Monday, May 2, 2011


Good Luck With Your Liberal Arts Degree!

Is your college degree useless? Basically if you didn't major in numbers/money/technology, then probably yes. : – [

44 Comments / Post A Comment


I am le confused... many of them are very useful degrees some of them are necessary (engineering, agriculture, horticulture) durr...?


@DrFeelGood I'm confused too. What is the basis for their assessment?

Cassie Murdoch

@DrFeelGood Here's a bit of explanation on how they decided:


@DrFeelGood Yeah, most of these jobs showed growth. I'm sure my degree in Russian is way more useless than a degree in mechanical engineering.

Hot mayonnaise

@psychedelicate: Regarding the "Mechanical Engineering Technology" degree listed at the Daily Beast: that may be a very different degree than Mechanical Engineering. In my opinion (I'm a civil engineer), mechanical engineering is a very versatile engineering field.


@Hot mayonnaise I'll take your word for it. I only know about engineering as it relates to Stalin's industrialization of the Soviet Union and stuff.


@DrFeelGood I got a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology last year. I'm well employed. I had absolutely no trouble finding a job within a month of graduating. Same with all my classmates. Not to mention these are really great, high paying jobs with incredibly successful companies. This list can eat it!

The only difference from a traditional ME degree is the level of advanced math. Yes it is necessary to take these courses if you want to pursue a masters degree and PHD in mechanical engineering, but it is seldom used in the work places of 80% (I just pulled that number out of my ass) of people employed with the title of "mechanical engineer." An MET degree focuses on problem solving and practical solutions. Which is what real life engineering is all about.

Seriously though, fuck this list.


I worked in television and those journalism numbers seem very high. I think that most reporters/producers can expect high teens/low 20's for their first job.

So, this may seem like a "worthless degree" but it you want to get into journalism, you can't do that without a degree.


@graffin Agree. I guess worth is being determined by pay check only?


If you want to get into journalism, you can indeed do so without a degree. -- Do I misunderstand you? (I bet I do.)

That might have been an interesting strong criterion for "worthless degree": fields that pay nothing, and in which the degree really isn't necessary.


Is your degree useless?

YES!...If you become an Executive Assistant because the money is so much better than more fufilling jobs straight out of college, but then you find yourself overstaying your welcome and your salary peaks and you're still bringing coffee 10 years later.



@parallel-lines Yep. You can say that again. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go make copies and take notes at meetings.


@kayjay I don't understand why most EA positions require a 4 year degree now. I guess it's okay because it keeps people with degrees in useless fields employed but geez...and happy administrative professionals day to everyone else out there stuck in the pink ghetto.


I call bullshit--how is art and fine arts two different categories? And according to this thing Nutrition and Animal Science are useless?

Also, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/04/17/why-look-down-on-a-business-degree/but-can-they-write


I call some bullshit on this, the numbers just don't make any sense. What economic society are they looking at that jobs in art history and fine arts are increasing, while jobs in engineering are decreasing? There are more jobs in fine arts than in chemistry? I dropped out of a very prestigious school for art history almost 2 years ago because I wouldn't be able to get a job, even with a PhD (and if I did, it would not be over $50,000/year, and I would never be able to pay off my school loans while living in NYC). I worked very closely with a professor that knew I was good at Chemistry, and she had me do chemical analysis on paintings for museums. She URGED me to consider changing schools in order to pursue a degree in chemistry so I could "actually be employable." I know a lot of people who graduated with $200,000+ worth of debt for a degree in painting, only to end up working temp jobs, because no one cares about your BFA (I mean no disrespect to artists, but it's a harsh reality I've seen lived out too many times over the years).


@contrary I am of two minds on this. I am going back to school soon for a slightly-more-applicable-to-real-life degree (translation and interpreting). But I can tell you right now that if I had tried for a degree that involved math or science, I would have never finished school, much less gone on to have a successful career.

I think the key is, always, to figure out how to turn what you like/are good at into something that people will be willing to pay you money for. I have friends who had the same major I did who are being groomed to become the next stars of Slavic Language and Literature academia. That's not me and I always knew it was never going to be. But I am good at writing, and translation comes naturally to me. For a BFA in painting, someone might have to accept that they won't be the next darling of the NYC art scene or whatever, but they can go back to school for something that uses their artistic skills for something a little more realisitic, like graphic design, etc.

I mean, it's great that you're good at chemistry and you had that to fall back on. Someone else who started out in art history might go back for say, museum curation, etc. Working at a gallery. Also, I'd rather make <50,000$ a year than spend my time working at a job I hated.


@psychedelicate I should have added to my original comment that I actually like chemistry, and throughout high school I was torn between art school/getting a BS and going to medical school. I'm not advocating that people make themselves into drones and do something they hate, just be that they realistic in their expectations. A lot of people think that they ARE going to be the next breakout star, and it's simply not the case.


@psychedelicate and @contrary Re: Someone who has a BFA in painting and goes back to school to get a degree in graphic design/get a degree to be more employable - I understand where y'all are going here, but I also feel like this can be a big misconception when it comes to art degrees. When I first started art school several years ago I also thought that all the students studying traditional art were on the track to eating ramen in their parents' basement for the rest of their lives. But since graduating I've actually seen several painting, illustration, even fibers students graduate and make a living out of creating and selling their art.
On the flip side, at my university the largest major was graphic design. And while some students really loved graphic design, there were definitely several that were studying it just because they thought they couldn't make a living doing the art they really wanted to do. This lead to a difficult situation when they graduated because just like any other creative field, graphic design is very competitive and because so many students studied it, it only made it more difficult to land a job.
So in the end, there were graphic design students not getting graphic design jobs when they only studied graphic design in order to get a job in the first place! Which just sucks.

And I definitely know there are traditional art students out there that studied painting/drawing/underwater basket-weaving and have nothing to show for it but horrendous student loans that they can't pay off with their Starbucks salary, but I also feel like you have that risk with any profession.

I just wanted to throw my two cents in, because I considered going into graphic design (which I do not enjoy) because I thought I'd be more employable, but I learned that isn't always the case necessarily, and I'm so happy I stuck to my guns, because I really love what I do now.


@sarahf May I ask; what do you do now? BFA speaking here.


@contrary I totally understand where this comes from - I'm an art school dropout myself (though more for the exorbitant costs of art school in NYC than a smart major, per below comment) - but it turns out, surprisingly, all of my BFA-having friends tend to be the most successful out of our circle.

I think it's less to do with the nature of the degree and more that, while I was studying academic theories, they were actively engaged in "making something", and that mentality of 'okay, now I have to produce a thing' is more conductive to making a living / more in line with actual work than "Now I have to memorize facts" like many people unfortunately end up with in a lot of traditional BA environments.


@Elizabon I got a BFA in visual effects for film, which is what I do now. While I was interested in traditional art, I was also interested in technology/computers, and when I found out there was something else I could do other than graphic design, that was a good day indeed.

And I know my profession doesn't really fall under the traditional art tracks that we're discussing here, and I wish I could say I studied oil painting and now I make a bajillion dollars. But like I said in my previous post, I met so many students that later graduated to be independent artists and they've been able to support themselves completely on their art. Which is comforting on those days when I want to kick my computer against a wall and break out my watercolours. It is hard work though, in that they have to be both artists and businessmen, which I think is where a lot of traditional artists have a difficult time. One of my friends said half of the time he was working on his art, while the other half he was emailing and calling people and networking. And he had to take time out of his day to do that, or he wouldn't survive.


@sarahf Very cool! Yes, I took an entire course based on this book http://www.amazon.com/Business-Being-Artist-Third/dp/1581150563
I have tried some side ventures and have sold things here and there, and even volunteered to get my art fix, but it takes major dedication for that to be one's full time gig and I have to eat. So I am an operations supervisor for a consumer advocate agency. Most days I want to eat a gun. I am looking for change. I identify with this topic and have appreciated reading everyone's thoughts on the subject.


My Sociology degree is useless, but it's not even on the list? Whatever, there's a reason I'm getting my MSW now.

Not that I'm not happy with my degree! It was definitely the right path for me. Just being real.


Oh whatever, the employable bourgeoisie may enjoy their creature comforts but at least I have my art and that's more than any soulless corporate sucker doing investment banking in new york can say

…and I mean, last I checked you can still find the occasional patron of the arts in engineering/biotech/big pharma/etc. when your medium is chemistry so haha & F U dailybeast


@theinvisiblecunt Yes, but the investment bankers can BUY all the art.


@melis, how's employment been looking in the dreamcrushing sector lately?

tea tray in the sky.

Visual Arts and English Litarature! Aka, a BA in Working at Starbucks for the Rest of My Life.


@Twinkle Little Bat

Me, too, but there is $$$ to be had.


I would argue that investment banking is way more useless than nutrition, even if the pay is better. Sad how that works out..


YESSSSSS My philosophy degree is not on this list. I KNEW it just COULDN'T be, since I get calls from hot-shit recruiters for all the big firms doing Gricean Analysis of Conversational Implicatures (my focus AND the SINGLE HOTTEST SECTOR OF THE NASDAQ) like, eight times a day.


@leon.saintjean My philosophy-major boyfriend just told me about all the philosophers working on Wall Street and I still don't really get it. The mind boggles. Too bad they don't want lit majors!


@martinipie Damn analytical philosophers with their stupid "logic."


@theharpoon Yeah we're pretty awesome. People think I'm an idiot for recreationally reading things like "Language, Logic, and Metalogic" or whatever my dumb books are called, but then I house them in epic debates about the logical fallacies of Nelly's "Pimp Juice" and it all seems worth the crushing debt and 4 years after college I spent doing road construction because nobody would hire me.


@leon.saintjean I studied more continental style (pretty logical jump from lit major undergrad) and instead of doing construction I'm... getting another degree! Yay! But still read Plato on occasion when I have time. Never in public.


No need for me to read the article. I knew my music degree was going to be useless many years ago. I'm certain it's on the list.


My English degree self and my photography degree boyfriend will never move above a "garden level" apartment. I'm sure of it.


Duh. All degrees are useless if you're graduating in this economy, unless you decided to get a B.A. in living with your parents with a concentration in weeping uncontrollably.


I'm so sick of these absurd stories about how useless Arts and Humanities (or, indeed, in the case of this list, any) degrees, especially PhDs, are.

First, I dispute the interpretation of the numbers involved (the jobs in psychology or HR, for instance, show a projected increase so they seem like useful degrees) and the fact that getting a degree in something like these subjects doesn't benefit any job you get afterward, whatever that job may be. I'm sick of the idea that arts and humanities degrees don't teach transferable skills (communication, critical thinking, literacy and numeracy, etc.). In many ways they could be argued to do this better than hard science degrees.

Finally, I find the reduction of degree value to what you earn doing the job with the same name as the degree (again, a problematic way of seeing degrees) so insulting. I feel rather sorry for people who see human achievement as nothing more than how much money it makes. Social workers? Composers? Farmers? These people do work that we could hardly dismiss as useless and there are plenty of arguments to be made for the worth of a wide range of programs of study. So kiss my ass, Daily Beast and all of you other haters. My degrees are at least as useful as your snarking.


I'd bet a huge proportion of people whose opinions count would agree with what you just said -- and maybe those people actually wrote "instrumentally useful" and some copyeditor cut the adverb.


PS - I know it isn't actually called "Social Work" on the list but that's essentially what Child and Family Studies is (or it can get you a job in education, community/government, and so on).

Internet Girl

I avoided this problem by skipping the whole "college" thing completely.

The working class: solving your first world american problems for you!


Yeah, but my nursing degree won't be worth jack until I actually graduate, which at the rate I'm going will be in 10 more years (hooray for mental instability leading to many and varied medical leaves!)


I disagree with this one - I think music and psychology are equally useless


that being said, music is my life and i wouldnt have it any other way (being a music education major). It has led me to my greatest joys and gives me direction for the future.

don't take this crap too seriously. it is more important that you feel happy and fulfilled, and that you are growing.

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