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Friday, October 5, 2012

A College Degree Helps You Land A Job, But What If You Major In English?

A high school grad earns 40 percent less than someone with a bachelor’s degree, according to Kiplinger.They’re also more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

But do those numbers change depending on your major? Yes, and Caitlin Dewey of Kiplinger crunched the data to figure out how.

She writes about the best and worst college majors for your career.

Best College Majors For Your Career

  • Medical Assisting Services
  • Management Information Systems
  • Construction Services
  • Medical Technologies
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering

Are Bloated Bureaucracies Undermining Higher Ed?

Read the rest of Caitlin’s “best” list here. Now onto the “worst” list:

Worst Majors For Your Career

  • Anthropology: Unemployment is at 6.9 percent, median salary is $40,000 and Kiplinger reports the “likelihood of working retail” is 2.1 times average.
  • Fine Arts:Unemployment is at 7.4 percent, median salary $44,000, likelihood of working retail is 1.8 times average.
  • Film and Photography: Unemployment is at 7.2 percent, median salary $42,000, likelihood of working retail is 2.0 times average.
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies: Unemployment is at 7.4 percent, median salary $44,000, likelihood of working retail is 1.8 times average
  • Graphic Design: Unemployment is at 8.1 percent, median salary is $45,000 and likelihood of working retail is 0.6 times average.
  • Studio Arts: Unemployment is at 8.0 percent, median salary is $37,000 and likelihood of working retail is 2.3 times average.
  • Liberal Arts: Unemployment is at 7.6 percent, median salary is $48,000 and likelihood of working retail is 1.8 times average.
  • Drama and Theater Arts: Unemployment is at 7.1 percent, median salary is $40,000 and the likelihood of working retail is 2.1 times average.
  • Sociology: Unemployment is at 7 percent, median salary is $45,000 and the likelihood of working retail is 1.4 times average.
  • English: Unemployment is at 6.7 percent, median salary is $48,000 and the likelihood of working retail is 1.4 times average.


  • Caitlin Dewey, reporter for Kinglinger

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Herrblint

    “hard for *us*”, Caitlin,  not “hard for we”. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503889444 Corinne Colbert

    Going to college used to be about getting an education — acquiring knowledge. Somewhere along the line, it became about getting a job. Employers have pushed the burden of entry-level training onto prospective employees. That has led to generations of young people saddled with college debt and to a job market in which people who might have good skills are passed over for jobs because they don’t have the “right” degree. I majored in journalism and frankly, I didn’t learn much in j-school that I wouldn’t have learned just as well or better if I’d gone to work for a paper right out of high school. Many of the best reporters and editors I’ve known majored in English or other liberal arts — fields that stress critical thinking and analysis.

    • Tom_F

      *Going to college used to be about getting an education — acquiring knowledge.*  This is fuzzy thinking.  Ask yourself one more question…”what are you supposed to do with that knowledge?”  In the meantime, you have to support yourself and not be a burden to your family or society; a job is necessary.  It is fine to ‘aquire knowledge’ on French Lit or African-American Studies, but just know that you will need to work a job.

    • jesse73

      Completely correct it used to be about those things when there were less people in lower socio-economic class majoring in those “right degree” majors graduating from college to fit the “right degree” jobs. 
      Its harder for a college student in a lower socio-economic class to justify a philosophy or sociology degree.
      It was easier to not worry about majors when colleges were largely more about giving pieces of paper to allow a wealthy parent to justify giving a job to his son or the son of another wealthy parent in his social network.
      There is nothing wrong with majoring in those degrees as long as you expect to be at a disadvantage.

  • Don

    Follow your passion, be really good at what you love, life is short!

    • texassa

       No… according to this very important article, you should only follow engineering. Screw your passions and interests!

      • what km

        You SHOULD follow engineering or business!  After you found those good desk jobs, then use your spare time and money earn from those jobs to follow your passion.  That way you can be happy at the same time with no worries on when your next meal is going to come.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/K657GIPJI3Z3HMEE7VFYPJR6CI ww10001

          That is good advice.  The “well-paid and thoroughly miserable”  engineering student mentioned above could have saved up enough to pursue something else 5, 10, 15 years down the road.

  • Wendy Smith

    I (Univ. of Maine), my husband (Colby) and my son (BU) all majored in philosophy. I am a paralegal, my husband a software architect and my son is a Public Policy major in graduate school. I would say the major worked out pretty well. Favorite employer comment: Well, at least you know how to think.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZYBA3TWMO4DTDX4ZHTRSUDOUAU Jason

      so you and family were double majors then? to be software architect,paralegal, and public policy?

  • Rich

    The difference between “fewer” and “less” is pretty simple. Use “fewer” when you are dealing with something countable, and use “less” when you are dealing with a single, uncountable amount or volume. So you would say, “There are fewer people going into teaching,” and you would say, “There is less milk in the carton than I expected.”

    • Meteor901

       Thanks for the clarification.  That misunderstanding always gets my goat.  Don’t know why. 

  • It’s not only college…

    Women’s Studies major from a small liberal arts college– learned to critically think and write– now a lawyer in the 1%.  It isn’t the degree it is what you do with it!

    • Eengineer

      Then you have a degree in law. How does that relate to you getting a crappy degree first? In fact, your little ladies studies degree got you so far, you had to go get a second one! You have proven the point!

      • Priscilla Wright

        “Little ladies studies degree…”

        I’m guessing she’s going to know that someone ignorant and frightened enough to be a misogynist shouldn’t be taken seriously whatsoever.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001036552422 Arianna Roberts


      • INAL

         I’m not sure how it is in the U.S. but in Canada you need a bachelor’s degree to even apply for law school.

      • texassa

         Every lawyer goes to law school. What’s your point here?

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/K657GIPJI3Z3HMEE7VFYPJR6CI ww10001

          Not every humanities graduate gets to go to law school.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/K657GIPJI3Z3HMEE7VFYPJR6CI ww10001

        Agreed.  When choosing a major in college, one must always make the assumption that one will not have the opportunity to get more education.

  • Lawrencek

    Keep in mind that English is also highly versatile for pursuing higher level degrees that allow one to become an educator, business professional or lawyer.

  • Dave Tavani

    What a scary list. It is almost like my life in a “worst of” list. I majored in philosophy and English, was a graphic designer, and am now a freelance photographer and video/film producer. Of course career prospects for these majors my not be so great, but maybe career prospects are not the most important thing in life.

  • Kew9

    I would be curious to know how double majors and double degree programs affect the statistics. Like a Management and English graduate, for example. Would the stats average, or stack?

    • Tom_F

      Really?  You can’t figure this out?  Unemployment rate for  Management is 6% and English is 7%.  Do you think that getting the second major in English will actually reduce the rate for having a degree in Management?

  • Andy

    The elephant in the room is the fact that the worth of everything based on the capacity to start out adult life with I-phones, 500 dollar shoes and 10,000 square foot houses  has finally completely triumphed.  Catlin Dewey’s bar for what success is proves it.
    I am an English major and to her I am a failure, working in a library. Why the devil is 48,000 dollars not enough money? What is it that is actually worthwhile that I can’t do with that income?

    Thanks, T.A.G.

    • Martinbrowne123

      Yes yes yes. This.  I want to post this comment to every human so they understand. (Philosophy and Religious Studies here)

    • Barb

       I’m jealous…i’ve always wanted to work in a library.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/K657GIPJI3Z3HMEE7VFYPJR6CI ww10001

      Things you can’t do on $48,000… save enough for retirement, raise a family and put THEM through college, own a nice house in a large city, pursue hobbies, further your own education, travel, etc, etc, etc.  If you are a man $48,000 might  not be enough to attract a wife or GF, depending on cost of living in your area.

      • Azazel

        And you would want to be with someone who’s just attracted to money… why? They should have their own damn job.

  • Heather

    I graduated 25 years ago from a Liberal Arts College with a degree in Sociology.  Most of my career has been in Sales and Fundraising/ Development.  Both are quite lucrative with ample opportunity. 

    Would I recommend this for any of my 3 children, probably not.  However, I recall packaging my degree as a “foundation of knowledge on which to build”.  I did well in college – made Dean’s List numerous times – and sold myself as having a proven record in being a fast learner.  This opened many doors to Sales Training Programs.  I have never had a problem finding a job.  Salary has ranged from 65k to 85k.

  • Mike

    It is a shame that education has been transformed from the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of progression into a necessity to sustain our economic position.  It is a way for companies to gain employees with fewer risks taken and less effort and responsibility on their part to improve the work force.

    • Nurd83


  • BAM

    On the show you also listed the Best college majors for your career…  I dont see that informtion listed.  Can we see that again? 

  • Brittany

    I received a BFA in Metal Design from ECU in 2004, while I am certainly not rolling in the dough, but I have a started a small custom jewelry design business, Copper Chameleon, with a dedicated customer base and I am currently in the process of becoming a Whole Foods vendor with my Bowls line of jewelry which supports the hunger fighting organization, Empty Bowls. I would never be this sort of entrepreneur if I didn’t study metals and jewelry fabrication in college. Additionally I teach jewelry fabrication classes and am working towards a masters which will allow me to teach at the college level. I am so happy in my line of work, doesn’t that have value in itself?

    Brittany Sondberg

  • Steve

    It’s also worth asking whether there is a rationale for the public to continue to partially fund that education independent of major …

  • Sherry

    I was glad to hear Medical Technology as a major for which there are plenty of  job openings.  This is something that we in clinical laboratory science have been saying for some time now.  Medical Technology is an older term not used by many colleges and universities.  It is now Clinical Laboratory Science or Medical Laboratory Science.  As a major CLS is a hard major, including a heavy course load in the sciences.  However, for a person who likes science and loves solving a puzzle, it is a very good fit.  To find out more go to http://ascls.site-ym.com/?page=Stud_Cent. 

  • Beth

    Interesting discussion, but PLEASE, English/Journalism majors, it’s “…for US journalism majors,”  and not, “…for WE journalism majors.” Could grammatical scandals like this be bringing down the value of our majors?

  • Rose

    I have a degree in Outdoor Leadership. Many Prospects, Much competition.

  • Susannahrichard

    I think if you really love a field or major and you have the talent for it, you should pursue your dreams. I did and never regretted the decision I made. I am a graphic designer; I may never make more than 50k a year but I love my job. I love what I do every day. How many people can say that?

  • Kathy

    I studied Nutrition & Dietetics as an undergraduate to become a Registered Dietitian.  While I enjoyed the field, I never felt I’d be able to make more than $45K at best, and I also grew very tired of the lack of respect I got in the hospital setting.  I went on to graduate school and earned my PhD in Nutrition, and now teach Nutrition at a University.  I LOVE my job, love the freedom and flexibility, and yes, the salary and respect, too.  While I did spend more money and years on schooling, it was TOTALLY worth it.

  • Mlkelemen

    I encouraged both of my children to spend most of college on Liberal Arts and both chose to be English majors.  We felt that college is more than a vocational school.  It’s a precious opportunity to learn that won’t be replicated once we are in the work force.  Not that our family is independently wealthy or not needful of real work.  Far from it!  But it’s a mistake to be too concrete about what majors lead to what jobs. 

    I’m happy to say that one child is now in the last year of medical school at a top 3 school and the other is a Teach for America intern.  Having worked in journalism and considered graduate school, she found that she had a passion for helping students from challenging schools and backgrounds achieve.  I couldn’t be more proud or secure in my confidence in their futures.

  • Rnfirefighter

    Please don’t forget that an entry level nursing degree is an Associates and has potential starting income around 50000. Also there are a number of opportunities for advancement and graduate studies including Advanced Practice Nursing.
    Thank you,
    Daniel Green, BSN, RN, Roscoe, IL

  • Tadzma1014

    I was an English major, and have a talent for writing.  I worked in various jobs (legal assistant, insurance, computer helpdesk/training) until I “fell into” pharmaceutical medical writing.  It’s been 22 years now, and I make 6 figures.  For the first 5 years I had to defend my ability to understand the science, but after taking many sessions and courses (I’m now working on my MS in Regulatory Affairs), my expertise speaks for itself.  There are many PhDs and MDs who do not have writing talent.  The question is:  can a writer learn the science or can a scientist learn to write?  My response is that if you’re motivated and bright, you can learn anything.

  • Jkmphoto@comcast.net

    I’m a i’m a photographer with a soc. degree…not good $ but what i love.

    • Dave

      Hey Jkmphoto – I’m a photographer too.  Why don’t you proof what you’ve written,
      you make me look bad!

  • Mel Rippon Seigler

    What about the best career training programs in highschools for those who don’t want or cannot afford college? 
    are there some outstanding programs we can emmulate?
    I  find that the school system my children attend is pushing hard for children to do more and more advanced, college level courses – there is even a high school program that allows students to come out of high school with an Associates degree.
    this puts a lot of pressure on the the children.

  • Lorna

    I majored in Spanish, minored in political science, got a masters in Bicultural Studies, and I’m a certified teacher.  I have been a GED/ESL teacher for 30 years.  I love my job; I’m passionate about it.  But I can’t help feeling a little resentment when I teach at a community college, get paid $15/hr., and am not allowed to work more than 19.5 hours per week.  If it were all about money, I would not have chosen this field.  I can’t imagine being in any other field; however, I do get tired of being on the border of poverty.  It’s hard when my students tell me they are making more money than I am.  The question in my mind is, why doesn’t our society value education more?  Employers are always crying that they want better educated employees.  Our adult education program helps students get into college and get better jobs.  Why isn’t that important to our society?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

      Makes you wonder even more where all those tuition dollars are going, doesn’t it? Maybe somewhat less of a problem for community colleges, but I can’t help but feel that waste (and some gluttony in the athletics and administrative departments) abounds in our college system.

  • Bruce

    Interesting topic.  My son is going to a school called Webb Institute on Long Island that has a single degree in the double majors of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.  They have a decades long history of 100% placement and their graduates do very well as far as salary and future financial opportunities. It is a very small school (my son’s freshman class was 34 students and total enrolllment is under 100) but it is a great fit for the right individual. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/christina.colombe Christina Colombe

    I have a BS in pharmacy, during an era when the 5-year BS was transitioning to the 6-year PharmD.

    I went back home to Vermont because I missed it and my living situation as a subletter in Massachusetts was unstable.  In retrospect, I should have stayed in the greater Boston area.

    If you do this career, be prepared to live in more urban areas.  I had no desire whatsoever to work retail, particularly chain retail, and that is exactly where I ended up.  I was in tears in my mother’s arms after my third day at the Brooks Pharmacy (later absorbed into Rite Aid).  I left that after a year.  I then worked a governmental hospital with very antiquated equipment, staff and attitudes and a great deal of disrespect because I was “doing things differently.”  Having a hierarchy where I reported to a woman whose field was social work made this an ultimate no-go, and I made nowhere near $100K.

    Filling my prescription at the local Rite Aid this week, I saw a young woman I likened to myself, who was actually looking up things.  She will learn quickly that volume, volume, volume is what counts, and what retail pharmacies want is a drone that can push out hundreds of scripts a day. They do not want thinkers, people who scored well on the licensing test or who had high GPAs.

    Except in how the education helped me manage my and my family’s medical issues, the education is a great mismatch to what is used in the real world, and I was highly disappointed in the field, leaving it for good in 2001.  They really should screen out early people for speed and manual dexterity. By the time I learned that I was low on the curve for that, it was during early internship in my third or fourth year, way too late to take it as a warning and transfer to another school and degree.  Matter of fact, I never had a Plan B, and spent several miserable years in this profession to pay off my $28K education loans.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christina.colombe Christina Colombe

    I would have liked to have had something concrete to market after high school. My  first, and some of my second year, in college repeated knowledge gained in advanced-level high school courses.  At least with an Associate’s Degree, I could have made more than minimum wage working my way through college and not borrow to the max despite having a class rank of fourth from one of the larger high schools in Vermont, and perhaps would not have had to buy most of those repeat courses I saw in college.

  • RuthEV

    Thank you, Beth, for commenting first about “for we journalists”. I could hardly listen to the rest of the interview with Caitlin, a self-confessed English major, after hearing that blatant grammatical error. I’m retired, but think I could begin a new career finding and correcting grammatical errors commonly printed in newspapers and spoken on the radio and television. I wonder how lucrative that career would be in today’s economy. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

    It might be interesting to see how these “Best” lists change every 2-4 years. I can see them being a guide, but agree with Robin’s remark that nothing is in stone. Regional economies in particular can change fast these days, and that may be part of the reason more people have fallen out of the middle class in recent years. They’re busy trying to play catch-up.

    Even sometimes hot fields like nursing aren’t completely immune. Around here, a big fancy hospital and a specialty treatment facility were built several years back, and there was huge demand for nurses. They were fetching robust pay packages (so doctor salaries and drug costs probably weren’t the only thing driving up local healthcare costs ;-) ). After a few years of colleges churning out nurses, demand has at least for now slackened. When economic security is a primary concern, it’s always good to ‘try’ to weigh how projections and business conditions might change, especially if moving out of state isn’t desirable.

  • Rae

    I’m curious about which branch of “Anthropology” is being discussed. Medical Anthropology dealing with disease? Cultural Anthropology (which I would think would be more important in a globalizing economy. It’s always a good idea to know what behavior your overseas partners find offensive) ? Does this include Biochemical Anthropologists who are assisting in the Human Genome project? Or is it perhaps Archaeologists or Paleoanthropologists who are digging up the past and curating our historical relics?

    As a student in Anthropology I was alarmed to hear that my future profession has such a dismal outlook financially. Is it a good thing that there is such emphasis on technology and such a lack of financial recognition of the importance of social, liberal, and culture studies? Without these professionals to keep watchful eyes on technology, what other cultures will we obliterate in our quest for knowledge? How much knowledge will we destroy in our ethnocentric ignorance?

    Besides, without anthropologists we wouldn’t have Jurassic Park! The horror!

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissa.dunmore Melissa Dunmore

    I graduated with a Bachelo’s degree in Communication and feel that it serves me very well not just in my career but in all aspects of my professional and social life as well.  In my opinion, having a Communication degree enables one to be able to ambulate a variety of settings, worldviews, and types of personalities.  Being able to articulate positions confidently is key to many different kinds of jobs and job settings.  It is also helpful to be able to understand where people are coming from since any job hinges upon interaction whether it be in-person or mediated.

    I agree that going to college should be about the acquisition of knowledge and feel that the ambitious pursuit of such knowledge should extend beyond the classroom.  We should never stop learning from others and learning from ourselves through our successes and failures. 

  • Fletchstevens

    I have a BFA in communication arts, with a focus on film and photography.  I work as the manager of a deli, making much less than 42k/yr.

  • Harry Umen

    I am a professor of graphic design and media arts. Your report on this major is not entirely accurate. There is a tremendous demand for frontend web developers (aka graphic designers for internet platforms such as computers, phones and tablets). The days of print dominated graphic design work are gone and thus there are certainly a surplus of legacy graphic designers trained only for print work. But students that can meld traditional graphic design skills in layout with coding for new communication platforms like tablets and phones will be in much demand in the foreseeable future. Students skilled with code and server side technologies can look forward to salaries in the 60 and 70k on average with no limits on income if they move into art direction and or owning their own companies. I think the stats gathered about employment in this field are skewed towards what the deign indutry was 10 years ago. Also this is a field that can not be outsourced over seas.

  • Brian

    In todays job market I would follow the same road I took 40 years ago. After completing high school I served my mandatory 2 years in the Military then took the first paying job I could get as a patrolman with the NYPD. I then went for my BS in Psycology which I found has value in any career where people skills are valued.  Hard work and a little more hard work allowed me to progress to higher positions outside of Law Enforcement offering fulfillment and a significant salary. My point! Take a job,most any job  continue your education, work very hard at whatever your being paid to do and you will be surprised where it all takes you.
    Cave Creek,Az.

  • Sarah P

    I was an English major and have bucked this trend, and have been fortunate enough to maintain steady employment and decent-paying jobs with benefits. I attribute this primarily to working a variety of internships while I was in college. Starting my sophomore year, if I was in school, I was also interning. When I graduated, I already had a decent roster of various companies, contacts, and work experience for my resume. I assumed the degree would not be enough (and it wasn’t) — but coupled with the real-life internship experience, I was able to build a career.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=4302948 facebook-4302948

    I was a Religious Studies major and am doing just fine. In fact, I think this major was a *benefit* to may career because it helped me develop strong analytic skills and gave me experience confronting and engaging ways of thinking that were different than my own.

  • carlos2x

    A more fundamental question is the financing of education.  It used to be (1960′s) that state investment in higher ed was an investment in infrastructure, in the future.  Over time priorities have changed and the notion of education as investment became decoupled from state budgets and shifted to students in 1993 (http://www.randomhistory.com/1-50/032loan.html).  What used to cost roughly $1,000 now costs 10 0r 20 times as much.  This shifting of costs has made many students indentured servants of choices made early in life rather than free to more creatively pursue their talents and interests.
    Should the state resume responsibility for the education of those whose talents will guarantee our future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001270451325 Healing Moon Breezes

    I am surprised they were pushing pharmacy.  I am currently dealing with major losses due to a job loss.  I met a woman a short time ago who has 2 nephews who graduated from Creighton in Pharmacy and they could not, I repeat NOT find one pharmacist job in the entire state of Nebraska….so I don’t get this report.  Right now I don’t encourage youth to go to college.  From my experience, my bachelor’s didn’t bring me much success and now the American work boxes have devalued jobs and a college education.  Plus, sadly many college grads are among the working poor.  I am sorry….but I wish our society would stop blowing smoke up our asses guaranteeing a successful and bountiful life if you go to college.  

    • Ted

      I have heard the push for the pharmacy profession for quite some time.
      Pharmacists are nothing more than trained drug pushers or salesmen of Big Pharma.
      The whole racket of allopathic medicine is based around treatment and its use of synthetic chemicals to allay pains, etc. But  rarely does Big Pharma talk about all those wonderful SIDE EFFECTS.
      As for prevention, there isn’t enough money in that. There is no money in healthy people.
      Besides keeping your public drugged is the ultimate goal of the ruling class.

      Keep the masses unhealthy, frightened, confused and sedated. Its all about control. 

      He’s the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.  ~Benjamin Franklin

      “Two-thirds of these diseases, (heart disease and diabetes) would be eliminated if we consumed a healthier diet and exercised more”.  ~ Dr. Meir Stampfer M.D.,  Professor of Epidemiology and NutritionProfessor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School 

      “And we have made of ourselves living cesspools, and driven doctors to invent names for our diseases.”  –Plato 

  • Aaron

    The median income and unemployment figures cited here indicate that on balance the average holder of one of these degrees is significantly better off than the general population. 

    General population in 2011 – Unemployment rate 8.7%.  Median personal income $24,000.   For the worst among these degree holders they made 33% more and their unemployment rate was lower.  On average they made 90% more and their unemployment rate was about a third lower than the general population.

    Critical thinking, people.  Context is everything.

  • Roney Lisa

    The reporting in this segment really disappointed me. It’s been said by others, but I must reiterate that higher education is really not about vocational-technical education. I understand that we must address the future of college graduates, but simplistic takes on what constitutes a “best” or “worst” major do not help anyone.

    I have been teaching college English for nearly twenty years now, and one of my strongest memories has to do with a message I received from a young woman who had majored in Industrial Engineering. Two years after she finished my tech writing course and graduated, she was well paid and thoroughly miserable. She called me, desperately searching for another way, and I talked to her about options she might pursue that would put meaning, not just money, back at the center of her life. I hope she found it.

    We have, however, reached a time in our society when the powers that be value little but the functionality of people in the corporate workforce. Even universities have become so corporatized that we take things like Cailin Dewey’s numbers-crunching as somehow sacrosanct and all-important. We must resist. We must insist that something other than profit (personal and corporate) is crucial to our lives. 

    There was a time when a person could put other things besides money first and still expect to make a decent living, contribute to society, and live into a good retirement. That option grows less and less likely, and news treatments like this one encourage us to focus only on the narrowest sense of what is important in a life. Most creativity and innovations come from the margins, so why do we continue to try to erase them and make everyone more and more the same? Why does even NPR not counter the gloom about these trends with at least a comment about the crucial role that some of these “bad” majors play in teaching the very critical thinking that makes for good citizens who can understand the complex array of ways in which we are all now co-opted by corporate ends? 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/K657GIPJI3Z3HMEE7VFYPJR6CI ww10001

      If I had been “well-paid and thoroughly miserable” just out of college, I would have been very happy indeed.  Your student was obviously a spoiled brat, and I suspect you might be one as well.

  • http://twitter.com/yourcollegepro Susie Watts

    As a private college counselor and parent of five grown children, I am still a believer in the liberal arts and have seen most students with an English major gainfully employed. I have interviewed many employers and they continuously say they want to hire individuals who can communicate verbally as well as on paper. They can teach the business to a new employee, but they can’t teach the skills that a student gains as a liberal arts major. I have a son who majored in history and a daughter who majored in English. Neither one of them has ever had a problem being hired for a new job.

    College Direction
    Denver, Colorado

  • Erin Gannon

    If you’re only going for a Bachelor’s, yes these are the best/worst choices. However Bachelor’s rarely get you very far these days, it’s all about the Master’s.

    • texassa


      • 400Daytona

         Nope. TRUE, unfortunately.

  • Gladym123

    Back in 1975, I applied for a job in a bank.  I said that I had a Master’s degreee and paralegal training.   The job opening was for a teller.  I took the job, (close to home and kiddies), and, luckily for me, several years later they had a computer training class.  I was one of the lucky ones, and had 20 happy years in programming. 

  • Mhtyson

    “Best” and “worst” are not useful terms for this kind of analysis. If your goal is to serve as a human reservoir of knowledge for its own sake, all of the “worst” majors on this list are excellent ways to achieve your goal. If your goals revolve around money or you are dying to be an engineer, the “best” list is full of great options. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, universities do not solely exist for the purpose of helping people acquire more money and iPhones. They are also repositories of humankind’s accumulated knowledge. If this isn’t important to you, I recommend not entering one at all.

    • jesse73

      Everyone knows chemical/electrical engineers, medical professionals, and construction professionals dont contribute or add to society despite construction being in the title of one of those.
      Many of those “best” majors are in the sciences and technology, yea they dont contribute to  the human reservoir of knowledge 


      • what km

        Sciences, mathematics and engineering are totally useless, we prefer to live in caves and do finger painting because it contribute to the society of finger painting.

  • guest

    Caitlin provided some incorrect information about the profession of pharmacy. I have been a pharmacist for ten years. While it is true that pharmacist do have very good salaries, it is not so easy to become one. She made it sound like it is a walk in the park. First of all, most pharmacy schools require a BS degree from a 4 year university with a very high GPA. Secondly there is a pharmacy college admission test to take and do very well. Third, pharmacy school in and by itself is four years long with lots of studying. There is lots of math and science involved. 
    After graduating, you must take two big exams to get your license. 
    I am sorry but she made it sound like its a mickey mouse path to become a doctor of pharmacy!!! Next time, make sure you have all the correct information before giving advice to people.

  • Ashley

    Frankly, an English major is one of the most useful to have. It means you can write, think, and communicate critically, clearly, and correctly, a skill which is becoming increasingly rare. 

  • ShilpaNic

    Oh dear lord, seriously, have you ever heard of a bar graph?  I’ve never seen anyone write out data in paragraphs.  

    • Beej

      Oh no! You had to read!

      • jesse73

        Thats not the point and anyone with any data analysis experience would agree that writing out data in paragraphs is the worst way to present data.

    • Jordan Golson

      She probably didn’t take a statistics class on her way to becoming a reporter.

    • Email

      this is hilarious 

  • texassa

    Unless, of course, you want to teach English. Or be an anthropologist. 

    • Barb

       my daughter is majoring in anthro in college and we fully support her decision. she is taking fascinating classes and learning about the world around her. she is thinking of the Peace Corp and/or foreign service. so many parents ask us “why are you letting her major in that? she’ll never be rich.” well, she may not be, but if she is doing something she loves, she’ll be happy….

      • what km

        She’ll be happy as long she has a roof over her head, or you.

  • Philippe

    You would think that having your major career be anthropology would mean you had a 100% chance of working retail. Last I looked, selling overpriced shirts WAS retail!

    • http://profiles.google.com/phyllis.craine Phyllis Craine

      Of course if the cost of college education was affordable of we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. 

  • rockhauler

    I would hire, and have hired, someone with a degree in English or other liberal arts over someone with an undergraduate degree in business anytime. I’ve found their thinking and analytic skills superior when it comes to problem solving, policy review, and communication. Further, I don’t have to monitor every letter they write and correct their grammar.

    • what km

      Too bad you don’t have the money or the skill to start a business to hire people with degree in English.  The ones that have the skills to make money and advance in their career are also the ones with knowledge and/or degrees in business, engineering, sciences and technology.  
      If I was an engineer that have a mind to start a business, I would prefer to hire STEM degree employees over liberal arts for same crap job because I found their thinking and analytic skills superior when it comes to (real world) problem solving, policy review (aka paper pusher) and communication (we can speak and write at the same time).  And if I need someone to clean my business’ toilets & mop the floor (I believe to be the crappiest job), I’ll go out of my way to hire cream of crop in liberals studies for the shittiest pay (min. wage).
      Before the economy crash liberal studies were a company’s paper pusher (company drone), and STEM get prestige jobs (professional career) and will advances to hierarchy in management (I’m the boss now). After the crash, STEM studies are now the current paper pushers (drone), while the liberals get to be janitors.This is the real economy.  What I write only applies to 90% of the cases, which means if your a liberal 10% you still get a chance to be in the top, probably has to do with your other skills and/or family connections.

  • dialyn

    I was an English major and my last job was as a Senior Management Analyst (retired now, but I was making a very good wage when I left).  Just because you are an English major does not mean you have to become a teacher, writer, librarian, or journalist, unless you want those jobs (and there is nothing wrong with any of those choices).  My messages is….don’t get trapped by someone’s definition of what you can do with your major.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/K657GIPJI3Z3HMEE7VFYPJR6CI ww10001

      …..Except of course potential employers and the admissions committees of graduate and professional schools.

  • Mad About Grammar

    Robin – The difference between “fewer” and “less” can be explained thusly: fewer is used when describing things that can be physically counted. Fewer beans, 1/3 fewer calories, fewer items or fewer people are smoking, etc.  “Less” is used when the item it describes is conceptual, vague, or nebulous, i.e. less oxygen, less hunger, less material, less work, etc.  This is coming from a political science/Russian double major working for a major global financial institution.  Who knew ?!  

    • rockhauler

       There’s something about those Russian majors (me too)! Could it be all those declensions actually taught us something about life and communication? Kto ponyal?

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