny that. They were complaining about college education going to hell in 1900, and I’m sure they’ll be complaining about college education going to hell in the year 2100.

  22. 22
    slag says:

    Nothing I can say will sway you, but any recent Phd in English reading this will know what I’m talking about even if they got a job. There are far far far more applicants for teaching positions than teaching positions. To any out there lucky enough to land a job congrats to you.

    The question isn’t whether or not you’ll end up getting a teaching job with your PhD. The question is whether or not you’re better off–on the entire job market–with a degree than without. You may not get the job you want with a PhD. But you’re more likely to get any job with a PhD than you are without one.

  23. 23
    Bob In Pacifica says:

    I’m an English major, BA in 1974, and I’m retired. But it’s nice to know that recent English majors are doing okay.

  24. 24

    Yeah, but I totally know this guy who was an English major and he works flipping burgers at McDonald’s, so I know that the jobless rate for humanities majors totally has to be like 35%!

  25. 25
    Corner Stone says:

    @MikeJ

    Do you, or do you just think you do?

    Oh, that is just nasty.

  26. 26
    jwb says:

    bookcat: “I hope some recent PHD’s in English come on here and tell you their first hand experience. Because I can tell you second hand they are NOT doing well.”

    No PhDs looking for academic jobs are doing well at the moment, and this is the second really cruddy year in the academic job market (not that it was all that much better before). But English, history, philosophy and a number of other disciplines have long had a history of oversupply without much of a secondary market for the degrees.

  27. 27
    Corner Stone says:

    @jwb

    Funny that. They were complaining about college education going to hell in 1900, and I’m sure they’ll be complaining about college education going to hell in the year 2100.

    Something tells me they are going to be a little busy with other things in 2100. May be just me.
    But seriously, I’m boggling at what the state of higher education will be in 10+ short years when my son is college age.
    It’s going to be absolutely nothing like what we could imagine now. That’s a safe bet, IMO.

  28. 28
    bookcat says:

    @slag
    I apologize. I misunderstood the premise. It has been difficult to watch several people very close to me wrestle with walking away from a field on which they spent many years and much money. I do hope they can find satisfying work. It is good to know that, according to this data, they will likely do well.

  29. 29

    In a more serious vein, we need to do better at teaching Americans about elemental statistics and logical argument. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten into debates about affirmative action where the other person trots out how somebody they knew in college who got in through affiramtive action (how they know this I have no clue), and then failed out or something, thus “proving” that affirmative action benefits mainly incompetents and is unfair. If people understood how anecdotes affect our judgement, they might do this less often. I recall back in some class, too, the teacher asked us which we thought happened more often, murders or people killing each other. We all said murder, but it turned out it was suicides, but a long shot. But since the local news always makes a big deal about murders and seldom has anything to say when people kill themselves, unless it’s somebody well known, it seems like there are more murders.

  30. 30
    bookcat says:

    Statistics can be manipulated.

  31. 31
    Martin says:

    Again, bookcat, no—the unemployment rate for people with PhDs is 2.5%

    Doing what, though?

    And that’s the problem with these studies. Sure, you’ve got a decent employment rate among college graduates, but they’re also taking a lot of clerical/low-skill jobs that a generation ago would never have been considered a college-level position and really aren’t a good application of what they learned in those 4 years.

    That’s not to say that the jobs are valueless, they certainly have value – but you don’t necessarily have people earning college degrees in order to develop skills to apply to the job market. And that begs the question – should we churn out tens of thousands of English majors who are more likely destined to be a Starbucks manager than apply their degree more directly? Okay, sure they’ll get jobs over the non-college graduates, but will they look back on that as a valuable decision? Or should colleges and universities step up and say ‘Hey, you can study that if you really are interested in the field, but you’re far more likely to find a job in your field if you study one of these other things’. And that’s not just an altruistic attitude to take. If concentrating the population in these majors to the students that are most dedicated to them allows schools to offer a better education (a big problem in the social sciences, actually), then everyone comes out ahead.

    I hire people into those kinds of jobs and I’ll be honest, the skills I’m looking for in a clerical job would be much better developed in a fairly demanding hourly job over the course of a couple of years than what they’re getting in their education. I can’t think of a single clerical position that doesn’t require at least a basic comfort with math – and I keep having to turn away BA and MA candidates that can’t do basic math. It’s a bit better than anecdotal, but in the probably 1,000 applications that I’ve read for administrative positions working for me, all of which have some analytical component, I’ve only seen perhaps a few dozen B.S. degrees. They’re 95% B.A./M.A. degrees which means that they aren’t finding better opportunities, whereas the B.S. holders are. Yeah, they’re getting jobs because I can’t get better prepared individuals in the applicant pool. Their odds in the job market would be massively higher if they had gotten a math degree instead of anthropology or history.

  32. 32
    UncertaintyVicePrincipal says:

    18

    in addition to teaching and areas involving writing, what kind of jobs are available for philosophy graduates?

    You name it. A large percentage of the lawyers I’ve known as friends were philosophy majors. People with philosophy undergrad degrees go into all kinds of fields. Managers, administration, you name it. I know people in international organizations who prefer to hire a philosophy major over someone with more targeted “professional” undergrad training.

  33. 33
    Lee says:

    @stuckinred @9:

    That is a great quote for a couple of reasons.

    I have a college buddy that has been employed with our Alma Mater pretty much since right after graduation. At one point he was working for the Engineering Department. They were questioning Engineering graduates on what they should add to help Engineers. Two answers dominated the responses based on the age of the graduates. The Mid-40’s grads answered ‘more business classes. We have no idea how to run a business. We have to pay someone to run it for us’. Retired grads answered “More humanities”.

    Rarely do BA majors do not have a ready made job for them when they graduate. Like most of them I worked some crap jobs. Eventually I figured out what I wanted to do (programmer). Took a few night classes to validate the informal education I had picked up (had been programming since 1981). I continue enjoy going to work every day.

  34. 34
    slag says:

    Statistics can be manipulated.

    Yes. But that’s part of the point. If you understand stats and research methods, you’ll be a more critical thinker overall. Beyond which, when your own anecdotes don’t match the data, it should serve as an inspiration to either question your experiences or learn about the methods by which the data were collected and analyzed.

    Or you can just throw up your hands and believe whatever you want to believe. Which is probably what most people do.

  35. 35
    Nutella says:

    bloggers mistaking their suppositions and deductions for the truth. Just because things make deductive or intuitive sense doesn’t mean that the are true. Understanding reality requires checking reality. There was a time when doing that was understood as what professional journalists do.

    People who are paid as journalists (I hesitate to call them professionals) rarely do much ‘checking reality’ these days, either. It’s not just the bloggers who like to make sweeping and unsupported generalizations.

    ETA And I know that’s a sweeping and unsupported generalization, too.

  36. 36
    Marc says:

    There are a lot of jobs where you need to know how to write well and read critically. If an English or Philosophy degree teaches you only these things then it’s enough, simply put, to make you a real asset over someone who didn’t learn these things as well.

    The job market is worse, in a relative sense, for everyone. But this doesn’t make college worthless. What is truly different is that in previous decades the people who graduated and had a rough patch didn’t have nearly the same student loan debts. That’s a big (and different) problem.

  37. 37
    cynn says:

    I was astounded when my Composition and Rhetoric MA got me a job in the judicial system. Turns out that judges would rather have a bullshit detector with flair than a dessicated legal analyst.

  38. 38
    Corner Stone says:

    The 1.9% UE rate for PhD’s is interesting. What are they all doing? Does a distribution graph put that $1550 weekly into perspective?

  39. 39
    UncertaintyVicePrincipal says:

    stuckinred

    Yep. I’ve heard that a lot, see my comment above. As more and more people get degrees in “public administration” and the like there are people who hire them and discover that they’re lacking in the kind of broad liberal arts education that can be used as a base to do almost anything. That is, they find that sometimes these people understand their field, in a professional way, but they don’t understand life or the world very much at all.

    Slag: One of the problems here is that people hear “philosophy major” and “employed” and think “teaching philosophy at a university”.

    The whole problem with the national conversation about unemployment is that almost everyone writing about it, especially the Beltway and etc, is part of a population that has fairly low unemployment.

  40. 40
    bookcat says:

    @slag, maybe you are speaking generally but I’m not throwing up my hands and believing what I want to believe.

    Your point is well taken and I do readily question my own experiences- hence the willingness to listen. However the tendency to frown upon anecdotal experiences bothers me. It’s what our lives are made of.
    Humanities degrees are based upon studying life experiences, not empirical data. Critical thinking in humanities is often relative and subjective, imperfect and celebrated for being so.
    It’s always useful to have empirical data to question your experiences. I totally agree. But it seems both sorts of data, anecdotal and empirical give us the fullest view.

  41. 41
    Corner Stone says:

    @cynn

    Turns out that judges would rather have a bullshit detector with flair than a dessicated legal analyst.

    So that’s what’s wrong with our judicial system!

  42. 42
    mzrad says:

    A well-developed English major will always put food on the table and money in the bank, especially now that fewer and fewer people know how to write. Admittedly, English departments could do more to teach students how to be effective editors and documents designers in addition to strong writers who can make a cogent argument. I meet people all the time who don’t have the writing skills they need to get the job done and they’re desperate for my expertise.

    You just have to know how work the English major and develop relevant skills. English majors (the good ones) are awesome and very much in demand, from my perspective. Good writing gets things done, and you don’t learn to write in biz school, as far as I could see.

    More practical humanities, please!

  43. 43
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    I’m in my second year of an English major, with a journalism and history minor, and what worries me isn’t that my degree will be worthless per se-I’ve seen these sorts of statistics on Crooked Timber and elsewhere, the idea of the hapless English major who should have studied engineering has, at least, a lot of mythology behind it. What worries me is that I applied to about 100 places looking for a summer job, and not a one of them hired me. What I heard a lot is that it’s too much trouble for companies to hire someone for just three months, and add that to a bad labor market and it just seems like there’s a lot of trends working against young workers. I’m more worried about my short/mid-term prospects than long term to be honest.

  44. 44
    slag says:

    @slag, maybe you are speaking generally but I’m not throwing up my hands and believing what I want to believe.

    Yes, I was speaking generally.

  45. 45
    cynn says:

    hang in there, slag. If you keep your eye just left of the headlights, you’ll be fine

  46. 46
    cynn says:

    Corner Stone: Not sure I understand your little snipe.

  47. 47
    jwb says:

    Corner Stone: I’d say the most likely scenario is that in ten years university education will be little changed from it is today (that is no more different from today than today is from a decade ago). Of course, two more elections like 2010 and we’ll be in a completely different country and the state of the university will reflect that fact. As far as radical change goes, the most likely of the scenarios is an ever widening divide between research universities, most of which will be private (or nominally public but in effect private), run more or less as they are today and gauged to attract wealthy undergrads to pay the freight and the truly brilliant, and all other universities which will be public and oriented more around teaching vocational skills. State legislatures may well give up on funding flagships, but if they do it will result in turning those schools into nothing more than fronts for sports franchises. At that point they’d have to pay their athletes a fair wage, and the whole economic model collapses once you do that.

  48. 48
    Corner Stone says:

    @cynn
    “dessicated” legal analyst.
    Godsdamned zombies!

  49. 49
    Corner Stone says:

    @jwb
    I think, IMO, we are in for a revolution for higher ed. IMO, in 10+ years it’s going to be absolutely nothing like the last 50 or more.
    Look at AP courses in high school for college credit, and other revenue shavers.
    IMO, we’re going to see a top tier where the “elite” go, and diploma mills for everyone else.

  50. 50
    Corey says:

    Don’t know if anyone has mentioned it, but the numbers you cite are for everyone with bachelor’s degrees, not just recent graduates.

  51. 51
    Greyjoy says:

    One of the problems with equating degrees with employment is that in bad job markets like this one, employers require a BA for $9/hr receptionist positions. Sure, you have a degree and a job, but you’re still making barely over minimum wage so what’s the point?

    Also saw on CNN a link that said the “real” unemployment rate is 18%, not 9% as the official stats say. Ouch.

  52. 52
    MattMinus says:

    When hiring for an IT shop, I would actively look for people with a philosophy degree. I found that general logic and critical thinking skills were much more important than knowledge of a specific set of particulars in the long run.

    I can train you on what buttons to push. I can’t train you how to think.

  53. 53
    Warren Terra says:

    The post fits the typical, intuitive but entirely wrong narrative that college educated people often assume, that there’s this dramatic reduction in the employability of less “practical” majors. Paralegal and law studies strike me as an entirely practical major, but if Payscale’s numbers are accurate, they do far, far worse than English and philosophy majors.

    I’m not sure these are good examples. I don’t think many eighteen-year-olds embark on their college education at a four-year-university to major in paralegal or justice; rather, I see these careers heavily promoted in advertisements on late-night television aimed at the dissatisfied and the vulnerable. These advertisements are typically for for-profit adult-education enterprises that exist to soak up federal student grants and loans, rather than to educate or to provide subsequent employment. A more typical “practical” undergraduate major at a four-year university might be in business or in engineering.

    But, yeah, one reason our political leaders’ hair isn’t on fire over the continuing economic troubles is that for nice middle-class people like themselves and everyone they know, things aren’t great but aren’t actually all that horrible. By and large, and without meaning to disparage the travails of the people who find themselves exceptions to this generalization, it’s the less-educated folks who see no hope of every finding another job.

  54. 54
    Lojasmo says:

    Associate of science, Nursing. Thank goodness.

    Wife has a HS diploma. She is a political organizer. She makes nearly as much as I do..

    /anomaly.

  55. 55
    Jeffro says:

    @jwb

    I’d say the most likely scenario is that in ten years university education will be little changed from it is today (that is no more different from today than today is from a decade ago). Of course, two more elections like 2010 and we’ll be in a completely different country and the state of the university will reflect that fact. As far as radical change goes, the most likely of the scenarios is an ever widening divide between research universities, most of which will be private (or nominally public but in effect private), run more or less as they are today and gauged to attract wealthy undergrads to pay the freight and the truly brilliant, and all other universities which will be public and oriented more around teaching vocational skills. State legislatures may well give up on funding flagships, but if they do it will result in turning those schools into nothing more than fronts for sports franchises. At that point they’d have to pay their athletes a fair wage, and the whole economic model collapses once you do that.

    I think that 10 years from now you’re going to see more fast tracks to jobs that oh by the way give you a degree at the end – whether it is through the community colleges, for-profit universities/colleges, or the savvier non-flagship state universities. There will always be the Ivy League and the flagship schools that churn out the more traditional range of graduates (including the dreaded philosophy majors).

    But the whole thing from college on down is only going to get more job-training oriented. Which is fine, depending upon how the institution in question (and corporations that fund its endowment, chairs, etc) view “job-training”: is it promoting a wide range of skills, writing, critical thinking, etc, or is it simply ‘Health Service Providing 101, 102, 103, and 104’, etc.

  56. 56
    Corner Stone says:

    @MattMinus

    When hiring for an IT shop, I would actively look for people with a philosophy degree.

    This may be one of the more amusing things I have read recently.
    You obviously were a Help Desk supervisor. Or some other low level staffing recruiter.

  57. 57
    jwb says:

    Corner Stone: “we’re going to see a top tier where the “elite” go, and diploma mills for everyone else.”

    This is already more or less the case and has been for a while. The only question is where the bar for the line for the “elite” is going to be drawn. In the past, the main line always been drawn at research I, which includes many public universities. Certainly there was an elite class within these elites (primarily the Ivies), but in terms of research funding, the ability to attract quality students, etc., the gap between research I (and the highly selective small liberal arts colleges) and other sorts of schools was in the past much larger than the divisions within research I. That has been changing over the past twenty years as the elites in research I have been doing a lot of things to set themselves apart (this is especially true with respect to financial aid at the undergraduate level and graduate and postgraduate funding at the graduate level) and the state legislatures have been doing a lot to keep the public research I schools from being able to be competitive. Some of the state schools have responded by more or less becoming private schools. I expect that trend will continue. I would not be surprised to see a lot of graduate programs at research I public universities to close down—though the universities will have to figure out a way to get all the courses taught without the exceptionally cheap student labor on the one hand and the vast supply of adjunct labor (due to the overproduction of PhDs) on the other. They can do it in the short term (excess capacity will buy them about a decade) but after that faculty will rapidly become very expensive, so then they would no doubt invest in graduate programs and we’d rebuild something not unlike what we have now (since professors seem congenitally incapable of organizing themselves in an effective way).

  58. 58
    Greyjoy says:

    I’d like to see numbers on what percentage of the population has attended college but not graduated.

  59. 59
    Corner Stone says:

    @lojismo

    Associate of science, Nursing. Thank goodness.
    __
    Wife has a HS diploma. She is a political organizer. She makes nearly as much as I do..

    My ex is an RN. She has 12 years in the best children’s hospital in the US. If you’re not an RN then a register clerk at Walgreen’s can make close to what you do.

  60. 60
    alwhite says:

    I work in a field that did not even exist when I went to school. Even today there are very few schools that offer a degree in what I do. I have 20+ years of experience but no college degree. There have been many jobs I would have loved to have gotten but I have not been considered because they insisted on a degree. They don’t even care what the degree is in,, just any old college degree and 5 years experience in IT will put you in front of me in many HR departments. Many of the people I have worked with through the years are in the same boat.

    I’m always surprised when colleges grads tell people that a degree isn’t important; I don’t know if they are stupid, blind or lying out their ass.

  61. 61
    Corner Stone says:

    @jwb

    This is already more or less the case and has been for a while. The only question is where the bar for the line for the “elite” is going to be drawn.

    It’s going to be drawn at a monetary line. That’s what I’m saying.
    You’re going to have a “top 30” school and everyone else. The faceless masses will “need” a diploma to get the box checked. The “elites” will schmooze at Wharton, Yale, Harvard, etc. and come out just fine.
    The underclass will not be able to afford the education-connections needed to compete. It’s going to be similar to the pre GI-Bill era except worse.

  62. 62
    Andre says:

    Another philosophy grad reporting in. Working in telecommunications and damn good at it.

  63. 63
    jwb says:

    Corner Stone: I don’t think there are enough seats in those top 30 schools to accommodate the children of the top 5%. So it’s going to need to be a larger pool than that. But I don’t dispute your general point. On the other hand, if you watched what happened in Texas when Perry tried his little play with UT, you’ll see that the alumni understand what is at stake with the value of their degrees and a good number of prominent Republicans were not at all happy with what Perry tried to do. So I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that all the state research I schools will become degree mills attached to sports franchises. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if UT was well on its way to becoming a private university in 2020, however.

  64. 64
    Mark says:

    Some hilarious assertions here. I particularly like the notion that some generic humanities degree is the best preparation there is for working. There are a huge number of jobs out there that require, you know, a college-level math class. Even very smart people are shut out of most software jobs without it, to say nothing of the entirety of engineering, finance, medicine, accounting…I could go on here.

    Everyone needs breadth in their education, so don’t slag people who studied the sciences while you completely avoided them!

  65. 65
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @ jwb: Research I schools and the top tier national liberal arts colleges would start getting close.

  66. 66
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @ Mark: What makes you think that the humanities grads didn’t take any math or science courses?

  67. 67
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Hey, I majored in English and minored in philosophy. Gooooooooo me!

  68. 68
    Greyjoy says:

    Most colleges and universities have general requirements. I had to take a math, a science, two theology and three philosophy courses as part of my generals. (I tested out of the language requirement because I’d had 4 years in HS.)

  69. 69
    jwb says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I think this is more or less where we’re at right now. But there is a lot of pressure on the public research I schools due to the legislatures not funding adequately while not allowing the schools to raise tuition. I would not be surprised if over the next few years state legislatures force a number of those schools to effectively give up their research I designation.

  70. 70
    jimbob says:

    Jesus, what a bunch of hand-wringers. Tertiary education will survive and be viable forever and ever because of . . . first and ten, do it again! Block that kick! Take it to the hoop, etc.

    Most of your countrymen and women could give a shit about “college.” They lurves them some college athletics though. THAT will keep the colleges and universities in business, not education or vocational training. Shit, South Dakota’s legislature ain’t gonna defund their two Division I schools; they just recently got into the game. You think the podunk states that make up the SEC are gonna defund their schools?

    Some of you people need to get better dope connections ’cause whatever you’re smoking is damaging your brain.

  71. 71

    Davis X. Machina @4

    The University of Michigan is not a land grant university. Michigan State University, in East Lansing, is.

  72. 72
    Martin says:

    I think the conclusions being drawn here about populations like philosophy majors suffers from a bit of selection bias. In my experience, philosophy majors are two characteristics:

    1) Relatively speaking, they’re intellectual self-starters, enough so that they’re preferring an abstract course of study.
    2) Relatively speaking, they have higher educational aspirations than most students. At 18, they’re already considering graduate school.

    Given those two things, I’d expect them to be somewhat more successful in life, not because philosophy provided them with a better education, but because they were more likely to succeed on the way in the door. You’d expect more of them to get PhDs, JDs, etc. than the average student and lo and behold, they do.

    Engineers aren’t successful just because they took engineering courses. They’re also successful because they were the ones motivated enough to go into engineering, knowing how challenging it is, and hard working enough to get through the program.

  73. 73
    Martin says:

    I would not be surprised if over the next few years state legislatures force a number of those schools to effectively give up their research I designation.

    They’re going to go semi-public. Basically, reserve a certain number of subsidized seats for state residents and the rest are non-subsidized full-tuition. Voucher system, essentially.

    UCLA only gets 8% of its funding from the state now (probably less after today’s budget). Even mid-tier public research universities are under 20%.

  74. 74
    Corner Stone says:

    Define “successful”.
    Employed? Employed in their field? Employed in a field of their choosing?
    Getting a great tan by the lake?

  75. 75
    Warren Terra says:

    @ Martin
    The comparison I find quite revealing is the per-student state subsidy, compared to the per-student in-state discount. It’s not uncommon for the per-student in-state discount to be several-fold greater than the per-student state funding given to the university. If you believed that the university could fill itself with students paying out-of-state tuition (which it probably couldn’t), the logical conclusion would be that the state is getting a ridiculous bargain, with its per-student funding rewarded several-fold with opportunity-costs born by the university.

  76. 76
    Farah says:

    Having a philosophy degree doesn’t spell doom like some assume. I have a philosophy degree also and am a brown person and am female- dun dun duuuuuunnnn. So anyway, the point it that you are trainable enough to have an undergrad degree- thus employable. Also, too, philosophy has it’s tentacles in every discipline. My focus was in Philosophy of Law and Political Philosophy and now am doing not super, cause being a single mom sucks in general despite having an awesome kid, but my son does not want for anything- which is all I care about. So that’s my two bits.

  77. 77
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    English and PoliSci undergrad here – graduated in August of 2001; struggled for several months to find a job that didn’t come from a temp agency – assistant editor for a few years, then tech editor/proposal writer/security officer for a gov’t contractor, to security officer for a larger gov’t contract, to security officer for a small company again.

    And somewhere towards the end of there, picked up an MBA with Project Management and Information Security Management.

    My wife was an English major, got a job at a law library via a temp/recruiting agency, and is now a SAHM.

    College roommate was a Philosophy major – thanks to a friend, he now runs titles for real estate. His partner works for a three letter agency with an English degree doing analysis work.

    I’ve generally found in this area (DC metropolitan) with a BA the trick is getting your foot in the door. Friends with programming/developer degrees are snapped up fairly easily; the engineers slightly slower; don’t have enough friends who went into numbers to guess, but the BAs have the hardest time of degree holders getting hired the first time; after that it gets a lot easier – mostly because we know how to write a resume in my experience.

    The folks with hardest time – the art/graphic designers. The market is changing radically at the moment and the skill sets of three years ago are massively out of date today.

  78. 78
    murbella says:

    Nice try with the ill1bertarian position, dude.
    Token Libertarian Frontpager is valiantly defending another anti-empirical ill1bertarian position.
    The empirical reality is that not everyone needs a college degree, and indeed, not everyone can get one. Above FPer ^^ even admitted that two posts a go.
    But why fanatically assert that college degrees net more income?
    Because Obama’s Early Graduation Program, currently being tested in eight states, will create a large demographic of young, hightech, trade school and votech academe graduates that never heard of Hayek and Hume and will JOIN UNIONS and VOTE DEMOCRATIC all their lives.
    Strong, young, tech skilled unionworkers are the libertarian nightmare.

  79. 79
    murbella says:

    indeed, CS.

    Define “successful”.
    Employed? Employed in their field? Employed in a field of their choosing?
    Getting a great tan by the lake?

    the study being furiously pimped by the TLFP here is flawed by question bias and co-dependent variables.

  80. 80
    murbella says:

    America’s university system is Darwinian….some students flunk out, and we brain drain the upper quadrant of the world high IQ youth.
    Some of them even stay.
    It works fine.
    But what would the ill1bertarians like to do? A version of NCLB for colleges?
    Freed market-based, standardized colleges?
    And the elephant in the room for the right is Salam-Douthat stratification on cognitive ability.
    That is why Douthat and McMegan always talk about IQ-bussing for heartland conservative students to Ivy schools.
    Our TLFP won’t discuss it either I betcha.
    ;)

  81. 81
    chopper says:

    your link doesn’t say what you say it does.

    i’m not anti-humanities, but i’d like to see some real data that’s actually broken down as to employment by degree type (arts, science, humanities, etc), instead of a general number and some hand-waving. as well as by employment type. someone with a degree in political science who works as a bank teller might not claim that their degree got them the job.

  82. 82
    chopper says:

    jesus, retardo_chan changed her fucking name again?

  83. 83
    murbella says:

    and i do not particularily wish to engage this person.
    i personally wish he would go crawl under an ill1bertarian rock and die. sadly, i usta admire this person. but i was horrified from his first “pity-charity-liberalism” post here at what he has become.
    like i said to Reihan Salam when i made him cry, i dont want to stop people blogging……i want to stop people LYING.
    Spreading eumemes in the service of a bad, unjust, and anti-empirical ideology is dishonest. it is taking advantage of the good will of liberals trying to honestly engage on differences of opinion.

  84. 84
    murbella says:

    i have embraced the darkside chopper.
    it was always my destiny.

  85. 85
    henqiguai says:

    Mike Kay (The Base) #18

    in addition to teaching and areas involving writing, what kind of jobs are available for philosophy graduates?

    (Dead thread, but what the heck) Software. They are exquisitely trained in logic and make excellent developers. If they’re interested.

  86. 86
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    I agree with Warren Terra. Paralegal and undergrad law degrees are not for people who are going to go to law school. And, at least at the big NYC law firms where I have worked for the last 25 years, they don’t get you through the door for a paralegal job. We have always hired top of the class kids with classic liberal arts educations, and have been very satisfied with the results. I can’t think of a time when we have hired someone who has studied to be a paralegal. We want someone who has studied to prepare for law school, but just hasn’t applied yet.

  87. 87
    murbella says:

    And what we find when we check the reality of the medians and averages is that worrying about college graduates of any major is to misplace our priorities. That’s what empiricism tells us.

    What is profoundly lacking in the TLFPguy’s “empiricism” is the cost-viability, accessibility, and cognitive ability gate associated with a 4-year degree.
    Like when I ax him if private school isn’t basically an unamerican concept because private school entrance requirements are simply monetary, (except for talented pigment-enabled atheletes, of course.) he had no answer for that, as you recall.

    The ill1bertarian posse desperately needs to social-level academe, so they can break the “stranglehold” liberalism has on academia. Our TLFPguy is just preparing the ground.
    And he’s basically a fifth columnist at BJ.
    He is On The Other Side. He is not a friend you haven’t made yet– he is a ruthless spinner of libertarian crapology.

  88. 88
    KXB says:

    I agree with those that argue that simply being employed does not prove that college is worth its current costs. After all, before everyone was encouraged to go to college, people were still getting jobs. Coincidentally, that was also a time when one income could support a family.

    As more people graduated from college, with varying degrees of quality, employers started insisting on having a degree, even if it was not necessary for the job. So you have degree-ed bank tellers, mailmen, deliverymen. It’s good that they are educated, but they could have been educated with the cost burden of college.

    In an earlier thread, I mentioned that the quality of graduates in India is not as good as often portrayed in the American press. I should have added that the quality will improve. As the quality of Indian & Chinese graduates improves, this will be an added pressure on college-graduate wages. Given that the cost of American higher ed knows no bounds, an American college grad, with a heavy debt burden, is competing against an Indian/Chinese college grad. Just as an earlier wave of labor-intensive jobs moved offshore, that is going to hit debt-laden college-educated job-seekers hard.

  89. 89
    AAA Bonds says:

    Going back to school ain’t a bad idea either right now, if you can convince someone you’re worth paying for.

    I’ll chime in as a philosophy major who turned down a top 10, private law school to enter a state university professional program that teaches me management and IT, on fellowship, no loans necessary.

    Law was the plan, but when I decided against it because of the math of workload and demand in the market, I immediately started looking around at programs and asking about the undergrad degrees of their first-year classes.

    Now, I’m looking at capping my work with . . . a fully-funded program back at that same snooty private school. Or maybe I’ll try to tap alumni connections in D.C. or the ones I’ve made locally. Lots of options open now, without taking out a house loan to sit in a classroom.

    A lot of people stumble into law school because they are told, over and over, that no one with their type of degree can do anything else and make a living. Or, they give up on further education, even though almost no one I know with an English or philosophy degree planned on ending their schooling there.

    That’s not where things have to end up. At worst, for many programs, you might need to take some math you missed at your local community college, and to find funding, you’ll have to commit to doing some work that might not interest you at first, but will help you almost immediately.

    You probably won’t move from a philosophy degree into a chemical engineering doctorate program, but there are a lot of options for bright liberal arts grads to learn job skills and increase their earning power without drowning in debt.

  90. 90
    murbella says:

    @KBX

    Given that the cost of American higher ed knows no bounds, an American college grad, with a heavy debt burden, is competing against an Indian/Chinese college grad. Just as an earlier wave of labor-intensive jobs moved offshore, that is going to hit debt-laden college-educated job-seekers hard.

    that is exactly right.
    so one might ask oneself…why is Our Token Libertarian FrontPager pushing this study so hard?
    Like Martin, CS and i pointed out, it is flawed with selection bias, question bias, and parameter interaction and co-dependency.
    Yet this is the SECOND post on the same subject.
    I think the BJ community is on to the scam here.

    Using a crude metric like “employment” is occluding the real story. The designers never considered investigating if the employment was in the field of study? plz.
    that is a very bad design.
    Typical libertarian spin.

  91. 91
    AAA Bonds says:

    I do doubt the shit-talk about a bachelor’s being the “new high school degree”.

    That’s rank elitism designed to undermine the influence of workers without four-year degrees by rendering them invisible, which conveniently works against labor organization of the service industry.

    You’ll find similar gates kept throughout the history of the industrial world, for similar transparent motives. As soon as one becomes hard to defend, the elites ooze back to the next one, which is exactly what’s happened in American discourse here.

  92. 92
    AAA Bonds says:

    Democrats also need to realize that their political futures depend on winning the ongoing support of more people who don’t have four-year degrees, either through the labor movement or some other innovation (I’d say, go with the labor movement).

    Without it, y’all will continue playing this DLC who’s-the-best-Republican game where the wealthy punch a hole in your boat and then sell you buckets to bail the water out.

    Step one to establishing yourself is probably making people who don’t have college degrees feel valued and worthwhile, and denouncing the cult of “college is absolutely necessary” is going to be part of that.

    Because, let’s face it: a socially responsible political party is never going to beat the “fuck everyone” party among top earners.

  93. 93
    chopper says:

    @retardo_chan:

    because private school entrance requirements are simply monetary, (except for talented pigment-enabled atheletes, of course.)

    what? are you high?

  94. 94
    murbella says:

    are you high?

    no, are you? In the bad old days private schools could exclude on the basis of religion, gender or race. In contemporary ‘Merica the only qualifier for entry is fundage, parental SES.
    Did you miss the thread where Our TLFPer said private schools were as useful as hotels for dogs?

    Our Token Libertarian Front Pager: “I don’t think we need them, just like we don’t need hotels for dogs.”

  95. 95
    murbella says:

    (I’d say, go with the labor movement).

    or, go with Obama’s Early Graduation Program.

  96. 96
    murbella says:

    education: the subject where you can just make shit up

    at least the title is honest.
    But it is Our Token Libertarian FrontPager who is making the shit up.
    Correlation is not causation, cher, and as my nonparametrics prof explained, the “farmer method” has validity also.
    It is EMPIRICALLY obvious that not every one needs a four year degree.
    Our TLFP even said so himself.
    So why the furious argument supported with bad data and ill-formed analysis that 4-yr grads earn more?
    Because trade schools and votech academies will further erode the conservative/libertarian base with UNIONWORKERS.

  97. 97
    murbella says:

    And it’s part and parcel with what strikes me as the number one biggest problem in blogging, the most glaring and consistent issue I have: bloggers mistaking their suppositions and deductions for the truth. Just because things make deductive or intuitive sense doesn’t mean that the are true. Understanding reality requires checking reality. There was a time when doing that was understood as what professional journalists do.
    __
    There’s just no accountability on the blogosphere, I’ve decided. If it doesn’t come from the individual bloggers, it just doesn’t exist. If you’ll excuse me, I need a beer.

    Thass rich, coming from an anti-empirical first culture intellectual.
    you could answer my questions and defend your thesis, dude.

    The only thing ill1bertarians are good at in my experience, is running away.
    Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

  98. 98
    chopper says:

    In the bad old days private schools could exclude on the basis of religion, gender or race. In contemporary ‘Merica the only qualifier for entry is fundage, parental SES.

    yeah, that’s why my broke-ass brother got in to princeton. cause we lower-middle class shmoes was rich as shit. had nothing to do with his bad-ass CV and research.

  99. 99
    murbella says:

    oh, im talking about private secondary schools, not colleges. if you read the Token Libertarian Frontpager post that i linked above the topic was nominally school vouchers.

    srsly, Token Libertarian Frontpagers NEVAH stand and deliver.
    runners.

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