Tag: liberal arts

UW-Madison Student: The Overlooked Economic Value of an Art History Degree

Kelsey Mullane, a University of Wisconsin-Madison junior, writes in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that recent remarks by President Barack Obama and Senator Marco Rubio on the economic value of a humanities degree are evidence of the decay of the humanities:

Today, students are choosing to pursue degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects rather than humanities degrees such as art history, history or philosophy. There are many possible explanations for the decline in students pursuing humanities degrees. However, I believe that the decline is occurring because undergraduate students possess a distorted perception of degree value that deems the humanities as economically inferior to STEM programs.

This perception of degree value is the product of increased criticism of the humanities following the economic recession. This criticism uses numeric data, such as starting salaries and post-graduation unemployment rates, to support the erroneous notion that the humanities teach impractical skills that hold little or no value in the current job market, thereby discouraging their study.

Mullane maintains that both STEM and humanities degrees offer economic value in today’s marketplace.

Rubenstein to World Economic Forum: Humanities Important for Future Job Success

David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle private equity firm, recently told world economic leaders gathering in Davos, Switzerland that students today need the critical thinking skills that are developed by the study of arts and humanities.

Rubenstein believes the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), has come at the expense of the study of literature and philosophy and that a well-rounded education based in the humanities will lead to greater success in one’s career. He noted that many top executives received degrees in the humanities and that technical job skills can be learned later on the job.

Rubenstein had these words for students choosing their course of study: “You shouldn’t enter college worried about what you will do when you exit,” noting that “H=MC — Humanities equals more cash.”


Liberal Arts Graduates and Employment

Liberal Arts Graduates coverThe National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and the Association of American Colleges and Universities released a report yesterday that provides data on employment outcomes of liberal arts graduates.

The report, Liberal Arts Graduates and Employment: Setting the Record Straight, compared salary and employment data of liberal arts majors with that of science, math, and engineering graduates and professional and pre-professional graduates.

The findings come at a time when a traditional liberal arts education is seen by some as a luxury and perhaps not the best path to a well-paying job:

“Recent attacks on the liberal arts by ill-informed commentators and policy makers have painted a misleading picture of the value of the liberal arts to individuals and our communities. As the findings in this report demonstrate, majoring in a liberal arts field can and does lead to successful and remunerative careers in a wide array of professions.” — Carol Geary Schneider, president AACU.

The study found that employers want workers with both broad knowledge and specific skills — four out of five employers agree that all students should have broad knowledge in liberal arts and sciences. 

The report also found salary outcomes should be measured over an entire career. Earnings of liberal arts graduates, especially those who attain advanced degrees, can outpace professional and pre-professional graduates over several decades.