I won't laugh at any of you who just graduated, or are in college now. But I will say that if your major is English, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, History, or just about any other area of the liberal arts--or anything with "studies" in its name-- you're being duped and used. If you already got a degree in those areas, you've been had. And if you got yourself into debt in the process, I don't know what else to say. Well, there are these consolations: You didn't rack up more debt, and you didn't get a more advanced degree.
Don't get me wrong: I love literature, history, art and all of those things that make the human experience worthwhile. But I don't think that you need to get a degree in them. In fact, if you aren't motivated to learn those things for yourself, you definitely shouldn't pursue a degree in them. If you're motivated to learn more, find a club or reading group in which you can participate, whether in-person or online. Getting a degree in those things won't prove that you love, or are more of an expert, in them than someone who doesn't have a degree--except, of course, to someone who has such a degree.
And, for the sake of anything you hold dear, don't go anywhere near a journalism or accounting department. That colleges like one in which I recently taught are still starting journalism programs is confounding, and those who start those programs (as my old school did five years ago) is, to put it charitably, duplicitous. It's a dying field: Print journalism is heaving its last breaths, and the Internet has spurred countless people to report, however informally, on all sorts of things that interest them. As for accounting: Not nearly as many new accountants are being hired as were being hired, say, ten years ago. Employment numbers didn't improve much during the so-called "boom" years in the middle of the past decade and have only gotten worse since then. As with law, much of the routine work is being outsourced, sometimes to India.
So why do these programs continue, and why do colleges turn out so many more liberal arts degrees? Well, for one thing, some professors have to justify their existence in some colleges. One easy way to do that is with enrollment. So, for example, if a college is thinking about ending the philosophy major because only a few students are pursuing it, a prof who doesn't want to be forced into another department or to lose his or her job altogether (if he or she is not tenured) will do whatever is necessary to increase enrollments in his or her classes. If necessary, those profs will lie to prospective majors about their prospects for employment and graduate school, or give vague assurances that what they will learn will have "a wide variety of applications," or some such thing.
And department chairs and other administrators want to see at least some of those students go on to graduate school because it assures their schools and programs lots of cheap and downwardly mobile labor: adjuncts. Those poor souls are hired for a fraction of what full-timers are paid and usually don't receive benefits. Plus, they are hired from semester to semester. If an adjunct had other options before starting in that position, he or she loses them with each day, each semester, each year spent as an adjunct instructor. So they become, in essence, captives. In the end, those department chairs, deans and other administrators have every Wal-Mart manager's dream: a poorly-paid and fragmented workforce that has few, if any, other places to go.
My dear liberal arts majors, they're using you to keep up this scheme. And, those of you going to graduate school will soon learn what it's like to be one of the exploited class I've described.