They’re the two questions that any college student is hard pressed to avoid: “What are you majoring in?” and “What do you plan to do with that degree?”
The first question is a simple one. The second, however, has the ability to raise students’ heartbeats (as they break into a sweat) pondering what exactly they will be doing after the four-year whirlwind that is college.
As many recent graduates can attest — and many current students as well — thinking about life after college can foster a bit of apprehension, especially during turbulent economic times.
USA TODAY recently reported that 6.9 million jobs were lost between in September 2008 and August 2010, but in the last year and a half there has been a gain of 3.1 million jobs. That gain would seem to bode well for college students.
Yet, Anna Dobben, a senior English major at Emory University, is not convinced.
Dobben was a bit taken aback by the report, as she recalls reading a multitude of articles stating the opposite. She did note that most articles she read referenced majors in the liberal arts and the humanities, telling students pursuing those degrees that a dark and difficult time may lie ahead.
“As an English major, I have been told through a variety of media that I will not find a job. Every time I turn on the television there’s another article about how you have to be an accounting major to succeed. There are hundreds of articles about the futility of liberal arts degrees,” said Dobben.
Dobben’s argument doesn’t go unsupported.
Sorry liberal arts kids, but in a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employees (NACE), class of 2012 graduates most likely to receive job offers majored in accounting, engineering, computer science, economics and business administration.
Sarah Kuzmack, a junior at Boston University studying athletic training/physical therapy, (part of BU’s six year combined Bachelor of Science/Doctor of Physical Therapy program) corroborates NACE’s findings saying, “The field you want to go into determines your likelihood of getting a job based upon the demand of people in need for that particular set of skills. It just so happens that my major is one of the lucky fields in which the demand has been on an increase.”
Kuzmack also notes that upon completion of her program, BU has already guaranteed her a 97% placement rate—something students like Dobben would surely envy.
For Derek Kirch, a senior at Syracuse University majoring in music industry, the report from NACE is unsurprising.
“I live with a bunch of engineers, ranging from Aerospace to biomedical, and they have a much better outlook on jobs than I do! Not that mine is bad, but they aren’t worried at all. Companies need engineers desperately, they don’t necessarily need music majors,” said Kirch.
Junior Julianna Lepore, majoring in East Asian studies (specializing in Chinese language) at Ursinus College, shares Kirch’s sentiments, noting that despite these new employment statistics, she is still apprehensive about entering the job market upon graduation.
“Looking around us, schools budgets aren’t passing and teaching positions are becoming scarce, so what does that say to graduates with teaching degrees?” Lepore said. “My major certainly affects my view and I am hoping that my uncommon major choice combined with a business minor will make me desirable — especially with such a global economy.”
But does that mean that liberal arts students should jump ship and pursue the degrees that guarantee them the greatest financial reward? Certainly not.
“I see people forcing themselves through financial majors just because they will get a job. I’d rather do something that I’m passionate about (and good at) than suffer for four years to only maybe get a job after college,” said Dobben.
The new statistics do light a small, flickering flame within these passionate twenty-somethings longing for employment in a field that they love.
As Kirch said, “I know that I will find a job that I love, simply because I refuse to do anything otherwise.”
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