Take a look at the top schools in PayScale’s College ROI data package, and one thing quickly becomes clear: If you want to become a millionaire (or at least, a hundred-thousandaire) by working, majoring in a STEM field is a good foundation. But that doesn’t mean that majoring in humanities is a waste of your time, even from a financial perspective.
“The ongoing public debate over the value of a college degree in the humanities reminds me of an old horse-racing joke,” writes Zachary First of the Drucker Institute. “An owner takes his injured animal to the vet. ‘Will I be able to race this horse again?’ he asks. The vet, taking his question literally, replies: ‘Of course you will. And you’ll probably win!’
That sort of “right answer to the wrong question” thinking, First says, helps illuminate the problem with evaluating a humanities degree for its value in today’s market — namely, that today’s market isn’t tomorrow’s.
Consider the following:
1. Many of the jobs we have today didn’t exist when we were kids.
Know any app developers, data scientists, or digital marketing specialists? You can bet it’s not what they wanted to be when they grew up, no matter how cool their jobs are — because those jobs didn’t exist 25 years ago. Who knows what tomorrow’s jobs might be?
2. Even safe bets aren’t sure things.
Before the recession, going to law school was considered a safe career choice. What a difference a few years can make. First points out that the median annual salary for law school graduates dropped $40,000 between 2009 and 2012, the year that one in eight students were still unemployed nine months after graduation — plus, law school graduates often have over a $100,000 in school loans to pay off once they embark on their careers.
3. You can’t make yourself into someone you’re not.
“Your personality type, interests, values and aptitude make you better suited for some occupations than others,” writes Dawn Rosenberg McKay at About.com’s Career Planning site. “These traits are intrinsic, which means you can’t change them. If you don’t take them into account when selecting a career, there is an excellent chance you will wind up in an occupation that is unsuitable for you.”
The best thing to do is follow your heart, do research. If you know what you want to study, you can use the Best ROIs by Major filter at PayScale’s College ROI data package to determine which schools will offer the best return on your tuition dollars.
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