Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Paying for your future philosophy major

In college I had a roommate that was a history major. I have nothing against history. History is important; we learn from our past; it's good to remember where you've come from. However, her goal in life was to get a job working within airport administration. If you are wondering how a degree in history relates to that goal, then you are not alone.

Maybe she had a cushion to fall back on.

Researchers from Cornell University found a relationship between family income and chosen degrees. Students who came from wealthier families tended to chose humanitarian degrees like those in history or English; those who came from lower-income households chose to study fields where they could easily apply their degrees to a job like criminal justice or engineering.

The researchers had several speculative reasons for the divergent groups which include:
  • Lower-income students are less likely to attend elementary and high schools with humanities-enrichment programs, so they are not given the opportunity to foster a love of those subjects early on.
  • Higher-income students are more likely to pursue graduate degrees, and so they have more freedom with their undergraduate studies.
  • Lower-income students are reminded that their education is important (and costly) so they want to get the maximum benefit from their degrees and enter the job market as soon as possible.
  • Higher-income students know that there is a fall-back plan in place if their degree didn't net them a job right away.
From my time at college, I noticed that there were two distinct trends to people picking majors, as well. So maybe the question comes down to what you believe about college as a family: Do you encourage your child to go to college to get a better job or do you encourage your child to go to college to pursue their passions in life and worry about a job later?

Which side of the divide do you fall on? Let me know in the comments.

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