Is College the Wrong Place to Prepare for Work?

I’m thinking about this question as the Chronicle of Higher Education writes about a piece reviewed in the NY Times:

One-third of  new programs [created at four year institutions] in the last decade were added in just two broad fields: health professions (where credential inflation is rampant) and military technologies/applied sciences (probably a reaction to the September 11th attacks). The 1990s saw similar growth in the number of majors. Indeed, nearly four in 10 majors in the Education Department data didn’t exist in 1990.

Any of us would recognize those new majors by just glancing at the list of undergraduate programs at almost any college these days: sustainability, athletic training, sports management, new media, gaming, homeland security, and so on. This trend, which has persisted for five decades, has been bemoaned by some as a flight from the arts and sciences to the practical arts.

This question has seemed to pop up on a regular basis throughout the period of the great recession – and particularly as statistics surface indicating that there is a great deal of under-employment among college educated graduates.  I’d guess that even if one majored in what appeared to be a sure-fire job-producing major like “homeland security,” that there would be a long line to get behind for every opening in the federal DHS.  We have more citizens going to college and therefore, more students seeking to major in those job-related, skill-building, career-focused employment-generating jobs.

But as I’ve pointed out before, this is a new question in our society only as it relates to four-year colleges and as the liberal arts is under fire for simply producing thoughtful and analytic graduates absent other “hard” skills in demand in the workforce [think STEM fields].  Our community colleges have been producing generations of skilled workers in high-demand fields for quite a long time.  The question at hand is how far our society must go to tinker with our more traditional college majors -aka English, Sociology, Anthropology, Music…add your own – so that we reduce the number of bartenders, taxi drivers, waitresses, retail clerks,,,add your own…with college degrees biding their time until they perhaps save enough money to –you guessed it – return for the MA degree they need to really start their career.

One Comment on “Is College the Wrong Place to Prepare for Work?

  1. I find that when we make a choice of degree or program plan while in college, only to determine what will land us the best job and pay. When I first went to college in the 80’s, I chose the health profession. When that did not work out for me, I chose a business degree that can get me in and out of college quickly because of family situation. These business categories is a broad. Once I graduated, I felt immoble at my old job. I also did not receive a increase pay for having an advance degree from my job, onlyrecieved negative suggestions such as “Why are you working here with an advance degree”. About a year later, I decided to go into education. I am now currently working on my doctorate as an instructors, hoping to obtain full time tenure at a local university.


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