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Ditching the Humanities for STEM Is a Bad Idea


Science, technology, engineering, and math jobs are considered the wave of the future. The liberal arts and humanities are in danger of being dropped by some state universities in favor of STEM programs. However, the power of STEM majors to guarantee employment with high salaries may be a myth.

(Photo Credit: Horia Varlan/Flickr)

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CBS MoneyWatch reported on a study that found science majors do not enjoy the higher salaries that they may be led to believe they will earn when they enter college. For example, biology is the most popular science to study. After graduation, biology majors do not earn any more than their “lowly” counterparts who majored in non-STEM disciplines. Actually, they seem to make less than those who “waste” their time studying sociology, psychology, and English.

Those with chemistry degrees do better than graduates in biology, but not by very much.

Salaries for those who study computer technology, engineering, and mathematics are generally greater than in the sciences. That is, of course, if you can get a job. Unemployment in the STEM fields is currently just under the national average.

The Value of Humanities and the Liberal Arts

The president of Duke University, in his October 24, 2013 talk to the College Board Forum, did not question the value of STEM. Rather, he questioned whether the nation’s needs may be met by STEM alone.

Some highlights from his speech in defense of liberal arts, humanties, and the social sciences inlcude:

  • Understanding of different languages, cultures, and the history of different peoples around the world aids our ability to work together and prevents some conflict. Tomorrow’s world leaders need the humanities.
  • The ability to collect evidence, analyze abstract situations, and craft well-thought-out arguments are necessary skills for critical thinking and good communication. Creative workers and citizens need these skills. So do tomorrow’s business owners.
  • Study of the humanities deepens our understanding of the human condition. Music, art, drama, and dance enhance our experience of our world.

Don’t count out the humanities. STEM and the humanities work hand in hand.

Tell Us What You Think

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