Monday, October 10, 2011

Half Sigma and Unemployed College Graduates

Half Sigma writes in response to an instapundit letter from a reader:

As I previously wrote, two-thirds of college graduates major in something that sounds vocational or practical, and “area, ethnic, cultural, and gender studies” is an extremely rare major. I suspect that many of them have rich parents or went to Ivy League schools so they weren’t concerned about their job prospects. The reason why college graduates are unemployed is because no one is hiring anyone and not because they majored in the wrong subjects.
I’ve also been against the expansion of student loans for as long as I have been blogging. Eight years ago I was talking about the issue before anyone else. Back in the mid-1990s, I sent a letter to my Congressman about the problem (and received a form letter in reply). As usual, I was ahead of the times.

Here are a couple of my thoughts on college and employment.

  • There are systemic problems with our higher (and to a greater extent, the whole) education system and general economy that can be fixed.  This is a primary reason why college graduates are unemployed.  
  • Some college graduates are unemployed (and less employable) because they majored in the wrong subjects.  Choices have consequences.  Half Sigma is wrong to believe that the student cannot be blamed--in political science terminology, the structure vs. agency debate is simply structure for him with no consideration of agency agency. Of course if you have an IQ of 105 you don't really have much choice but to major in something easy.
  • More importantly, some college graduates are unemployed because they went to the wrong school.  
  • The people who have it real bad are lower and middle-class students who took on large amounts of debt to major in a useless subject at an expensive but mediocre private college.  Davver sums it up in a nutshell, "Its useless if your poor. Rich people are suppose to major in non vocational studies. Poor people serve rich people and are supposed to major in vocational stuff.
    A few poor people thought they were rich people. Mistake."
  • The only majors that are really practical in are engineering, nursing, and accounting.  
"D" writes:
I agree with Jack. Not everyone is meant to be a damn engineer or medical doctor. I am getting real sick and tired of people saying this. I attend a top university and I know quite a few people that have so called useless degrees with well paying well jobs. All of these people before graduating had strong internships as well a high gpas which allowed to get into competitive graduate schools long after.
The school that you attend is very important.  If you attend an elite school, you can major in whatever you want, and still have reasonable career options, mostly in business.  You will have access to premier internships from on-campus recruiting.  Take advantage of it.   But nothing is certain in this economy,as evidenced by the anecdotal stories of Ivy League graduates without jobs on the internet.

If you attend a good state school, you will have decent career options, but major is more important than it is at elite schools.  If you attend Cal, UNC, Texas, Michigan, Virginia, Indiana (schools with highly ranked business programs), etc, major in business and you will have a shot at top management consulting and investment banking positions (most likely regional office).  If high prestige positions are not of interest, you will still have good chances at securing a job with a Fortune 500 firm from on-campus recruiting.  In any event, you can major in accounting and go to work at Big 4.  Or you can major in engineering at these schools and still do well (provided you are actually decent at engineering).  DO NOT major in liberal arts if you are considering a career in business.  A humanities major from Michigan is severely limited when compared to a humanities major from Yale.  In fact, at many schools like Michigan where undergraduate business school is an elite program, companies often only target business majors, leaving you out of luck if you are in the liberal arts school.

If you attend a school not in the two categories listed above, major in accounting (where you can get a job at a regional Big 4 or a middle-market firm), nursing, or engineering.  This is if you do not have plans to go to professional school.  If you are attending a school not in categories one and two you may be intelligent enough  to make it to a decent medical school or pharmacy school so that is an option.  But you are more than likely to not be smart enough to make a top LSAT score which is required for getting into a T14 law school, so don't do that, since Law School is a scam.

A student with a business degree from Southern Illinois is not that much better off than a student with a humanities degree from the same school.  Once you reach a certain lower threshold of school quality, major doesn't matter that much anymore (outside of the three I named), much like it doesn't matter once you hit a certain upper threshold, except in this case, the student is in much worse shape.

On-campus recruiting is EXTREMELY important.  The first job that you get (or don't get) is very important towards your career development.  And most of the good jobs come from on-campus recruiting.  So if your university doesn't have good on-campus recruiting and is not academically strong, your options will be SEVERELY LIMITED.  So don't go in debt to pay 43 grand a year to major in History at Skidmore College.  Just don't do it.

The bottom line is that many students who are in college now SHOULD NOT be in college as they have neither the interest nor the aptitude for real learning or appreciation of the subjects at hand.

I am always surprised at how many students do not show up to a 150$ class (that's how much you pay per class at many private schools), even when the professor is good (and these are smart kids).  Most kids with IQs <120 are wasting their time in college.

1 comment:

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