In January, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the National Center for Higher Education (NCHEMS) published "How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment." Drawing upon U.S. Census data from 2010 and 2011, the report provides evidence to refute several common misconceptions about the long-term financial effects on students who elect to major in the liberal arts (defined as humanities, arts and social sciences).
Among their most striking findings are: 1) At peak earning ages (56-60 years), those who majored in humanities and social sciences actually earn $2,000 more than those who majored in professional or pre-professional fields; 2) Unemployment rates are low for liberal arts graduates (5.2 percent) and those rates decline over time; 3) About 40 percent of liberal arts majors pursue and attain graduate or professional degrees, experiencing significant earning boosts when they do.
It's been a while since those of us who work in the humanities, arts and social sciences have had good news about job and earning prospects for students graduating in our areas. As someone who talks to both parents and their college-aged children about possible majors and career choices, I often hear parents advocating coursework in business, health professions, or sciences especially when a child seems to be leaning toward English, foreign languages or theater arts.