Many of the statements in Wendy Rice’s “From the Extension” column (Herald, July 11) are true if you use a linear path of thinking, engineering major = engineer or English major = English teacher. However, consider the possibility that your English major can become a CEO or your engineering major can become a music teacher. Major does not equal employability, it is how you approach your investment in education that does.
While debt, student loans and potential income are all things to consider and balance for every student, they aren’t the only things one should take into account when making career choices. For instance, will you show up every day and be a productive member of a team at a job you hate? Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways, says in his article “Top 10 Hiring Mistakes, #9: When It’s All About the Money” that “Organizations made up of people who chose their jobs based on the highest salaries are miserable places to work. They’re often full of petty jealousies and politics, and hostile to new hires.” Do you want this to be your life after college?
Often we find that the problem isn’t degree choice, it’s how students convey their skills and what experiences they participate in during college. Every company needs a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives to be successful. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) the top three skills employers seek are: written and verbal communication; ability to make decisions and solve problems; and the ability to obtain and process information. All of these skills are deeply imbedded in a liberal arts degree. Max Nisen from Business Insider, wrote in his article “America Is Raising A Generation Of Kids Who Can’t Think Or Write Clearly,” that “de-emphasizing, de-funding and demonizing the humanities means that students don’t get trained well in the things that are the hardest to teach once at a job: thinking and writing clearly.” This is why a liberal arts degree or studying at a liberal arts college best prepares students for most employment.
Another thing that will aid any student in securing employment after graduation is real world experience. Our recommendation for students is to get involved, do an internship and be a part of a service program.
According to NACE, employers converted 58.6 percent of their 2011 interns into full-time hires. Among the class of 2013, 63.1 percent of paid interns were offered a job, compared to 35.2 percent who did not do an internship. Starting salaries for these students were also higher at $51,930 compared to $37,087 for those students with no internship experience.
The latest NACE research shows that for the age group of 20-24 with a bachelor’s degree, the actual unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, compared to the national average for that age group, which is around 13 percent. This translated into a 13 percent increase in employment for the Class of 2013 over the Class of 2012.
Furthermore, there are many humanities, or liberal arts, degrees that have bright hiring outlooks. Two key examples, according to onetonline.org, are graphic designers and intelligence analysts.
Graphic designers earn an average salary of $44,150 and can expect to see a 10 to 19 percent growth in the number of jobs in the next seven years.
Intelligence analysts earn an average salary of $74,300 and can expect a growth rate of 3 percent to 9 percent. The first five skills listed for an intelligence analyst: reading comprehension, active listening, critical thinking, speaking and writing, are all skills you develop with a liberal arts education.
If you need even more inspiration about successful people who majored in the liberal arts, consider reading this article: “30 People With ‘Soft’ College Majors Who Became Extremely Successful” (www.businessinsider.com/successful-liberal-arts-majors-2012-12?op=1)
Our advice is to do what you’re good at doing. You are more likely to stay with a job that you enjoy and will be more successful in the long run. Balance your priorities, create a work life balance, and consider the other benefits that your job offers – salary is not the only one.
In the end, you will still be able to pay off your student loans whether you are an engineer or English teacher.
Tana Verzuh and Jill Kolodzne are Fort Lewis College Career Services coordinators. Reach them at www.fortlewis.edu/careerservices.