May 21, 2013 Leave a comment
Three’s been a fair amount of talk about a new report that concludes that only 27% of college graduates have jobs that are related to their major. I think Yglesias‘ pushback is spot-on:
According to the paper, they’re measuring relatedness by using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Classification of Instructional Programs “occupational crosswalk” function. So I thought I would look up my own major, philosophy, and see what the federal government has to say about my career choices. They think that the only job I’m suited for is as a post-secondary teacher, teaching philosophy or religion classes at a college. In other words, I am one of the 73 percent.
But I would dispute the claim that my job has nothing to do with my college degree. My view is that undergraduate philosophy majors get a crash course in persuasive writing and logical argumentation. Any kind of liberal arts degree where you need to read a lot of texts and then learn to write persuasively based on said texts is a decent preparation for working in journalism. But philosophy is a particularly good one to study, because for better or for worse, journalists are typically asked to be generalists. As a philosophy major you read and discuss people who are not only great thinkers but people who managed to make meaningful intellectual contributions to the world without obtaining tons of new empirical information…
My larger point here is that it’s really important to pay attention to data quality. If existing labor markets do a poor job of matching college graduates to things the NCES CIP “occupational crosswalk” function says are major-appropriate jobs, is that a fact about the labor market or a fact about the statistical series?
Great point. Be skeptical; check the data and the original study if the conclusions sounds suspect. This comes up a lot in advising political science majors on what to do after graduation. There’s a ton of jobs far away from politics that value strong writing ability and solid critical thinking ability. Now, not all our students leave with that, but we certainly strive for it and I would argue are a generally very good training ground for those skills. My former student that I had lunch with yesterday works at a bank on mortgage refinancing, but I guarantee the skills she learned as a PS major help her in that job, but she would clearly be in the 73%. In the broader scope, I’ve been thinking for a long while now that your major is far more about the skills you learn than the specific body of knowledge that you master. Any data/study that ignores that fact is inherently flawed.