Archive for ‘college majors’

March 4, 2014

Fundamental communication skills are more important than ‘new media’ skills for journalists

by Grace

Journalism instructors assign much more value to a degree in the discipline than do practicing journalists, according to a new Poynter study.


Some 96 percent of journalism educators believe that a journalism degree is very important or extremely important when it comes to understanding the value of journalism. By contrast, 57 percent of media professionals believe that a journalism degree is key to understanding the value of their field.

Perhaps even more significant, more than 80 percent of educators say a journalism degree is extremely important when it comes to learning news gathering skills, compared to 25 percent of media professionals. One in five media professionals finds a degree in the discipline is not at all important or only slightly important in learning news gathering.

Should journalism school place more focus on teaching “new multimedia skills”?

Finberg, who authored the study, attributed the discrepancy in part to a kind of digital divide between journalism school curriculums and what’s expected of journalists in the field. Working journalists feel the demand for new multimedia skills that may or may not be part of traditional journalism coursework, he said, leading them to question the value of degrees in the discipline.

Or should they simply concentrate more on fundamental skills?

But given that modern journalism is a kind of moving target, experts said, programs can’t afford to lose sight of the fundamentals: good storytelling and strong writing and problem-solving skills.

“It is in no way possible for journalism schools to keep up with all the industry changes because journalism itself isn’t keeping with the technological changes,” said Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists and projects editor at the ArkansasDemocrat-Gazette. “It’s important to be exposed to whatever the dominant or latest technology is, but that varies from place to place.”

Albarado said he prefers to hire reporters with journalism degrees, due to their training, but he wouldn’t exclude applicants with English degrees, for example.

Ultimately, he said, “I just want somebody who can write and think critically – and spell.”

The new media skills are relatively easy to acquire, but fundamental writing skills and critical thinking usually take years to learn.

It seems that a rigorous liberal arts education would be an excellent way to prepare for a journalism career.  Nate Silver thinks economics or math are good majors for journalists to meet the increasing importance of data-driven reporting.

Related: With the rise of robo-reporters, what is the outlook for jobs in journalism? (Cost of College)

February 18, 2014

Free tuition at New York state universities for top STEM students?

by Grace

The proposed New York State budget includes a provision to offer free tuition to top students who choose to major in STEM fields.

“New this year under the governor’s budget proposal, some students at the top of their classes will have a chance to skip tuition payments entirely. Those who plan to major in a field related to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects would receive free tuition to any SUNY or CUNY institution, as long as they remain in the state for five years after graduation to pursue their careers. The $8 million budget line is intended to help reverse the “brain drain” of the best and brightest from New York State.”

Students must graduate in the top ten percent of their high school class to qualify for the scholarships.

Details must be worked out.

Final budget approval is expected this spring.  Questions have been raised about how the requirement to stay in the state for five years after graduation would affect students who wish to attend graduate school.  One estimate predicts funding is only sufficient for 166 four-year scholarships, so it is possible that demand will be greater than supply.


January 14, 2014

Best growth outlook is for low-paying jobs

by Grace

The outlook for jobs does not hold up much hope for some college graduates.

Elder care and other low-wage jobs will be among the fastest growing career fields over the next decade. Postal carriers and journalists might have a harder time finding work.

The fastest growing job for the next decade requires no formal education and pays an average annual income of $19,940.

Personal-care aide will be the fastest growing job from 2012 to 2022, among categories with more than 25,000 positions, the Labor Department said in a new report. The field will grow by nearly 50% to 1.8 million jobs.

The gloomy prospect for postal workers and reporters is directly tied to technology advances.  Email has replaced most paper letters, and the rise of robo-reporters has cut into the need for human writers.

Postal and media sectors are likely to shed jobs in the next decade.

Employment among U.S. Postal Service workers is expected to decline 28%.Reporter and correspondent jobs will contract nearly 14%.

Here’s a look at journalism jobs pulled from the Wall Street Journal “sortable table of the career fields that will grow and shrink in the next decade”


Since my college kid is seeking a job in journalism, I had a brief panicked moment before I realized the job levels are reported in thousands!  Maybe I can find slight comfort in looking at jobs with even fewer projected job openings, such as film editors, high school history teachers, and chemical engineers.  However, in terms of expected percent changes for jobs requiring a college degree, journalists rank right at the bottom of the list.

December 30, 2013

Most college graduates are underemployed

by Grace

Most college graduates are underemployed, as shown by the chart on the left.  The chart on the right shows that the vast majority of college graduates are working in fields unrelated to their undergraduate major.


This comes from research produced by Jaison Abel and Richard Dietz of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

… We utilize newly available census data that identify both an individual’s level of education and, for college graduates, undergraduate college major. We construct two measures of what we call job matching for those with a bachelor’s degree. Our first measure, which we refer to as college degree matching, determines whether an undergraduate degree holder is working in an occupation that requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Our second measure, which we call college major matching, gauges the quality of a job match by identifying whether a person is working in a job that corresponds to that person’s undergraduate major. For example, consider a college graduate who majored in Communications. If this person worked as a public relations manager, an occupation that both requires a college degree and relates directly to a Communications major, we would classify this person as matching along both measures. By contrast, if this person worked as a retail salesperson, he or she would be classified as not matching along either measure.

Being overqualified is sometimes the only way to secure employment and pave the way for future career growth.

This data does not necessarily support the argument that a college degree is a waste of time and money for most.  In a perverse way, it actually supports the importance of going to college.  In this jobless economic recovery we have too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs, so employers can screen out job applicants who lack a college background.  Those retail salespeople, office receptionists, or any number of similar workers with college degrees were probably helped in gaining employment by the fact they had demonstrated the persistence and intelligence needed to complete four years of higher education.  It also helps their chances of future career and income growth.

A law school graduate blogging about “the loss of my last shred of dignity” while working at a store counter selling cologne is featured in a Business Insider story.

The blog’s anonymous author graduated from a law school that was in the top 50 ranked by U.S. News and World Report. He was on law review and even got a summer position at a firm after his second year. He didn’t get a job offer though.

December 27, 2013

Investment bankers will be allowed to take it easy one weekend every month

by Grace

Investment bankers will be getting more time off, according to an email newsletter from eFinancialCareers.

Jeff Urwin, global head of investment banking at J.P. Morgan, has confirmed reports that the bank will indeed introduce “protected weekends,” where analysts and associates are barred from even entering the office during one weekend every month.

Wow, one whole weekend free from work.  How rare is that for anyone nowadays?  But wait, you don’t need to be in the office to work.  You can sneak in a little deal-making by working remotely.  I’m sure some of the more competitive bankers will continue to be productive every weekend even if they’re banned from the office.


More hiring will be needed.

But that’s not all. Urwin also reportedly told employees that J.P. Morgan will hire roughly 10% more junior investment bankers in 2014, likely due, at least in part, to the need to fill in the gaps created by the protected weekends. No matter what the cause, J.P. will extend more employment offers in the coming year.

A good sign for job growth?

Both of JPM’s moves fall in line with those made by Goldman Sachs, which also announced it would be dialing back the workload thrust upon its junior workers and will hire more in 2014.

Whether they want to or not, other banks will surely need to follow suit. Goldman and J.P. Morgan didn’t make these decisions out of the kindness of their heart. They did it because the pay at the junior level isn’t what it used to be and talented people are getting burned out and leaving the profession early. Or worse, they are heading to Silicon Valley before ever step foot in the building.


December 24, 2013

Trends in the popularity of college majors

by Grace

Which college majors have gained in popularity over the last half century?

Ben Schmidt at Northeastern University has just created a data chart that shows how the popularity of college majors since the mid-1960s have changed. …

The charts are interactive, allowing the user to select options that show specific majors and schools, as well as gender differences.  I hate to admit how much time I wasted spent playing with studying the graphs.

Here’s one chart showing a few majors I selected for display.
It shows the decline of interest in English and literature, the rise of computer science as a discipline, and how the growth of business majors has mainly been fueled by the increasing numbers of women.



This chart is from New York University.
It shows the shrinking popularity of English and literature alongside the growing popularity of art and architecture.  This confirms my suspicion about the growing numbers of students who prefer cinema and music over the written word as a means of expression.


Two more charts I produced, one from the University of Texas at Austin:


And another from the University of California at Irvine:



December 2, 2013

Seeking ‘people skills’, investment banks plan to hire more liberal arts graduates

by Grace

Investment banks plan to hire more liberal arts graduates as they seek to add on employees “from all backgrounds”.

Michael Ridley, a vice-chairman in investment banking at JP Morgan and a senior capital markets banker with more than 30 years of experience, said there has probably been “unconscious bias” against arts graduates but that their skills are valuable. He said: “Even our traders are selling and dealing with people.

You need some communication and presentation skills to be able to persuade people to change their mind on things.”

A push for diversity has several banks seeking employees “with a strong focus on behaviours and attitudes rather than just an expertise in finance”.

JP Morgan is making a push to hire more humanities students this year than it has in previous years.

RBS is also focusing on arts graduates. Its Indian Summer student programme targets candidates from non-finance-related backgrounds and Glen McGowan, head of RBS Early Career, said academic diversity is key to providing a good service to clients.

“Fundamental to this is ensuring that RBS has an attractive proposition to engage students from varying educational disciplines,” he said.

McGowan said the bank has adjusted its selection and assessment criteria to accommodate students from all backgrounds.

Tim Skeet, a managing director in the financial institutions group at the bank, said “With the rise in trading across the financial services sector over the past two decades, the tide has flowed against humanities. Now the tide is turning.”

Jane Clark, head of corporate and investment banking campus recruitment, Europe, Middle East and Asia at Barclays, said the firm recruits “from all degree disciplines with a strong focus on behaviours and attitudes rather than just an expertise in finance”.

What about math skills?

Alix Roe, head of graduate recruitment at Citigroup, said the bank is “moving to dispel the myth that banks only look to hire graduates from economics or finance subjects”….

More banks are coming round to the view that liberal arts graduates have skills that can equip them even for areas such as trading, in which more technical subjects such as mathematics have previously been the norm.

The typical liberal arts curriculum has been watered down, with minimal math and science instruction.

Just to clarify, the traditional liberal arts disciplines include economics, as well as math and science.  However, the way colleges have diluted the curriculum means a liberal arts degree offers little added value in qualifying workers for today’s job market”.  The typical liberal arts graduate of today has probably received very little rigorous math and science instruction.


November 27, 2013

College graduates who majored in fine arts are not doomed to a life of poverty

by Grace

Most fine-arts college graduates are doing fine.

There’s a widely held conception that people who earn degrees in the fine arts — painting, sculpture, dance, music, theater, among others — are throwing money away on a degree that can reap no long-term benefits. But the fact is that a fine-arts degree is no real hindrance to making a decent living in the real world.

Maybe most won’t be rich, but they can enjoy a middle-class life.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a 2011 study from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in which it found that the median income of recent fine-arts graduates was a respectable $42,000 and that the unemployment rate for those recent graduates was a better than average 7.8%.

A happy middle-class life.

“Artists can have good careers, earning a middle-class income,” says the Center’s director. “And, just as important and maybe more, artists tend to be happy with their choices and lives.”

According to that report, former fine-arts majors are making about the same living as all those people who have a liberal arts degree. In some cases, those with a fine-arts background are actually doing better.

Other college majors may be worse choices.

“They do a little better than psychology majors, since counseling and social work is a very low-wage occupation,” explains the director.

Related:  Art Makes You Smart (New York Times)

October 10, 2013

If each college major had its own slogan . . .

by Grace

If each college major had its own slogan, what would they be?

The responses from Redditors combined a kernel of truth with typical snarky humor.  Here are some of my favorites.

  • Linguistics: studied 17 languages, am fluent in none of them.
  • Biochemistry: Spend 4 Years Aspiring to Discover the Cure for Cancer, and the Rest of Your Life Manufacturing Shampoo.
  • Film and Television: because you didn’t know that you didn’t need the degree to work in the industry
  • Criminal Justice: We’re here because of Law & Order reruns.
  • Math: “Bet you thought this was going to involve numbers didn’t you?”
  • Parks Recreation and Tourism: Yes it’s a real major
  • Accounting! where the job market is not quite as grim.
  • Information Technology: Because Computer Science has too much math.
  • Business: because dad did it
  • Psychology: good luck doing anything until you get your master’s!
  • Engineering: The art of figuring out which parameters you can safely ignore.
  • Political Science: Hope you do well on the LSAT!
  • Marketing: The business degree for people afraid of math.
  • Computer Science (for a straight girl): The odds are good, but the goods are odd.
  • Finance: It’s not quite as bad as Accounting!
  • Business Admin.:”Because nothing else seemed interesting”
  • Graphic Design – where a professional with 25 years of experience can share the same job title as ‘your nephew who has Photoshop
  • Economics: We can explain why things happen. After they happen.
  • Journalism: it was useful in the 70′s
  • Nursing: it’s faster than Med school
  • Management Information Systems (MIS): people who couldnt be engineers

I started out as an English major and then switched to geology, so these hit close to home:

  • English: Are you a writer or teacher? No? Maybe this wasn’t a great choice…
  • Geology: Come because you’re tired of your other major and like to hike. Stay because there’s beer.

Related:  For 2013 graduates, ‘college hiring to remain relatively flat’ (Cost of College)

October 7, 2013

Earnings potential may be predicted by ‘knowledge of fractions in fifth grade’

by Grace

Math expertise correlates with lower unemployment rates among recent college graduates.

Recent college graduates who majored in math or general engineering had an unemployment rate of 5.9% and 7%, respectively, according to 2010-2011 data of college graduates analyzed by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce that was released earlier this year. That was below the overall unemployment rate for recent graduates, which averaged 7.9% in spring 2011 and double-digit unemployment rates for some social science and arts majors.

Math skills also correlate with higher earnings.

The economists examine the large differences in labor-market outcomes across college majors in several ways. In one section of their paper, they look at data on wages by college major obtained through the Census Bureau‘s 2009 American Community Survey. They find that among other things, math skills are correlated to higher earnings. “Wages tend to be high for engineers and low for elementary education majors, suggesting that perhaps much of the wage differences between majors are due to differences in mathematical ability and high school course work,” the authors write.

Higher-level math skills depend on a “child’s knowledge of fractions in fifth grade”.  Proficiency with fractions is “foundational for algebra”.  Unfortunately, American students are not doing very well in this area.

National tests show nearly half of eighth-graders aren’t able to put three fractions in order by size.

The introduction of Common Core Standards and more research on effective instructional methods may improve math achievement levels, but we’ll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, parents may be able to enhance their children’s future earning potential by making sure they understand and know how to manipulate fractions before they leave middle school.


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