Comments on: History: practical, sensible, and likely to be in the curriculum in another 50 years History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 20 Sep 2014 01:22:40 +0000 hourly 1 By: Kathy Fri, 06 May 2011 21:22:36 +0000 This is very interesting. I’m an Australian with an Masters degree in History (not sure what the equivalent is in US – for us, it falls between a bachelors degree and a PhD and involves a dissertation that’s about 75% the length of a PhD). I wonder what a similar study would show in our context?

Anecdotally, none of my cohort in grad studies (about 60 at my university, half Masters, half PhD) are unemployed, although plenty are underemployed or paid poorly. Very, very few are in academia, though – 3? Maybe 4? The most common career paths that history has disgorged for us have been public service, publishing, school-teaching, college teaching in Asia, and professional (commissioned) history.

Australia still has a fairly large, well-compensated and liberal-arts-degree friendly public sector, so that’s an obvious destination for lots of history grads. Especially as public servants are far more secure in job tenure and conditions than *any* academics in this country, even the ones who technically have tenure.

I have a friend (also a history Masters alumni, as it happens) who is senior in the administration of the biggest university in my state, and she tells me that their in-house figures rate the highest unemployment 2 years post graduation in Media Studies, and Arts degrees majoring in Fine Arts, Classics, and Politics. Graduates in medicine, law, engineering and teaching (primary and secondary) have the highest employment rates, close to 100%. We have a shortfall of teachers in Australia ATM so that may explain the practical usefulness of the education degrees. (And indeed, lots of people with Arts degrees in less marketable subjects go on to do a 1 or 2 year bridging course and qualify as teachers).

My own career trajectory was: part-time work for community not-for-profit publishing group while doing degree; then to larger commercial publishing house on graduation; then public sector publication role with state archives; then policy adviser role with state archives; then senior policy adviser role with large government department. I don’t think history per se got me onto this track (if it can be characterised as a track rather than a series of random hops) but a higher degree in an Arts discipline was definitely favoured.

By: j Mon, 02 May 2011 14:02:35 +0000 Nice slam on Psychology there, Susan. I wouldn’t slam the writing and other rigorous education my students get in their English and History classes. Our graduates do a hell of a lot of writing in their Psychology courses (both general papers as well as research articles) and also have a rigorous statistical and methodological training that lands them some pretty well-paying jobs.

By: FrauTech Fri, 29 Apr 2011 00:42:54 +0000 Yeah piping in to agreeing with the others, a “tech” degree is like engineering lite. The only time I would claim it is useless is because occasionally people at universities are fooled into thinking it’s just an easier program that will get them the same job in the end. It won’t, can’t be an engineer with a “tech” degree usually. So you take a lot lower pay over lifetime for maybe the same cost in degree.

I kind of hate all this “highest paying” or useless stuff. Not that I’d advice anyone to go major in art history. While I still think engineering is incredibly useful (compared to other majors) especially if you enjoy it, it’s still not “the answer” to perfect employment. I see mechanical engineering everywhere and it’s my discipline so I know very well that America just doesn’t make stuff anymore. If i had to advise someone interested in engineering now I’d tell them to do electrical or software. Though software’s getting heavily outsourced, it’s still fairly high in demand. If you work in mechanical you figure out it’s kind of like academia where you may have to go work in the boonies just to have a job because that’s where Bob’s Tractor Designs is based.

I’m having a tough time this week with a young family member who’s interested in majoring in marine biology. She understands it will probably require her to get her masters at a minimum and likely her PhD. I think it’s great she’s so driven and to go into STEM is fantastic, but are there any jobs in marine biology these days? Ugh! What do you do? Shut my mouth and encourage her to do what she wants? What if it was journalism or something we all agree is suffering horribly?

By: Dr. Crazy Thu, 28 Apr 2011 13:33:52 +0000 H – I didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t get understand English, but there actually are a fair number of departments where “English literature” or “English and American Literature” or some variation of that is the major listed on a transcript, as opposed to “English,” so I didn’t find the separating the two weird at all.

By: Susan Thu, 28 Apr 2011 13:14:13 +0000 The more logical methodology would have been to look at the average earnings of college grads with particular majors, instead of attributing a major to a career. And there the evidence is clear that English, history, and other disciplines that provide lots of writing provide a strong starting point. By mid-career, English and history majors are earning more than psychology majors.

Our students are absurdly fond of psychology, though…

By: Historiann Thu, 28 Apr 2011 12:00:38 +0000 Feminist Avatar: I think you’re right that the methodology here was designed to select for vocational degrees. Very few history majors become professional historians (or even history teachers at the 7-12 level). If History majors were measured against those numbers, it would unquestionably have one of the poorest showings (esp. re: job growth! But that’s nothing new in the past 40 years in higher ed. . . )

And, Dr. Crazy: I realize that English departments are essentially multidisciplinary. My comment was more along the lines of “why did the Daily Beast separate Lit from the other English concentrations,” as in the case of Art/Art History/Fine Arts degrees. They seem to be making a distinction without a tremendous difference.

Originally I thought “well, maybe they’re trying to include Comp Lit and foreign language literature too” in the “Literature” major, but I don’t see any evidence of that. It may be that because of the assaults on foreign language departments lately in the U.S.–along with U.S. hostility/contempt for language study–that the number of Comp Lit/foreign language lit majors is so small as to be irrelevant to the study.

By: Feminist Avatar Thu, 28 Apr 2011 10:16:22 +0000 I don’t think the relationship between the career and the degree was ‘scientifically calculated’ as they said ‘using the profession most associated with the degree’. So in other words, they looked at a list of careers and decided what degree was most associated with that field, and then slated the degree based on the success of that field.

Do people really tend to end up in careers so closely associated with their u/grad degree, especially at mid-career level? How many people change careers many times before that stage? I think vocational degrees might be one of the only places where this relationship is statistically true.

By: Janice Thu, 28 Apr 2011 02:22:10 +0000 From a former engineering major, the engineering tech program at my alma mater already has me o_O at starting with precalculus in their plan of study. Weenies! So, I would assume this is aimed at students who lack a strong STEM preparation before coming to university.

That said, I sucked at MechEng (one of the reasons I finally settled on history as a major). But I think that their list of useless majors is pretty useless. I know places where people can go far with such degrees or ones in hort or ag. You just might not do so well wherever the Daily Beast’s people hang out, I guess.

By: Dr. Crazy Thu, 28 Apr 2011 02:03:16 +0000 “Also, why is “Literature” separate from “English?””

Lit is separate from “English” because “English” includes the fields of linguistics, rhet/comp, professional writing, creative writing, and English education. So English is the catch-all while a degree in English *literature* is something more specific. And I think English/Literature are in the top 20 in part because of the fact that they evaluated not only the ability to get a job with the degree (this is actually not that difficult for people who major in English – whatever their emphasis, interestingly) but also the wage-earning potential. English majors can get jobs, but they tend to be at the lower end of the pay scale. This is why many English majors ultimately go on to get advanced degrees (I’m assuming that they were only evaluating employability based on BA alone, and that they left people with grad degrees out of the mix?)

By: Nicole Thu, 28 Apr 2011 02:02:15 +0000 Historiann– It’s not quite that. They are practical degrees for which there are jobs, it’s just that they’re a mix between a junior college degree and a four year degree (similar to many nursing degrees, which can be offered at junior colleges and 4 year universities). Their graduates tend to work for engineers. They don’t design, they implement. There’s less theory in the major, and for someone interested in doing hands-on work without quite so much math, they’re a good fit. If someone discovers they love engineering at community college, it may take less time for a credit or time-constrained student to graduate as well since they wouldn’t have to do most of the 4 years from scratch like they might have to for an engineering degree.

But it’s also a big destination for failed engineering majors (and it makes sense– if it only takes 2-3 years to get the required courses for the major, someone who flunked out of an engineering degree can complete the degree without starting as a freshman). Unfortunately, if the reason they failed engineering was because of something like study habits, then they are going to fail out of the technology version of the degree too.

So no, I wouldn’t say it’s a scam.

BTW, while the BLS is great for salary information, the other thing they use to get salaries is really unrepresentative (both selected and small sample size).