It’s a well known fact that American colleges don’t teach applicable job skills. You won’t learn much in college that you’ll actually use in your real life. As pledging, beer pong and meaningless sexual escapades fade into boredom and you mature from late adolescence into true adulthood, you’ll begin to figure out that college is pretty much a waste of time. You’ll confer with like-minded individuals who think they’ve figured everything out, and then trek on down to your guidance office where you’ll consider changing your major for the fourth or fifth time to something slightly less laborious so you can enjoy what’s left of your college experience before the inevitable real world smackdown. And why not? Everyone else is doing it. Besides, you’ll end up in some entry-level job where they’ll teach you everything they’d teach a high schooler. As long as you’ve got that paper, you’re golden, right?
Human resource-types are instructed to view your college experience as a qualifier. They know there’s a certain attrition to college and the more difficult degrees. That’s why the higher-paying careers search out those more complex degrees. It’s not that your advanced calculus or biochemistry classes have taught you useful job skills – every complex formula you’ll ever need to crunch has been in a computer program for at least a decade. It’s that you had the work ethic and personality trait to complete your required courses. Hiring professionals realize quite well that those who can stick it out and pass their useless math and science classes are better suited to conform to a typical corporate environment, and are more apt to work harder and be more dedicated employees.
That’s right – you’re being gamed. Make the wrong moves, and you’ve just wasted four years of your life and thousands of dollars you could have earned in your new photo processing or window-dressing career.
There are widely known statistics describing which majors are worthwhile that you’re genius major-changing peers probably didn’t bother looking up. According to a new report from researchers at Georgetown University, although the unemployment rate for recent college graduates stood at 7.5 percent in 2012, not all majors gave students an equal chance of finding work. Just 5.1 percent of elementary education majors, 4.8 percent of nursing majors and 4.5 percent of chemistry majors were unemployed after graduating. Compared with those graduates, architecture or social sciences degrees were about twice as likely to be unemployed, with a whopping 10 percent unable to find a job. And for those who failed to get a college degree, about 18 percent were unemployed. And those unemployment rates don’t measure underemployment – just because you’ve secured a job doesn’t mean it’s a good job. Things are even rosier for those who stick it out and earn graduate degrees, especially in the hard sciences.
But wait – there’s more. If money’s what you’re after, the college you graduate from has a huge bearing on your starting salary. Elite military and tech schools send graduates out into the workforce with some of the country’s highest early-career salaries, according to a new report by PayScale. Graduates of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis earn a median annual salary of more than $80,000 over their first five years, the most of any school included in PayScale’s report. Graduates of Harvey Mudd, a liberal arts college that specializes in mathematics and the physical sciences, earn just under $76,000. Graduates of West Point and CalTech earn just over $75,000. Rounding out the top 5 is M.I.T. at just over $70,000. Ironically, Ivy League starting salaries were significantly lower. It appears that technical abilities are highly valued among recent graduates, potentially explaining why a California Institute of Technology graduate with an engineering degree will likely be better compensated than a Harvard graduate with an English degree. Does it mean that CalTech kid is smarter or better educated than you? Not necessarily. But some well-connected HR non-genius somewhere certainly thinks so, and that’s the game you’ll be forced to play.
There’s one more thing to add to the confusion – the market is changing daily. Outsourcing, automation, and advances in technology will create an entirely different job scenario four years after you began college. According to a recent report by The American Staffing Association, here’s a list of the top 10 jobs going unfilled. Remember – that’s today. In 2016, this undoubtedly will be an entirely different scenario:
- Occupational therapists
- Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
- Occupational therapy assistants
- Photographic process workers and processing machine operators
- Physical therapists
- Speech-language pathologists
- Forest and conservation technicians
- Internists, general
- Merchandise displayers and window trimmers
Some of today’s unfilled jobs are comical. A photographic process worker, whatever that antiquated position that might be, has got to be the top of the dead-end job list. Truck drivers will be obsolete by 2020, replaced by automated driving technology that won’t fall asleep at the wheel and require medical benefits. And don’t get your hopes up in becoming a celebrity window trimmer, because Amazon.com won’t ever need windows trimmed. However, the list does include several well-paid medical professions that won’t be outsourced or automated anytime soon. But those jobs require the harder majors. Yes, that’s math and science. Becoming an occupational or physical therapist now requires a hybrid medical degree that’s almost as difficult as becoming a doctor. The long-term earning potential and job security is exponentially better than an easier job and a cheesy degree.
Look, it’s your life. Freedom affords you the right to do whatever you want. Fortunately, there’s a safety net of unemployment, welfare, and food stamps. Some people have no problem living in a box, tent, trailer, or roach-infested Section 8 housing with like-minded fools. If your daddy is uber-wealthy and well connected, then I suppose you can do whatever floats your boat. My kids don’t have that luxury. If you’re really hot, I’m talking model hot, you might score a sugar daddy (or momma), and you can stay at home sipping Martinis while advancing your melanoma by your oceanfront pool. Statistically, that probably isn’t going to happen.
The big picture is controlled by people who think they’re smarter than you, and they’re steering this crazy world. If you don’t have a trust fund, then you’re in the game like the rest of us. I know your head is racing and your brain is screaming PARTY PARTY PARTY! But it’s so temporary. And in the grand scheme of life, you’ll forget those four useless years faster than you can blink, but you’ll regret it forever. Do yourself a huge favor that will make your entire life better. Play by the rules, do the right thing, and work hard for four short years of your life. I always tell my kids it’s better to work hard for four years so you can party for the next sixty, rather than party for four and suffer later. Trust me, the former is so much better.