Column: What makes an undergraduate degree “worthless?” “

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Humanities and social sciences degrees at U.S. universities and colleges are repeatedly labeled as unnecessary undergraduate goals, known to require a few extra years of coursework to make a meaningful entry into the workforce. But while some data would affirm a decline in enrollment in qualitative fields of study over the past decade, this narrative of “uselessness” may be blamed for skewing the outlook for students.

In a article published by Atlantic in August of last year, assistant professor of history at Northeastern University Benjamin Schmidt speculated that students “don’t shy away from degrees with poor job prospects” but shy away from the humanities because “they think they have poor job prospects.

This repetitive and derogatory tale has many faces. Maybe one is a family member who thinks that you will not be able to make a sustainable living with your bachelor’s degree in history. Or maybe it’s a friend, convinced that his business degree will give him extra protection against a bloated and cut-throat job market. One of these faces might even have belonged to a high school teacher or a college professor.

But luckily for me – and maybe for you – they might be wrong.

While working as a tech reporter for Forbes from 2012 to 2016, George Anders spoke to hiring managers from some of the biggest tech companies and found that Uber and Opentable administrators were hiring students. in psychology and in English to deal directly with bikers, drivers and restaurateurs. . Asked by Amanda Ruggeri of the BBC to define the the most “labor market ready skills” of graduates in the humanities, he is able to cite three of the main qualifiers: “Creativity, curiosity and empathy”.

Being able to think critically about the views of others and ultimately understand those views, whether we agree with them or not, is a valuable skill in the workplace and in the workplace. everyday life. Being easy to talk to might not be a skill you can really list on your resume, but it’s something people will take note of when interacting with you. Listening and communicating well are muscles like any other, and they need to be exercised to stay in shape. The most rigorous workouts, as Anders would postulate, could be found in the humanities and liberal arts departments.

In a item written for ContractorGlassdoor Vice President of Personnel Mariah DeLeon wrote that hiring managers are more likely to seek out candidates who already have some level of emotional intelligence – or EQ as she calls it. She declares that “investing in QE has brought more engaged and engaged employees to our business, and we will continue to focus on this effort moving forward.

Ruggeri also points out that over the past decade, the narrative of “worthless” liberal arts fields has contributed to the farce that the liberal arts and humanities are reserved for the elite, and often discourages students from doing so. low income from pursuing areas that they think they can’t immediately return their investment.

As a student from a low income single parent household, I am not quick to advocate for further education as I know many of us carry our GPA on our shoulders while dragging out a week of thirty-five hour work. behind us. But getting a degree often means the difference between an average of $ 1,173 or $ 774 per week, and this extra income can give many of us a lot more opportunities than we would otherwise have.

There is in fact a lot of data to prove that my hesitation is also purely unfounded. A study published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences found that humanities graduates are just as employed and satisfied with their jobs as STEM majors. It turns out that earning about $ 400 more per week is entirely possible with a degree in humanities or liberal arts.

So, as we pay our institutions money every year – hoping to get that money back a few years later – shouldn’t we take advantage of all the resources that we subsidize with that money?

The reality of the cost, while sometimes a deterrent, should be seen as an investment in ourselves and in our own abilities to find meaning outside of what we already know. Otherwise, why spend all this time and money? Just having a “student” title added to your name can create internship opportunities, future employment opportunities, and support networks in your area of ​​interest. It’s all a matter of finding them.

Choosing a goal, however, is probably the trickiest part for some, and the idea that it is possible to choose the wrong degree could help with that choice. The results provided by the National Center for Education Statistics of post-secondary students who entered university in 2011-2012 shows that about 33% of students changed major at least once before 2014. For some, that can mean an extra year or two of college, which means an additional year or two of spending.

Ultimately, any degree can be useless if it marries in the right cocktail of apathy and disinterest, and the humanities are not immune to these sentiments. Educating ourselves early and systematically on how we might use our degrees could be a great way to avoid unnecessary costs in the long run. It could simply minimize how often students choose degrees out of anxiety and increase our ability as undergraduates to more fully communicate the usefulness of our interests – to combat the myth that certain degrees are more valuable. that others.




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