25 May 2013

Appendix to "Is A Bachelor's Degree Worth It?"

As we'd mentioned earlier in the series, we believe that colleges and universities should be releasing appropriate data in understandable formats to help high school students and other degree-seekers make informed and sound decisions about where to go to school and what fields they should consider studying. We realise that most colleges and universities are going to be hesitant to put such information out to the public, especially if it is not very flattering.

In addition, we realise that there are third-party groups and services that already do this (the data we are using here, for example, comes from a recent Kiplinger online article as well as snippets on Forbes and from major newspapers), but we also believe that the colleges themselves may be able to provide a good picture based on the needs and peculiarities of their own services.

To start, let's consider some basic statistics, again provided in the Kiplinger article:

  • Unemployment rate of all bachelor's degree holders: 4.9%
  • Median unemployment rate for recent grads (top 100 majors): 7.7%
  • Median starting annual salary for recent grads (top 100 majors): $37,000
  • Median annual salary for all grads: $54,756
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth for jobs requiring a degree: 14%
  • Likelihood of working retail average: (while not directly given, we are going to assume that they express the average rate as 1.0) 

And without further ado, here are the top 10 worst majors, as determined in the Kiplinger article:

10:  English

  • Unemployment rate: 6.7% (1.8% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 9.2% (1.5% above median)
  • Median salary: $48,000 ($6,756 below median
  • Median salary for recent grads: $32,000 ($5,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: 6% (-8% compared to median)
  • Likelihood of working retail: 1.4 times more likely

9: Sociology

  • Unemployment rate: 7.0% (2.1% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 8.6% (0.9% above median
  • Median salary: $45,000 ($9,756 below median)
  • Median salary for recent grads: $32,000 ($5,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: 18% (+4% compared to median)
  • Likelihood of working retail: 1.4 times more likely
  • Recommended Alternatives: Economics, Statistics, Political Science

8: Drama & Theatre Arts

  • Unemployment rate: 7.1% (2.2% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 7.8% (0.1% above median)
  • Median salary: $40,000 ($14,756 below median)
  • Median salary for recent grads: $26,000 ($11,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors)
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: 4% (-10% compared to median
  • Likelihood of working retail: 2.1 times more likely 

7: Liberal Arts

  • Unemployment rate: 7.6% (2.7% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 9.2% (1.5% above median)
  • Median salary: $48,000 ($6,756 below median)
  • Median salary for recent grads: $30,000 ($7,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors)
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: not available 
  • Likelihood of working retail: 1.8 times more likely 
  • Recommended Alternatives: Elementary Education

6: Studio Arts (such as painting and sculpture)

  • Unemployment rate: 8.0% (3.1% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 11.1% (3.4% above median)
  • Median salary: $37,000 ($17,756 below median)
  • Median salary for recent grads: $35,900 ($1,100 less than their median of "Top 100" majors)
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: 5% (-9% compared to median)  
  • Likelihood of working retail: 2.3 times more likely

5: Graphic Design:

  • Unemployment rate: 8.1% (3.2% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 11.8% (4.1% above median)
  • Median salary: $45,000 ($9,756 below median)
  • Median salary for recent grads: $32,000 ($5,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors)
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: 13% (-1% compared to median)
  • Likelihood of working retail: 0.6 times more likely 


4: Philosophy / Religious Studies

  • Unemployment rate: 7.2% (2.3% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 10.8% (3.1% above average)
  • Median salary: $42,000 ($12,756 below median
  • Median salary for recent grads: $30,000 ($7,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors)
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: not available 
  • Likelihood of working retail: 2.0 times more likely
  • Recommended Alternatives: U.S. History, Art History


3: Film and Photography:

  • Unemployment rate: 7.3% (2.4% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 12.9% (5.2% above median)
  • Median salary: $45,000 ($9,756 below median)
  • Median salary for recent grads: $30,000 ($7,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors)
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: 13% (-1% compared to median
  • Likelihood of working retail: 2.6 times more likely 

2: Fine Arts:

  • Unemployment rate: 7.4% (2.5% above median)
  • Unemployment rate for recent grads: 12.6% (4.9% above median)
  • Median salary: $44,000 ($10,756 below median)
  • Median salary for recent grads: $30,000 ($7,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors)
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: 5% (-9% compared to median
  • Likelihood of working retail: 1.8 times more likely 

1: Anthropology

  • Unemployment rate: 6.9% (2% above median)
  • Recent grad employment rate: 10.5% (2.8% above median)
  • Median salary: $40,000 ($14,756 below median)
  • Median salary for recent grads: $28,000 ($9,000 less than their median of "Top 100" majors)
  • 2010 Decade Projected Job Growth: 21% (+7% compared to median)
  • Likelihood of working retail: 2.1 times more likely
  • Recommended Alternative: International Relations 


In our eyes, the format here is what colleges and universities should strive for. The key is to provide a good summary of the options the college provides and realistic information about what that degree is likely to accomplish. Yes, some majors are going to have downright-ugly stats (especially at this time), and many college professors, department heads, and administrators will likely take umbrage to that. We would argue that perhaps those numbers should be motivation to improve the education provided and fine-tune the curriculum such that it can demonstrate more relevancy with reality for their students.

Moreover, we recognise that demands and trends will change; what might be hot now might be bad choices in the future, and vice-versa. It's certainly possible that in the following years and decades, some of these majors might surge again in popularity and return-on-investment (if only because people now are reading that they're relatively low on return-on-investment).

Further, it's also possible that some fields of study may turn out to be great minors to accompany certain majors, or serve as excellent "foundation" degrees for decent graduate-level programmes that they might offer. Clearly, we feel that is something that perhaps each college and university could research and advertise.

While our only actual gripes with the article were that most of the majors listed in the article didn't have "recommended alternatives" or average debt incurred, we still believe that such data is necessary to provide an accurate picture of what a typical student in a given major can expect after he or she earns the degree. Prospective and current students, their families, and even K-12 and career counsellors should all have easy access to that data so that when they make these choices that have a major impact on the direction of their lives, they are able to do so in an informed manner.


Kiplinger Slideshow

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