The recent article in The State News (“Are You Employable?” SN 1/27) might have created undue stress for many MSU students who are in liberal arts colleges — College of Arts & Letters, College of Natural Science, College of Social Science, James Madison College, Lyman Briggs College and Residential College in Arts & Humanities. The graphs and graphics alone give the impression that prospects for liberal arts students are dismal, and that pre-professional colleges are the way to go.
The infographics were also misleading because the Georgetown data referenced included graduate programs — such as Clinical Psychology, Library Science, Educational Psychology and Industrial and Organizational Psychology— alongside undergraduate degree programs.
In addition, the two least employable majors cited were psychology and history, a reference that can be disputed by MSU data. According to 2010 Michigan State University Destination Survey data, bachelor’s degree graduates from these two programs placed above MSU’s overall placement rate of 85 percent.
Another recent article in USA Today (“Liberal arts education lends an edge in down economy” 1/25) references a survey that found recent college graduates who had mastered skills most associated with a liberal arts education, “the ability to think critically, reason analytically and write effectively were three times less likely to be unemployed as those who hadn’t, half as likely to be living with their parents and far less likely to have amassed credit card debt.”
Further support comes from national research conducted by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (“Recruiting Trends 2011-2012”) that finds employers are most requesting to see candidates from all majors. The research states “employers emphasize fit; in other words they seek candidates who have the skill package best suited for the company and are willing to look broadly for this talent.”
Although The State News article was inarguably well-timed — rising tuition costs and a soft job market have created concern about the value of a college education, job prospects after graduation and whether or not future salaries will be enough to pay back student loans — there are some points raised we’d like to reiterate for liberal arts students.
Don’t despair, just because your major doesn’t look like a straight path to a career doesn’t mean that you won’t have one. Yes, you will have more pressure to create a plan, to explore fields of interest and to gain experience, but these are things that all job seekers need to do. They’re just not as likely to be built into your curriculum.
Follow your passion. Chances are you genuinely are interested in what you are studying. When it comes to making decisions about a career, it’s important to do research not focused only on your major, but also on careers or fields you’re interested in, including job outlook, earning potential, skills and education needed. Why shouldn’t you focus solely on your major? It’s very likely that you have classmates in your major who are interested in pursuing very different career paths. Remember, your major isn’t preparing you for one specific career.
There are resources on campus you can use before you’re ready to hit the job market. Career Services can help you create a plan, explore options and gain experience. Visit the website careernetwork.msu.edu to “Find Your Path,” find an event to attend, make a career advising appointment or even view the complete Destination Survey Report to get more information on placement rates for MSU and colleges across campus.
If you viewed “Are You Employable?” online, hopefully you clicked on the video featuring Karin Hanson, Field Career Consultant in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. Her advice applies to all students: stand out, gain experience, market yourself.
We want to reassure you that your degree is valuable and the skills you have developed — analysis, writing, problem solving and creativity — are useful to employers.
Courtney Chapin and Kristi Coleman are Field Career Consultants at MSU.