April 27, 2011

The 20 "most useless" college degrees.

According to The Daily Beast. #1 is, ironically, journalism.

Actually, I think a lot of these degrees look damned useful, and I would scratch this post* — but the photo at #13 (Art History) is worth the clicking.
_______

*Sounds like something a cat would do!

82 comments:

TosaGuy said...

Some of those degrees are indeed very useful, especially the ones that facilitate the rest of us having food to eat. Those that are there for our mere entertainment, not quite so much.

TWM said...

I was going to say a couple of these looked like that had some use - agriculture and animal science to name two. Although my initial thinking was animal science had something to do with veterinary medicine which it does not, so maybe it is useless.

I'm thinking they are placing too much on pay as a factor in usefulness.

My middle son is majoring in music and minoring in education - his love is composing but he knows he will be a band director full-time, with the hope of getting his doctorate and running a college band program one day.

He knows he is never going to be rich, but he's happy which is all a parent can hope for in the end.

Rialby said...

Yup. Mine's in there.

Thank God I stumbled into the technology field.

Henry said...

As a visual arts major I would say that one certainly belongs.

But a lot of the other items listed dramatically miss the point. There may not be a lot of chemistry jobs out there, but a chemistry major will have a wealth of opportunity in related technical fields.

In theater, fashion design, and the lot there is a completely different economic model at play. In one sense the Daily Beast is right that these are useless as college degrees. But people don't pursue theater in search of a median salary. They pursue theater in search of making it big. Crowds of aspiring actors accept abysmal pay and sorry working conditions in exchange for a shot at the main chance.

LYNNDH said...

I am amazed at the starting salarys for these jobs. Guess I have been out of the job market too long. They seem high to me, but then I am old. It took my wife and I to decent, not high, wages.

PaulV said...

TWM, conductors live a long life, waving your arms is good for the heart.

Freeman Hunt said...

How did mechanical engineering get in there?

Freeman Hunt said...

As for all the dissing of the agricultural scientists, I think that feeding the world is pretty useful.

Class factotum said...

Where is Womyn's Studies? Where are any of the other Aggrieved Group Studies? Where is sociology?

Paddy O said...

One of the most blatant attempts to get links I've ever seen. Obviously doesn't care a whit about actual 'useless' degrees and instead is about getting the right people up in arms so they link to the post in order to dispute it.

Freeman Hunt said...

Where is Womyn's Studies? Where are any of the other Aggrieved Group Studies? Where is sociology?

This. Did they just exclude the ones that they thought would anger the cool people?

gerry said...

Thank God I stumbled into the technology field.

Ditto.

peter hoh said...

Is there a list of the most useless lists?

This one is short on substance.

The person who assembled this list didn't do much work. Perhaps he or she has one of those useless journalism degrees.

The "writer" of the piece leaves it up to us to figure out the difference between #15, Literature, and #19, English.

The stats for both are identical, except for the median mid-career salary, which is $65,700 for literature and $67,500 for English. At least it indicates that English entry wasn't copied and pasted from the Literature entry.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phil 3:14 said...

I listened to Tina Brown on NPR yesterday regarding the Royal Wedding. It afforded her a wonderful opportunity to bash Margaret Thatcher and the present Tory government. Key word: Draconian

So no I won't give her more hits and thus encourage her oh-so-hip-and-much-smarter-than-the-rest-of-us brand of (?)journalism.

DON'T FEED THE BEAST!

(PS: The laws Draco laid down were the first written constitution of Athens. That's good right?

And if Thatcher reduced the influence of government on private lives and enterprise can that really be called Draconian)

MarkG said...

The editors, no doubt journalism majors, prove how useless (worthless) a journalism degree is.

john said...

Yes, what happened to Angry Studies and Sociology?

OTOH Sex with Larry Flint coming in #3 seems about right.

MadisonMan said...

Chemistry is useless?

DADvocate said...

Mechanical engineering technology and chemistry seem like useful majors. Maybe they're down due to the economy but everyone I've known is those fields does OK at least.

The other majors, I agree with. Many of them are skill sets one can pick up and be successful with without going to college, agriculture, farming, Family studies, animal science, art history, ...

The Crack Emcee said...

Actually, I think a lot of these degrees look damned useful,...

Twits who've gone to college think everything in and from college is useful. Those of us from outside of college think you're full of shit. If you took all the inventions from the two worlds and judged them, based on sheer utility to mankind, a college education wouldn't be seen as worth much.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Class factotum said...

Where is Womyn's Studies? Where are any of the other Aggrieved Group Studies? Where is sociology?

Well, they defined "useless" based on job availability and starting salaries. Aggrieved Group Studies don't lead to any jobs, so they can't apply their scale to those.

Pastafarian said...

The compiler of this list is an obvious idiot. They base their list on nothing.

Mechanical engineering technology, chemistry, and agriculture are "useless?" What does that even mean?

Does he think they're useless to the student? Because those degrees have pretty high employment rates and pretty high salaries. Is he stupid enough to think that those 3 degrees are useless to society?

And he doesn't include half of the womyn's studies/sociology crud that's out there. Or the less-obvious MBA, perhaps the most useless piece of credential ever devised.

MarkG said...

Twits who've gone to college think everything in and from college is useful. Those of us from outside of college think you're full of shit.

People who've done something think it's useful, at the very least a life experience. People who've been in the military often think likewise. Same with people who've traveled the world or got married or hiked the Appalachian trail did any other significant human endeavor.

Don't be sucking on sour grapes.

vbspurs said...

AGRICULTURE? Useless? These people are nuts. In Britain, one of the most prestigious universities is the RAC (Royal Agricultural College), in Gloucestershire, farm heaven.

There is such a thing as elitism in education, and this is prime example number one.

vbspurs said...

Wow, I can't believe History didn't make it. See, dad, I told you it was useful!!

edutcher said...

Most of the liberal arts degrees are what are known in programming circles as, "Ya Want Fries With That?" degrees, but Freeman and Henry are right about Engineering and Chemistry, and vb may have a point with agriculture.

Class factotum said...

Where is Womyn's Studies? Where are any of the other Aggrieved Group Studies? Where is sociology?

Exactly.

Or such disciplines as Peace Studies.

The Drill SGT said...

Freeman Hunt said...
As for all the dissing of the agricultural scientists, I think that feeding the world is pretty useful.


as a grad of a school UC-Davis) that started as Cal's farm, I knew lots of Ag Engineering majors in college. (I expect WI has a good program).

You can not hope to run a successful farm business today without a college degree (or equiv) in business adminstration combined with a minor in soils science/botany.

It was true 40 years ago, and more true today. VDH wrote recently on this topic as I recall, based on his nearly 60 years living/running a family farm

vbspurs said...

Freeman Hunt wrote:

This. Did they just exclude the ones that they thought would anger the cool people?

Ding ding! Freeman broke the code.

Mark in Spokane said...

I am stunned that history didn't make the list. I was a history undergrad and while it was a great major, it doomed me to having to go to law school in order to find a paying job!

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

Mechanical Engineering Technology. Starting salary: $53,000, Mid-career median salary: $84,000

That's a useless degree?

Want a useless degree? Xxx Studies.

Want two more? What Henry and I majored in (Art & Film respectively. Henry is generally much smarter than me, but I wasn't dumb enough to get an MFA.)

Joe said...

Oh and Chemistry is actually quite valuable as a pre-med degree. (Given the importance of pharmaceuticals, it's arguably more important than Biology. Though I do wish potential doctors would take more classes in statistics.)

vbspurs said...

Mark in Spokane...another History major here who is likewise STUNNED History didn't make the cut -- but Chemistry (!) did? Ridiculous.

The author of this piece has a live and physical sciences bias, and gives social studies a pass. Commie.

Kirby Olson said...

I once saw an episode of Combat in which a fine arts painter was stuck in a foxhole with Kirby the Corporal. Kirby was pinned down by sniper fire. The fine arts painter was a pacifist, so couldn't shoot (he was there as a medic) but rather than accept the squad getting killed off, he looked up into the trees for bulges that didn't make sense in terms of what shadows should naturally be there, and he pointed out the bulges to Kirby, who sniped the snipers until they were all dead. Fine arts degrees are sometimes useful in niche situations, is what I'm saying.

Ricardo said...

Interesting how they list #2 (horticulture) and #3 (agriculture) as useless degrees, in light of the next thread on survival skills over the next 100 years. Sounds like maybe it was #1 (journalists) doing the ranking, and it proves that the #1 ranking is correct. But the #2s and #3s may actually turn out to be the ultimate survivors (outwit, outplay, outlast).

Chuck66 said...

Ag majors....I know a small number of people who have those. Basically in 21st century America, a smart educated farmers kid usually doesn't go into full time farming. But with an ag major, can work with farmers as an employee of....whoever it is that employees these people. Really they are not bad jobs.

Chuck66 said...

I wonder if many of those who have these majors are the types who go to college because that's what you are supposed to do. Then skated through 4 or 5 years of partying, then didn't have marketable skills upon graduation.

Pogo said...

Whatever degrees were excluded, for reasons indefensible, it is a certainty that the students' lenders found those degrees very useful indeed.

windbag said...

Photography was the one that got me. Reminds me of some friends' kid who started college as a music major. First day of class in a seminar with all the other freshmen music majors, the dean told them, "If you were real musicians, you'd be out there playing music, not here studying it."

windbag said...

Wow, I can't believe History didn't make it.

I was relieved it was missing.

Methadras said...

Mechanical Engineering is useless as a degree to these people? Seriously? Chemistry too? Without either, we wouldn't be sitting around here doing this.

Methadras said...

Look, this list should basically only include all of the sociological, soft science, art, lit., and other humanities degrees as being useless. They mostly are. As the resident Mechanical Engineer here (If there are others on here, let me know will ya.) I find it hard to believe that it is a useless degree. You can branch out into so many other tech fields with an ME degree. From physics to optics, to chemistry, to oceanography, even to agriculture. In my opinion an ME degree is the most versatile degree one can have.

Chuck66 said...

I know two people who have History majors. One couldn't get a teaching job, so now works in retail sales.

The other has an office type job that has not even a remote connection to History.

Unless you are highly talented (say a high level museum job), you are primarily limited to teaching. And do any of you know how hard it is to get a job teaching history? It's almost immpossible (unless you are a football or basketball coach).

William said...

I was an English major. I've owed my living more to my good looks and raw sexual magnetism than to my BA in EngLit, which is to say not at all. At any rate, when the uses of the world seem stale, flat, and unprofitable, I can dignify my sorrows by quoting Shakespeare which is more therapeutic than drawing mechanical diagrams.

windbag said...

Unless you are highly talented (say a high level museum job), you are primarily limited to teaching.

My dream job is as an interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg. My history degree provided me with skills more than knowledge. Surprisingly, those skills help me almost daily to run my business.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Methadras

ME: I'm gonna need to order switches for those air cylinders.
EE: Just make sure you order the PNP type.
ME: What's PNP?
EE: Never mind. I'll put them on my BOM.

ZorroPrimo said...

Womyn's Studies should be #1 on a silver platter surrounded by watercress.

DADvocate said...

Interesting how they list #2 (horticulture) and #3 (agriculture) as useless degrees...

These degrees are useless because they don't give you any real advantage over someone with decent OJT. In the rural area where I live there are dozens of farmers who never went to collge making good money.

I knew a guy with a landscape architecture degree who told me it was a tough business because anybody could open a private landscaping business.

Ankur said...

I agree with Methadras that an ME degree is probably one of the most versatile degrees around. Mary's comment that you "learn by building" is fine and dandy, but you cannot learn structural physics by "building". If that had worked, we would never have had suspension bridges, for example.

Also, part of an ME degree is Robotics - which is probably one of the most lucrative fields to go on to do a Ph.D in. I have Mechanical Engineer friends who are now designing robotic probes for use in surgery and medicine.

And Chemistry? What the heck? A degree in Chemistry would guarantee you a job anywhere in the world. However, it would probably have to be a graduate degree or a Ph.D. I don't think a chemistry undergrad would help in job-getting. But the point of a chemistry undergrad is NOT to get a job! It is to get into a good Chemistry graduate program, and then either a on to a Ph.D, or a job in the industry. Most industry needs chemistry grads: Food, Oil and Gas, Medicine and Biotechnology. Even silicon valley needs chemistry experts. EVERYONE needs chemistry experts.

I hate to say this, but from a career perspective, Chemistry might be even more useful than Physics (although Physics is mighty useful too)

John Lynch said...

OK, gonna go out a limb.

Notice that a lot of these are husband bait? Not the animal husbandry, of course, but the human kind?

They aren't about making a living. They are about being interesting enough to marry.

Tell me why I'm wrong.

Hagar said...

Freeman et al.

It says "Mechanical Engineering Technology," not Mechanical Engineering.
This probably is similar to degrees in Civil Engineering Technology and Civil Engineering. The difference is that the Technology majors take more field oriented courses (even testing laboratory courses so that they will know how material testing should be done!), and upon graduation they have to work as engineers for 6 years
before they can take professional registration examinations, whereas the CE's, with all theory courses, can get registered after just 4 years.

I think this is totally backwards, but in these days when "credentials" trump "skills," that is the way it is.

Foobarista said...

I think their methodology basically trimmed off the "angry studies" fields as it's hard to find the median and mid-career salaries for " studies professionals". The only non-academic career path for someone with a studies degree would be law school, followed by a career as a lobbyist.

Since successful lobbyists are measured by their connections, not their degrees, I'd imagine that even in this case, the degree doesn't add much value beyond the people who are met in the classes.

wv: mengi

Methadras said...

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Methadras

ME: I'm gonna need to order switches for those air cylinders.
EE: Just make sure you order the PNP type.
ME: What's PNP?
EE: Never mind. I'll put them on my BOM.


Hey, I resent that. I know what a PNP switch is. :D

Also, EE's need guys like me. You can't package your electronics and software in thin air. :D

Mark in Spokane said...

I think that studying history and English are worthwhile -- but not as majors. Take a good solid introductory course in western civ. or American history, then a good basic intro to English literature, and you will get enough of a map to use to educate yourself in those fields, if you are motivated.

jaed said...

I'm not sure I can even understand what they're trying to say. What's the difference between the "degree" and the "Undergraduate Field of Study"? A degree in "Child and Family Studies", with an Undergraduate Field of Study of "Family and Consumer Sciences"?

They are also comparing apples and oranges, because the salary data isn't from people who majored in the specified field - it's from people with the "job most associated with the degree". I'm not sure what the hell that means, unless the "useless degree" in the heading of each page is actually a "useless job title", and the "undergraduate field of study" is actually the major.

The Crack Emcee said...

MarkG,

People who've done something think it's useful, at the very least a life experience. People who've been in the military often think likewise. Same with people who've traveled the world or got married or hiked the Appalachian trail did any other significant human endeavor.

Don't be sucking on sour grapes.


Oh great, now you want me to starve, too!

William said...

Dorothy Parker said that you can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think. That's the kind of witty remark English majors throw off like dandruff. There are rewards beyond the financial in the study of lit. A liberal arts degree helps one appreciate the poetry and beauty inherent in the meanest life--such as the one a liberal arts major leads after graduation.

Jan said...

The reason these degrees are useless is there are way more graduates than job openings. Journalism had 78,000 degrees in 2009 and in the next 10 years there will be a loss of 4400 jobs.

Big Mike said...

I agree with Class Factotum -- the entire list should be populated with majors ending in the word "studies."

And only one of the social so-called sciences made the list? Where's anthropology? Where's sociology?

Where's history, for Pete's sake!?!

BJM said...

The post should be titled "The 20 Most tedious click-throughs".

Who the hell designs the Beast? The overload and garish design of that set of pages could induce seizures.

vbspurs said...

William wrote:

There are rewards beyond the financial in the study of lit.

Amen, brother. Garrison Keillor is always saying so, and for once he's right.

Joe said...

There are rewards beyond the financial in the study of lit.

Rewards worth $20,000 for my local college, $100,000+ for a top university while living away from home?

You can't do this on your own? Bugger all, I suppose I'll just have to stop reading.

Revenant said...

This list seems pretty idiotic to me. I'm particularly puzzled by the inclusion of mechanical engineering and chemistry -- businesses would *love* to be able to find American citizens with degrees in those fields.

Big Mike said...

@Revenant, a chemistry bachelors isn't worth much; you need the Ph.D. to get anywhere in your career.

shoutingthomas said...

There are rewards beyond the financial in the study of lit. A liberal arts degree helps one appreciate the poetry and beauty inherent in the meanest life--such as the one a liberal arts major leads after graduation.

Take your understanding of language and people and become a competent programmer, and you'll have skills that a very much in demand.

Kirby Olson said...

Being interesting is far from useless. It's not something in itself but it's still nice. You can be a TV talkshow host, perhaps, or a Sharpton, or a muckraking blogger scoring goodies throuh Amazon.com, or yuo can be Sherezade, or the marquis de Sade, or fricaseed cod.

So many things to be!

Kirby Olson said...

Being able to spell, too, is almost very important.

Leland said...

What Hagar said. Engineering Technology degrees are sort of Engineering Lite degrees. Except they are for jobs that are actually in the field where you can get practical experience, and so they are typically much more knowledgable in 5 years than the fresh out that drove a desk during that time. Because they are so much knowledgeable, the "true Engineers" work with HR departments to occassionally weed out the "fake Engineers" that only have Technology degrees.

Someone mentioned elitism. Yep!

Conserve Liberty said...

Well I made the list. English Language and Literature.

I learned enough to complete an advanced business degree evenings and weekends, have a successful investment management consulting practice, earn several times the median mid-career salary and pay off all my debts before age 55.

And I'm 2/3 of the way through the list of 1000 life reads my Honors Thesis advisor left me as a graduation present.

The entire premise is bogus.

Jeff Gee said...

This very issue is addressed today on Cracked.com in their article The Question You're Not Asking: Should You Go to College?. Need I say they did a considerably more professional job of it than the palookas linked to here?

Rick Lee said...

I don't know what was so interesting about the Art History photo... the psychology picture was definitely worth the click.

I got a silly useless degree in photography. I'm making excellent money, but that's because I'm self employed and motivated. There are no jobs that you can just take your degree and go sign up for. I've always said that it's important for somebody like me to go to college though... just to become well rounded and educated enough to be able to talk to anybody. You can get that from being an autodidact though, the sheepskin doesn't matter. But most people aren't motivated enough to get the education without the structure of school.

smitch19 said...

Why is working in a museum, gallery, auction house or other cultural institution, or teaching on a college level, or being an actual art historian not legitimate? I don't understand why people deride art history. The visual culture of humanity is an extremely important field of study.

I'm not even sure that trying to label a degree "useless" is helpful in the first place. Much of this is based simply on how much money you would make. For some people, it is a dedication to a field of study that drives them, not how easy it might be to find a job, or how much money they make. Without people studying art history, history, philosophy, literature or other "useless" things, human society would be a barren wasteland.

Synova said...

Any science degree is going to require grad school. That doesn't mean that the degree is useless, just that you have to go on.

I also think, you know, that a lot of people aren't willing to put in the effort for some of these things. And by "effort" I mean "moving."

Synova said...

So... did they only count the degrees that had people actually working in them in order to do comparisons?

Maybe there were so few people working in "studies" and the soci-anthro-etc-ologies that they didn't even qualify for the list.

Oh, did I remember to mention that I think the notion that going to college broadens you or makes you interesting very odd?

vbspurs said...

Conserve Liberty wrote:

And I'm 2/3 of the way through the list of 1000 life reads my Honors Thesis advisor left me as a graduation present.

Now THAT is impressive! Congrats.

Conserve Liberty said...

Life Reading List:

Take the long view - 20 books a year for 50 years. 2 hours each night.

While your children are doing homework, so are you - its just assumed.

I'm in year 33.

I probably won't finish due to a recent emergence of glaucoma. Oh well.

chickelit said...

When I was an undergraduate at UW-Madison, I declared to friends that I wanted to major in philology, something which just didn't exist. I even tried to start a "club" for it.

Practicality overcame, and for better or worse, I chose chemistry instead. I have never regretted that choice, though I do regret some choices I made in pursuing that discipline further.

I think chemistry is a wonderful science and I would never discourage anyone from learning it or even falling in love with it.

This article sucks. Kudos to you Althouse for calling it out!

wv: "mycoven" LOL: bewitched, bothered, and bewildered.

bagoh20 said...

There is no way in hell any of those degrees are more valuable than spending that money and time starting a business. After four years you are hiring people with those degrees to make you money. Then YOU get the value of the degree and trickle down a little of it to the "educated ones"...from the tiki bar.

Methadras said...

Big Mike said...

@Revenant, a chemistry bachelors isn't worth much; you need the Ph.D. to get anywhere in your career.


Not in Mech E. once you are in and you get practical experience under you belt, you can go anywhere as a B.S. Hell, I know guys who don't even have their B.S.M.E. and are considered Senior M.E.'s like because they literally experienced themselves to that point and got titled. More power to them I say.

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

I wouldn't want to say that my degree in Philosophy is useless; but I learned more philosophy by walking alone in the woods for hours with my eyes, ears and mind open than during all of my undergraduate and graduate course combined.

kiruwa said...

I wonder if some of these degrees don't mean what we're thinking they do.

Horticulture/Agriculture seem to be the same degree... so I'm not sure why the list is "useless degrees" with 2 and 3 being the same "study area"... shouldn't #2 be "Agriculture and natural resources", with an entry for 'careers' listing Horticulture and Agriculture?

Also note that Mechanical Engineering Technology might not actually be Mechanical Engineering. My sister attends a school that doesn't have an engineering program, but has a "Engineering Technology" degree. There's a chance that they're distinguishing the two. Same with Chemistry's area of study being "physical sciences".

It's a crappy list.

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