KSC disputes Forbes Magazine statistics

Keene State College shows liberal arts programs are profitable after graduation

In today’s competitive job market, Forbes magazine released a report which debates whether or not a liberal arts education will lead students to a successful career. Keene State College is one such institution that provides a liberal arts education.

“Not all college degrees are created equal,” according to Jenna Goudreau of Forbes, in her 2012 article titled,“10 Worst College Majors.” Goudreau claimed that STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) tend to lead to higher initial employment and higher initial earnings than what she calls “non-technical” majors such as arts, humanities and social science.

Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce (CEW) conducted the study that provided the figures from data collected during 2009 and 2010.

Other studies tell a different story— for example, The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) recently released a report which states that liberal arts disciplines do in fact create successful employees.

According to the report, “Students who pursue their major within the context of a broad liberal education substantially increase their likelihood of achieving long-term professional success.”

Betsy Thompson / Equinox Staff

Betsy Thompson / Equinox Staff

Continued research found that humanities and social science majors, between the ages of 56-60, earn more annually than those who major in professional fields, compared to students who study within the realm of the STEM programs. During this peak earning time, humanities and social science majors earn about $2,000 more annually than their counterparts, according to the AAC&U.

The unemployment rates for recent liberal arts graduates is 5.2 percent, and “mature workers” with liberal arts degrees have an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, according to the AAC&U study. AAC&U continued to state this is only .04 percent higher than the professional and preprofessional unemployment rate.

Additional factors students may consider are how  graduates apply their education in the workforce. KSC Associate Professor of Philosophy, Allyson Mount, said, “Philosophy is a pretty common preparation for law school. I’m not sure if they [study subjects] can be counted as unemployed if they are in law school three years from now.”

Mount continued, “In general, I think it is easy for someone looking, especially at a public college, to underestimate the value of flexible intellectual skills.” Mount explained the skills a philosophy student is equipped with can be utilized in a variety of ways.

“There is not a particular job that someone studying philosophy would naturally go to with just a philosophy degree,” she said.

While students who study within KSC’s Communication and Philosophy Department may not have a defined career path, some research indicates they will be successful wherever it is that they land.

The Wall Street Journal reported a philosophy major’s mid-career salary is expected to grow more than double that of the average starting salary, which equaled the growth of mathematics majors. There are other ways to measure success aside from salary potential. “Philosophy has consistently scored as one of the highest of people taking the GRE,” Mount said.

According to data from Educational Testing Services (ETS), the organization responsible for the GRE testing, philosophy applicants rank highest in the verbal and analytical writing categories. They also rank in the top five in the quantitative category.  KSC Associate Professor of Art, Robert Kostick, said he recently attended a conference in Boston with the AAC&U. Forbes ranked his field—graphic design—as one of the “worst” majors to get a degree in, Kostick said.

However, according to literature from the AAC&U, provided by Kostick, jobs that require the skills possessed by graphic design graduates are growing faster than they can be filled by qualified employees. Jessica Corkery, a senior graphic design student at KSC, said she believes the graphic design program has prepared her to enter the job market following graduation.

“I don’t feel terrible about it. I have a lot of friends that just graduated in May and a good handful of them have found jobs within the first six months of being out of school. That is a good turnaround for an entry level position. It’s a very competitive field, but we are prepared for it,” Corkery said.

Corkery continued, “Graphic designers do everything. We are branding, we make logos, we are advertising and we put company’s names out there.” Corkery said graphic design students are pupils who are bound to be noticed.

“Whether or not people want to admit it, they need us. They are stuck with us,” Corkery said.

There are also growth opportunities within graphic design. According to The Wall Street Journal, the average mid-career salary rises almost 70 percent to $59,800 in this field.

Hart Research Associates (HRA) worked in conjunction with the AAC&U and surveyed 318 employers who hire college graduates.  The data discovered employers agreed that, “Having both field-specific knowledge and skills, and a broad range of skills and knowledge is most important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success.”

The HRA data also listed that, “Employers are highly focused on innovation as critical to the success of their companies and they report that the challenges their employees face today are more complex and require a broader skill set than in the past.”

The HRA survey found that nine percent of the companies surveyed,  “endorse the concept of a liberal education,” and believe it produces students who “demonstrate both acquisition of knowledge and its application.”

According to Corkery, students studying liberal arts are not to be pushed to the side.

“Don’t ever underestimate a graphic designer,” Corkery said.


David Walsh can be contacted at dwalsh@keene-equinox.com

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