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(Huffington Post)   Fine, fine, I'll admit humanities majors are among the most successful graduates. This is, of course, a group trend and not necessarily applicable to you. Now, can you get me my latte? I have a real job to get to   (huffingtonpost.com ) divider line
    More: Unlikely, selection bias, Carlyle Group, modern language, David Rubenstein, English Literature, arts, social sciences, Southern England  
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1347 clicks; posted to Geek » on 30 Jan 2014 at 11:00 AM (2 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-01-30 09:32:17 AM  
They keep claiming this, but all the humanities majors at work are stuck at the bottom of the salary ranges.
 
2014-01-30 09:48:14 AM  

LordZorch: They keep claiming this, but all the humanities majors at work are stuck at the bottom of the salary ranges.


Where do you work?
 
2014-01-30 10:15:51 AM  
In the last thread, we all decided that the numbers are skewed by people who go on to get law, medical, and other graduate degrees. They're counted as "humanities" people, even though their undergraduate degree contributes little to their earnings potential.
 
2014-01-30 10:18:27 AM  

LordZorch: They keep claiming this, but all the humanities majors at work are stuck at the bottom of the salary ranges.



"In addition to the self-selection bias (creative writing majors will likely be less motivated to earn lots of money than business majors)...."
 
2014-01-30 10:18:42 AM  
Title: "Irrefutable Evidence." Article: anecdotal evidence without a trace of statistics. Conclusion: probably written by a humanities major.
 
2014-01-30 10:23:50 AM  
For some reason I'm remembering every classmate of mine in college telling me computer skills and information technology were the only fields that would be hiring in the early 21st century. Turns out they were hiring in the third world, but I guess they were right.
 
2014-01-30 10:29:44 AM  
As a guy who has a BA in Philosophy and has been a programmer for 17+ years, I'm getting a kick out of this thread.
 
2014-01-30 10:33:36 AM  

EyeballKid: For some reason I'm remembering every classmate of mine in college telling me computer skills and information technology were the only fields that would be hiring in the early 21st century. Turns out they were hiring in the third world, but I guess they were right.


The American IT and Computer industries are at right around 3% unemployment, which is considered to be fully employed.
 
2014-01-30 10:37:12 AM  

Fubini: In the last thread, we all decided that the numbers are skewed by people who go on to get law, medical, and other graduate degrees. They're counted as "humanities" people, even though their undergraduate degree contributes little to their earnings potential.


Yeah, it was my graduate degree in humanities that got me a good job, not the BA.
 
2014-01-30 10:43:16 AM  

sigdiamond2000: LordZorch: They keep claiming this, but all the humanities majors at work are stuck at the bottom of the salary ranges.

Where do you work?


IHOP?
 
2014-01-30 11:05:14 AM  
Carly Fiorina, Medieval History & Philosophy

farm4.staticflickr.com
 
2014-01-30 11:09:08 AM  
I had a roommate who switched from Physics to Philosophy. He was convinced that companies would be anxious to scoop him up because he "knew how to think". I'm pretty sure he just switched majors because he wanted a way to be arrogant about his intelligence without having to prove it.
 
2014-01-30 11:11:14 AM  
Good list, some people who were already rich and never had to go to college in the first place and some writers and directors that it made no difference what their major was and and some broad who probably slept to where she is. Very applicable to the real world.
 
2014-01-30 11:15:39 AM  

Fubini: In the last thread, we all decided that the numbers are skewed by people who go on to get law, medical, and other graduate degrees. They're counted as "humanities" people, even though their undergraduate degree contributes little to their earnings potential.


How does pre-med count as humanities? That's nothing but science courses.
 
2014-01-30 11:17:17 AM  
Eh, I got an English degree and am quite happy with my current place in life. Granted much of it came because of my skills and not my degree, but it's all good.
 
2014-01-30 11:17:48 AM  

Mugato: Good list, some people who were already rich and never had to go to college in the first place and some writers and directors that it made no difference what their major was and and some broad who probably slept to where she is. Very applicable to the real world.


Yep, if you look at the folks in that list that are outside the entertainment sector, they all pretty much have accompanying MBAs or M.S. degrees.
 
2014-01-30 11:21:35 AM  

HeadLever: Yep, if you look at the folks in that list that are outside the entertainment sector, they all pretty much have accompanying MBAs or M.S. degrees.


I'm surprised Spielberg didn't go to film school. I thought he and Lucas and Copolla were all buddies at USC. The accompanied story said that he just walked into the Universal Studios lot with a suit looking important and got right in. Must have been nice back then. Now if he saw someone try that he'd have them gunned down and fed to the mechanical shark on the Jaws ride.
 
2014-01-30 11:23:37 AM  

INeedAName: Eh, I got an English degree and am quite happy with my current place in life. Granted much of it came because of my skills and not my degree, but it's all good.



What do you do with a B.A. in English?
What is my life going to be?
4 years of college,
And plenty of knowledge,
Have earned me this useless degree!
I can't pay the bills yet,
'Cause I have no skills yet,
The world is a big scary place!
But somehow I can't shake,
The feeling I might make,
A difference to the human race!
 
2014-01-30 11:24:47 AM  
Well some of the world's richest people dropped out or didn't go to college at all.

It still isn't the way to bet given the odds. I put it in same category as betting on green in roulette. Sure it can pay off; but I wouldn't bet my life savings on it.
 
2014-01-30 11:27:41 AM  

EyeballKid: For some reason I'm remembering every classmate of mine in college telling me computer skills and information technology were the only fields that would be hiring in the early 21st century. Turns out they were hiring in the third world, but I guess they were right.


Well no one I know in IT has ever been unemployed for more than a month in over 10 years, and even though I haven't applied for a new job in over 8 years and I still get probably a dozen email offers to go for interviews from various employment agencies every month, so as far as I can tell it has been pretty solid for all of the 21st century so far.
 
2014-01-30 11:28:57 AM  

Nabb1: Fubini: In the last thread, we all decided that the numbers are skewed by people who go on to get law, medical, and other graduate degrees. They're counted as "humanities" people, even though their undergraduate degree contributes little to their earnings potential.

How does pre-med count as humanities? That's nothing but science courses.



Nope... pre-med requires:
Gen Chem I & II
Organic Chem I & II (with lab)
Physics I & II (usually with lab)
At least one advanced biomed-related course, usually Biochemistry, Genetics, Cell Biology, or Molecular Biology (most students take two or three of these to prepare for the MCAT)

That's it, really. Med schools have the lowest set of specific science requirements of any health profession, as far as I know.

/pharm, dental and p.a. programs have higher requirements
 
2014-01-30 11:34:28 AM  
Michael Jordan is the highest paid geographer in the world.
 
2014-01-30 11:37:32 AM  
FTA:
Here are 10 highly successful people, from TV hosts to presidential candidates to Wall Street CEOs, who prove that humanities majors are anything but useless -- and that money isn't a very good judge of a college major.

Mitt Romney, English


Yes, Mitt Romney is successful because of his English degree, not because he was born into an already successful family. Stopped reading there.
 
2014-01-30 11:48:33 AM  

Spandau: As a guy who has a BA in Philosophy and has been a programmer for 17+ years, I'm getting a kick out of this thread.


As a guy with a CS degree that spent several years working daycare instead, I get a kick out of using a type of degree to try to describe a type of person.
 
2014-01-30 11:55:41 AM  

Nabb1: How does pre-med count as humanities? That's nothing but science courses.


It doesn't, but most places don't actually have a pre-med major. They have a set of requirements for something like a pre-med endorsement on top of a regular major (this is important in part because a lot of pre-med students end up not finishing medical school, and those people need something to fall back on).

If you wanted to, you could get a degree in comparative literature studies with a pre-med endorsement, but what's more common around here is something like a psychology, sociology, or exercise science degree with a pre-med endorsement for people looking to go into certain fields psychiatry or sports medicine.

Thus, you can get a humanities major, but still end up eventually with an MD. The earnings potential between someone with a BA in psychology and a MD in psychiatry is vastly greater than someone who just has a BA in psychology.
 
2014-01-30 12:03:05 PM  
I don't think anyone ever said people shouldn't get a degree they want. I think the only message was just don't take out a $200,000 loan to do it at a trendy private arts college in NYC, and then insist that it's "unfair" you have to pay back the loan. Also don't complain if the employment market isn't knocking down your door, throwing 7 digit bonus checks at you, as a highly paid "VP of art history". That's all.
 
2014-01-30 12:13:35 PM  
But is future earning potential really the best way to judge an area of study?

Absolutely, if you are getting that degree in order to enter the workforce!

If you're independently wealthy, a person of leisure, sure, study greek or philosophy or whatever.

But if you need to work for a living, I'd recommend learning something with a bit more earning potential.
 
2014-01-30 12:15:58 PM  

Spandau: As a guy who has a BA in Philosophy and has been a programmer for 17+ years, I'm getting a kick out of this thread.


I'm assuming the value of the philosophy degree was "it was very easy to get, which left me time to learn something useful, like programming?"
 
2014-01-30 12:25:43 PM  

sendtodave: But is future earning potential really the best way to judge an area of study?

Absolutely, if you are getting that degree in order to enter the workforce!

If you're independently wealthy, a person of leisure, sure, study greek or philosophy or whatever.

But if you need to work for a living, I'd recommend learning something with a bit more earning potential.


I don't think that future earning potential is as important as making wise financial decisions. If I get a $200,000 degree in engineering, get a job at $60K per year, I can knuckle down and pay $30K per year towards that loan if I have to. If I get a $200,000 degree in comparative literature, and get a job at $40K per year, I would be physically unable to make the payments required by any lender.
 
2014-01-30 12:30:52 PM  

sendtodave: Spandau: As a guy who has a BA in Philosophy and has been a programmer for 17+ years, I'm getting a kick out of this thread.

I'm assuming the value of the philosophy degree was "it was very easy to get, which left me time to learn something useful, like programming?"


That and they were handing out programming job offers in cereal boxes back then. I got one in 1999 with no degree at all. Try that nowadays.
 
2014-01-30 12:33:21 PM  

Fubini: a $200,000 degree in comparative literature


That's... that's a thing?

That exists?  At that price?

Anyway, it's the same thing.  We're both talking ROI.  If that doesn't matter?  You can just eat the cost?  Get whatever degree you want.  Have fun!

But if ROI does matter?  Then you'd better get a degree that positions you to get a job that pays.

It's like anything.  For some people, a house, or a car is an investment.  They need to choose wisely!  For others (the rich), they're just toys.
 
2014-01-30 12:34:04 PM  

sigdiamond2000: LordZorch: They keep claiming this, but all the humanities majors at work are stuck at the bottom of the salary ranges.

Where do you work?


Aerospace
 
2014-01-30 12:35:07 PM  

Mugato: sendtodave: Spandau: As a guy who has a BA in Philosophy and has been a programmer for 17+ years, I'm getting a kick out of this thread.

I'm assuming the value of the philosophy degree was "it was very easy to get, which left me time to learn something useful, like programming?"

That and they were handing out programming job offers in cereal boxes back then. I got one in 1999 with no degree at all. Try that nowadays.


Programming is closed off nowadays?

NOC and support can still get away with "work the trenches for a few years, get some certs, colleges don't teach vendor specific stuff anyway."
 
2014-01-30 12:37:35 PM  

LordZorch: sigdiamond2000: LordZorch: They keep claiming this, but all the humanities majors at work are stuck at the bottom of the salary ranges.

Where do you work?

Aerospace


Do you sell directly to the public, or just government work?

See, that's the thing.  Humanities majors will tend to do do two types of things.  Lesser paying admin jobs, and high paying sales jobs.   Sometimes project management in, like, marketing dept or something,, if they can swing it.
 
2014-01-30 12:40:36 PM  

sendtodave: Programming is closed off nowadays?

NOC and support can still get away with "work the trenches for a few years, get some certs, colleges don't teach vendor specific stuff anyway."


I didn't say "closed off" but the late 1990's/2000's are over. A combination of the tech bubble bursting, outtsourcing (that's biting them in the ass productivity wise but the numbers look good on this quarter's reports) and too many people jumping on the bandwagon, it's not as easy to break into it as it was, that's all I meant.

/I got mine
//left for filmmaking because programming is farking ponderous
 
2014-01-30 12:46:04 PM  
Some BLS data on unemployment by education level (all seasonally-adjusted numbers).

Less than HS diploma:
Dec 12 - 11.6
Aug 13 - 11.3
Sept 13 - 10.4
Oct 13 - 10.8
Nov 13 - 10.6
Dec 13 - 9.8

HS grads (no college:
Dec 12 - 8.1
Aug 13 - 7.5
Sept 13 - 7.5
Oct 13 - 7.3
Nov 13 - 7.3
Dec 13 - 7.1

Some college or Associates' Degree:
Dec 12 - 6.9
Aug 13 - 6.1
Sept 13 - 6.1
Oct 13 - 6.3
Nov 13 - 6.4
Dec 13 - 6.1

Bachelor's Degree and higher:
Dec 12 - 4.0
Aug 13 - 3.5
Sept 13 - 3.7
Oct 13 - 3.8
Nov 13 - 3.4
Dec 13 - 3.3

A cursory reading makes it look like you're twice as likely to get a job when you're out of work and looking for one when you hold a Bachelor's or higher degree.
 
2014-01-30 12:46:34 PM  

Fubini: EyeballKid: For some reason I'm remembering every classmate of mine in college telling me computer skills and information technology were the only fields that would be hiring in the early 21st century. Turns out they were hiring in the third world, but I guess they were right.

The American IT and Computer industries are at right around 3% unemployment, which is considered to be fully employed.


This.

So it turns out that if there's an Indian willing to work for $15K, and you're willing to work for $105K, then all you have to do is be worth 8x (employer payroll taxes) what the Indian guy is worth.

And since all the Indians that are actually worth hiring came over HERE on H1-B's to make $40-50K*, and there's some really serious cultural issues (and the 24-hour turnaround on any questions that need to be asked). that's not hard.

*IE: Not nearly enough to make rent in the East Bay.
 
2014-01-30 12:47:05 PM  

sendtodave: Mugato: sendtodave: Spandau: As a guy who has a BA in Philosophy and has been a programmer for 17+ years, I'm getting a kick out of this thread.

I'm assuming the value of the philosophy degree was "it was very easy to get, which left me time to learn something useful, like programming?"

That and they were handing out programming job offers in cereal boxes back then. I got one in 1999 with no degree at all. Try that nowadays.

Programming is closed off nowadays?

NOC and support can still get away with "work the trenches for a few years, get some certs, colleges don't teach vendor specific stuff anyway."


Whenever I hear someone complain about something like this (and this is coming from someone with over 20 years of programming and is currently the general manager for a mid sized international software firm), I think to myself, boy you must be crap.


Software engineering/'programming is the most clear cut hiring process in the world it goes like this:


1) Check CV for applicable language/technology skills.
2) Check CV for past history working on projects/technology similar to your current goals.
3) If they interview well, then hire them.

No where in this equation does someone's degree (or lack thereof) come into play. Frankly, and I think this is to the man, no one in my organization has ever given a rats ass about where someone has graduated from. It's about one thing - can you farking ship code.

I'm actually more inclined to hire someone who has aptitude and (the right) attitude over almost any other qualifying factor. We run full SCRUM so we have a very specific team culture and regardless of how well educated or experienced you are, if you can't fit into it, you're going to be bloody useless.
 
2014-01-30 12:57:20 PM  

sendtodave: Spandau: As a guy who has a BA in Philosophy and has been a programmer for 17+ years, I'm getting a kick out of this thread.

I'm assuming the value of the philosophy degree was "it was very easy to get, which left me time to learn something useful, like programming?"


Actually, most studies I've seen put philosophy near the top end of the difficult majors, along with most STEM disciplines.

You want the bottom of the barrel?  Business.
 
2014-01-30 12:59:36 PM  
No where in this equation does someone's degree (or lack thereof) come into play. Frankly, and I think this is to the man, no one in my organization has ever given a rats ass about where someone has graduated from. It's about one thing - can you farking ship code.

Yeah, that's more what I figured.

I'm actually more inclined to hire someone who has aptitude and (the right) attitude over almost any other qualifying factor. We run full SCRUM so we have a very specific team culture and regardless of how well educated or experienced you are, if you can't fit into it, you're going to be bloody useless.

Do they even cover agile and SCRUM in college courses?  Really, I have no idea.  A cursory search makes it seem courses are typically of the "career development" variety.

Anyway, it still seems to hold that IT is one of the safest employment sectors, with a fairly low barrier to entry.  You don't even *need* a college degree.  It might be something to "put in your toolbox," in corporate douche speak, but is it as useful as vendor/product/framework/language specific knowledge?  Nope.

You may have to compete against H-1Bs sometimes, but that still beats slinging lattes.  And you aren't in a 150K hole from jump!
 
2014-01-30 01:00:58 PM  

TwistedFark: I'm actually more inclined to hire someone who has aptitude and (the right) attitude over almost any other qualifying factor. We run full SCRUM so we have a very specific team culture and regardless of how well educated or experienced you are, if you can't fit into it, you're going to be bloody useless.


I dunno, you obviously know more about hiring than I do but it seems to me knowing the theory and methodology of programming in general is more important than learning the syntax to whatever specific language your company happens to be working in. It's the difference between someone who can adapt to any changes your company makes and offering creative solutions based on things they've learned outside the company and hiring a code monkey with a limited skill set. But maybe a code monkey is what you want and that's cool.
 
2014-01-30 01:07:08 PM  

Mugato: TwistedFark: I'm actually more inclined to hire someone who has aptitude and (the right) attitude over almost any other qualifying factor. We run full SCRUM so we have a very specific team culture and regardless of how well educated or experienced you are, if you can't fit into it, you're going to be bloody useless.

I dunno, you obviously know more about hiring than I do but it seems to me knowing the theory and methodology of programming in general is more important than learning the syntax to whatever specific language your company happens to be working in. It's the difference between someone who can adapt to any changes your company makes and offering creative solutions based on things they've learned outside the company and hiring a code monkey with a limited skill set. But maybe a code monkey is what you want and that's cool.


I can't imagine my company just saying "oh, we're going to use a different language or platform!" without at least a friggen year heads up.

And not even then, really.  We still have Java programmers for the almost ten year old tomcat servers we can't even seem to sunset.

/facts in this post may be exaggerated
 
2014-01-30 01:18:43 PM  
While I agree that the whole "Humanities are useless!" refrain is dead wrong, I similarly hate the "Humanities teach you critical thinking!" bullshiat. If you are intelligent and critical you pick up critical thinking skills by doing any sort of hard, critical, analytic type studies. But I see just as many humanities majors that come out with some serious group-think tendencies as well. I don't think the humanities do any better of a job teaching critical thinking skills as any other degree.
 
2014-01-30 01:18:43 PM  

Mugato: TwistedFark: I'm actually more inclined to hire someone who has aptitude and (the right) attitude over almost any other qualifying factor. We run full SCRUM so we have a very specific team culture and regardless of how well educated or experienced you are, if you can't fit into it, you're going to be bloody useless.

I dunno, you obviously know more about hiring than I do but it seems to me knowing the theory and methodology of programming in general is more important than learning the syntax to whatever specific language your company happens to be working in. It's the difference between someone who can adapt to any changes your company makes and offering creative solutions based on things they've learned outside the company and hiring a code monkey with a limited skill set. But maybe a code monkey is what you want and that's cool.


I don't know where you got the idea that I just want "code monkeys" from what I posted, it seems to me that it would be almost implicitly the opposite from what I described.

However, if you're suggesting that putting some sort of value on experience is not part of the hiring process - then I can tell you, that you're flat out wrong. Experience is valuable, we pay people a premium for it in every single industry on the planet and have done so for about as long as humans have been compensating each other for skilled labor.

You could almost say that education in a way is a form of experience, it's just not as valuable as actually demonstrating the application of the knowledge you've been taught. This seems imminently reasonable to me and I'd challenge anyone to offer a compelling counter argument to this assertion.
 
2014-01-30 01:25:33 PM  

Blues_X: LordZorch: They keep claiming this, but all the humanities majors at work are stuck at the bottom of the salary ranges.


"In addition to the self-selection bias (creative writing majors will likely be less motivated to earn lots of money than business majors)...."


Uh huh...
 
2014-01-30 01:30:16 PM  

sendtodave: I can't imagine my company just saying "oh, we're going to use a different language or platform!" without at least a friggen year heads up.


Well, no, but if it's a choice between "Guy who really, really gets the Windows API/COM, but can't learn anything else" and "Guy who really, really gets all the underlying concepts, and can get 80% of the way there on any language within a month of picking it up for the first time",

/Mind you, in much the same way that I always want 1 lazy/smart guy on my team, I really, really want 1 guy who really, truly deeply understands what is going on in my language of choice.  But that person is usually ALSO the 2nd choice at the same time.
 
2014-01-30 01:34:08 PM  

meyerkev: sendtodave: I can't imagine my company just saying "oh, we're going to use a different language or platform!" without at least a friggen year heads up.

Well, no, but if it's a choice between "Guy who really, really gets the Windows API/COM, but can't learn anything else" and "Guy who really, really gets all the underlying concepts, and can get 80% of the way there on any language within a month of picking it up for the first time", I'm hiring the 2nd guy.  

/Mind you, in much the same way that I always want 1 lazy/smart guy on my team, I really, really want 1 guy who really, truly deeply understands what is going on in my language of choice.  But that person is usually ALSO the 2nd choice at the same time.


FTFM.
 
2014-01-30 01:36:59 PM  

sendtodave: Do they even cover agile and SCRUM in college courses? Really, I have no idea. A cursory search makes it seem courses are typically of the "career development" variety.


Yeah, they do teach it, but it's not very well developed in my opinion. However, I don't think teaching the process is that important really, or maybe even something to worry about with a college level course. The rationale behind this is that the process itself is actually fairly easy to understand, it's more about the implementation of it at your business as well as the individual team members.

A good example of this is: How does someone deal with uncertainty. There is a lot of uncertainty in software dev and Agile aims to deal with this in a variety of different methods, but at the end of the day if you have a team that cannot do anything in a backlog grooming session except come up with extraneous tasks for them to do because they NEED to shore up positions about things that MAY happen before they even get moving on what obviously needs to get done for the next sprint, well then they are going to accomplish absolutely nothing. Essentially they end up doing "top down design" as part of Agile - which is the exact thing we are trying to avoid!

So, with that in mind, something we absolutely look for (the right attitude part) is "How does this person deal with uncertainty and where is their comfort level for it?" Someone who needs a lot of external assurances that they're doing the "Right thing" when we (stakeholders, product owners, etc) are assuming they are acting in good faith, is not as effective as someone who quickly does something, then confirms the results. The unsure person is going to spend a lot of time planning for things that are unlikely to happen because they are too worried about being caught out for having done something "wrong".

Obviously, the way we treat employees when they make a misstep informs this behaviour, but even then, some people cannot move past this as it represents a measure of their own internal certainty in their actions. I hope that makes sense.

This isn't pure speculation on my part, it's a pretty common supposition about how agile should work as well as something that's been born out to be true from my practical years of managing software companies.
 
2014-01-30 01:41:15 PM  

Fubini: EyeballKid: For some reason I'm remembering every classmate of mine in college telling me computer skills and information technology were the only fields that would be hiring in the early 21st century. Turns out they were hiring in the third world, but I guess they were right.

The American IT and Computer industries are at right around 3% unemployment, which is considered to be fully employed.



And damn near too close to being too much. When you get unemployment THAT low, you tend to see rampant salary growth to retain what is essentially a dry labor pool.
 
2014-01-30 01:42:12 PM  

TwistedFark: You could almost say that education in a way is a form of experience, it's just not as valuable as actually demonstrating the application of the knowledge you've been taught. This seems imminently reasonable to me and I'd challenge anyone to offer a compelling counter argument to this assertion.


All I'm saying is that knowing the theory behind programming is important as well. For instance I was hired for a Java gig (a long time ago obviously), didn't know a word of it but since I knew C++ and the concepts of object oriented programming, I picked it up in a few days. It's not like being hired by the UN as an interpreter for China and only knowing French, if you know what goes behind developing a programming language, they're all easy to pick up but I do think you should have some educational background as well as experience. Or not, who cares. I edit films now.
 
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