Recently this writer participated as part of a television panel in which it was asked if there aren’t enough jobs that require a college degree for the coming glut of college grads. The question was a funny one, one that conferred on college grads skills much greater than those possessed by the average individual. Maybe, but not asked enough is what job requires a college degree? The truth is no job does, though politicians and policy analysts would have us believe otherwise.
President Obama regularly talks up the need for more math classes “to equip our children for the future.” The latter is odd and a bit dated, particularly when we consider that computers and calculators have largely made the need for math knowledge something of the past.
In Obama’s defense, he’s not alone when it comes to educational political correctness, and the need to get education right so that “our children” are prepared for a very challenging, and very globalized job market. Right of center thinkers are similarly deluded with utopian visions 0f universities “equipping” students with the knowledge needed to succeed in the real world after four largely wasted (literally and figuratively) years on campus.
The latest example of the above is Jane Shaw, president of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Shaw argued that “Elite universities, such as the University of North Carolina, are doing a disservice when they lead students into majors with few, if any, job prospects.” Shaw went on to write that “Many liberal-arts graduates, even from the best schools, aren’t getting jobs in part because they didn’t learn much in school.”
What’s funny about this is that Obama is President of the United States and Shaw President of a prestigious think tank, but could either with a straight face point to anything learned in college that has any relevance to their present work? This writer highly doubts it.
The above in mind, for college students majoring in liberal arts, along with parents paying for them to major in a discipline “with few, if any, job prospects,” the answer is to relax. Once again no job, and this is especially true for undergraduate students, requires a college degree.
Whether the ambition is to become an investment banker or a Starbucks barista, the dirty little secret is that nothing learned during the four (or five) fun-filled years on idyllic campuses has anything to do with either form of employment. That four years of English Lit or finance courses wouldn’t be required to work behind the counter at Grumpy’s is obvious, but it’s also the case that what’s learned in those finance classes is not necessary if your desire is to thrive at Goldman Sachs.
To believe otherwise is to believe that someone (the college professor) who for the most part lacks any background in the real-world application of finance could transfer skills to those who desire that real-world knowledge. Lots of luck there. If Wall Street is your goal, major in whatever interests you. Ultimately the top financial firms are looking for “good athletes”; as in people who are smart and who work hard. Anything you need to know you’ll learn on the job.