Shocker: Humanities Grads Gainfully Employed and Happy

"What’s the worst college major for your career, according to Forbes? Anthropology and archaeology. Kiplinger’s says to stay away from religious studies, music, anthropology and art history.

Such warnings are common these days. And liberal arts professors and admissions deans at liberal arts colleges will tell you that plenty of students (and an even larger share of parents) believe them. Many colleges with liberal arts roots are rushing to add preprofessional programs.

But a study being released today by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences – based on data from the U.S. Census and other government sources, plus Gallup polling of workers nationwide – challenges the myth of the underemployed, unhappy humanities graduate." …

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It’s nice to see a comprehensive report like this come out.

Articles like the ones in Forbes and Kiplinger’s are often poorly researched and use bad data to back up their claims. For example, Kiplinger’s claims that anthropology is a bad major because employers don’t ask for anthropology majors specifically…but many jobs don’t ask for ANY specific major, or ask for “related majors.” Their “what works” advice is also ludicrous…the alternative they give to anthropology majors is “Instead of becoming a field anthropologist, why not become an academic instead?” This is uninformed; virtually all field anthropologists ARE professors - that’s kind of how you get funding for the research - and competition for academic positions in anthropology is super-fierce.

Census and government data, and Gallup polls, are also usually more reliable than the PayScale data that many of the downer types of articles rely on. Government data and polls done by respected think tanks tend to be more representative of the population. PayScale data is tipped towards people looking for jobs, who are probably more unhappy with their work and more likely to be making less money.

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I imagine that people who major in archeology do so because they love archeology. So, they’d be happy having related careers. What’s the point of majoring in something that you don’t love, or even like? You only go around once, it’s important to be happy while on the ride.

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