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Thread: Why a Bachelor's Degree doesn't mean much anymore

  1. #1
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    Why a Bachelor's Degree doesn't mean much anymore

    Its simple - everybody goes to college now. Back in the 90s, when parents realized how advantageous a Bachelor's degree was for employment, there was a huge push to get Generation Y in college. This was facilitated by both the government and the colleges themselves, for the ostensible reason of improving society by educating everybody. Theoretically, earning one's way into college, and graduating, would increase the intelligence and work ethic of an entire generation.

    It didn't work that way. Not everyone was smart enough to get accepted to or get through undergraduate education. So, the colleges - which realized the huge profits they could make - dumbed down curriculums. The result was that everybody does get into college - but its meaningless since only the upper tiers mean anything anymore... and even that's doubtful sometimes. Most of undergrad education has become the equivalent of high school.

    The difference, of course, is that people are paying massive amounts of money just to be able to get an average job. This is the part I can't figure out. How did that happen? Why is an entire generation having to pay so much money simply to get a mediocre job in society(which is what the typical Bachelor's degree will get you). Why do we tolerate this? Its not as if our society has become more skilled... the majority of professional/technical degrees in America are earned by foreigners. There's got to be some kind of hidden reason why all of a sudden young Americans suddenly had to begin forking over huge amounts of money just to be able to one day earn a living.

    Maybe it has something to do with the weakening of American professional competitiveness on the world stage? I dunno.

    Anyway, the one thing I am sure about it is that there *is* some sort of deeper reason why the college system is the way it is. I don't buy that its simply poorly designed and we can fix it. America has gone down in the world, and our generation has to pay for it through exorbitant loans.

    EDIT: If any of this doesn't make sense or seems disjointed, just ask for clarification. I kind of develop these posts as I go along and sometimes they're not organized too well, or even logically consistent. I've also drank a lot of caffeine.
    Last edited by Curtis; 08-04-2009 at 02:16 AM.
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    Poet Laureate Xwing1056's Avatar
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    Forty years ago, uneducated kids could make as much in factories as college graduates in offices. Since then, three things have happened. First, the money in menial work has stayed constant, while professionals get paid far more. Second, propagandists have convinced Americans that education is the only path to success and dignity (e.g. "knowledge is power"). Third, parents now have less kids, but are more attached to their success. As a result, poorly educated parents devote huge resources to educating their kids, while schools and the government increasingly offer need-based scholarships. While I doubt that quality of education has fallen at most schools, enrollment has increased at existent low-quality colleges and new low-quality colleges have been founded.

    This creates a glut of graduates. Although demand for professionals and white-collar workers has increased, the supply has increased far more quickly. Worse, the excess graduates are ill-prepared for professional work, because most of them went to mediocre colleges. Lacking opportunities, these products of a hyperactive American dream fall back into their parents' factories, restaurants, and shops, or find local jobs that anyone could do.

    However, due to the excessive graduates, employers overlook non-graduates even when education is irrelevant. If a bank has to choose a graduate or non-graduate as a teller, it will choose the graduate, because -- who knows? -- maybe the education will help. The salary is the same either way. So the low-salaried graduate struggles to pay off loans and the non-graduate struggles to find a job. The only winner is our bloated educational system.

    If it were up to me, I would monitor kids' aptitudes and interests closely in junior high. Those who were intelligent or at least interested would go to ordinary high school. Those who clearly lacked interest and aptitude, I would encourage to try a high school focusing on technical classes. High schools would parse out students the same way, encouraging those who lack academic interest to try technical schools or to seek associates degrees. Meanwhile, state governments should stop funding their low-quality institutions, and the federal government should stop offering need-based scholarships to people who go to low-quality schools.

    The key is deterring the pointless arms race of modern education, where people obtain unhelpful degrees solely to distinguish themselves from non-graduates.

  3. #3
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    Ahh... reading your first sentence, I think I see a key here, which is that the manufacturing base in the U.S. has decreased. there simply aren't as many manual labor jobs as their used to be, as they are exported to Third World nations and China. As a result, the younger generations in America have to spend some time doing nothing before they can enter the labor force, since if they entered sooner they might drive out older workers.
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    Herr Doktor Sinistral's Avatar
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    The problem with this discussion is that statements like vague degrees are not properly defined. I have a science background and sorry to most forum goers, I don't think degrees in the liberal arts are useful for getting jobs, which was readily demonstrated in several threads in the past couple years. According to Xwing , these degrees should all be eliminated. I don't think that's reasonable because I don't think those degrees are that bad. I think what matters more is to address the excess of people in those fields. What ends up happening is that the excess that doesn't get the few jobs there are to get with those degrees then go into the job market and find out they weren't prepared for it.

    Now I will admit that a science degree doesn't get you that far. Mostly, it just offers you more degree options. At best, if you have a bit of research experience or take a small prep course, you become a technician. I got a job a tech in a lab within 3 months of graduating, which was pretty good. Normally, you typically need another degree to get a nicer job. An MSc will get you a better tech job or similar kinds of work, simply because it will provide you with research experience and experience with scientific literature if you didn't get any exposure as an undergrad (which most people don't do). Alternatively, a lot of people go to med school. Similar things apply to engineering, to my understanding.

    What good universities offer, imo, are opportunities to get work experience during undergrad. A lot of undergrads don't think in terms of what employers want, which are specific skills. When I was looking for work as a tech, half my cv consisted of what I knew how to do and the majority of those things you normally do once if you're lucky during a science lab course. This is why you need to have summer internships where you spend a few months at a lab or a company where you can learn about what that job is. Its also useful to do these things before you're done so you don't waste years of your life getting a degree for a job you don't have.

    In summary, I think we need to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The system isn't entirely broken. Part of the problem is the perception of what the system is for and that's what people need to be better informed about. People need to reframe the picture of how upper education works to better utilize the resources that are readily available right now.
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    マホの探偵 Cless Alvein's Avatar
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    I refer you to an ex-professor of the British education system, now 75% more disillusioned: http://www.lambdassociates.org/blog/decline.htm?

    tl;dr: Brits are dumb because of FREEDOM
    Last edited by Cless Alvein; 08-04-2009 at 07:53 AM.
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    "Poteaux de M. Heavyfoot sur l'Internet" BlueMageOne's Avatar
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    Seems like most members of this forum got liberal arts degrees, which isn't worth much in a slow job market unless you are planning on going to grad school. I majored in Business and IT and didn't have much trouble finding a nice job.

    The liberal arts majors who called me a tool during college are either back with their parents, have joined the military, or have returned to school to get a more technical degree.
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    Goddammit Cless, that shit be depressin'.

    Also that does explain why my course is full of idiots and why it's so depressingly easy to pass.
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    Let's not confuse universities and colleges. Universities are this sort of self-feeding loop of education for education's sake. A computer science degree is not going to prepare you for actual job skills the way a 2-year college certificate will. Or rather, while certainly there's some merit in the more general/theoretical stuff (and can help give you more viewpoints on how to tackle problems), a lot of it is going to be forgotten and not used. There are people who stay in school their whole lives, either as a student or professor, because they like the atmosphere or the idealism of learning for learning's sake.

    Colleges are different. And I've never gone to one, so I can't comment that much, but I can say I fully support making technical schools more mainstream, and encouraging students whose aptitude or enjoyment leads them that way to attend them.

  9. #9
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    If I took an internship while I was in college, I probably wouldn't have as much of a hard time finding a real job. Because all the internships offered were unpaid, I also wouldn't have been able to pay rent or eat at the time. Either that, or I would have had to work an unpaid internship, and 40 plus hours at my other job, and go to classes. But I would have done it if I had known how useful they had been. Other people I know that had internships (even in the same major as me, even ones that didn't get as good grades) now have jobs at MTV, Simon and Schuster, and a bunch of other companies. I've realized I need to get a graduate degree in something that will get me a job if I don't want to be an utter failure, and so I'm thinking of getting a Masters in library science, since the job is something that would appeal to me.

    Oddly enough, I was on the track for more science classes in eighth grade, but then I moved from Connecticut to New York in the middle of a school year, and the curriculum changed to a more dumbed down one in math and science. I was quickly bored out of my skull, and didn't pay much attention because I "already knew this." Of course, in science, you really can't tune out and tune in selectively. If you miss one little thing, it makes it very hard to understand what comes after it. OOPS! <_<

  10. #10
    Old School SpoonyBard's Avatar
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    A Bachelor of Arts is more or less just the first step on the road to spending the rest of your life in school. Science as well, but Arts moreso since there's really so little to do with just a BA in any given field.

    Luckily I followed mine up with a Professional degree, which I'm still job hunting for but at least I'm better off than with just a Bachelors.


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  11. #11
    The Greatest Defender of Freedom and Liberty on These Boards The 984's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cidolfas View Post
    Let's not confuse universities and colleges. Universities are this sort of self-feeding loop of education for education's sake. A computer science degree is not going to prepare you for actual job skills the way a 2-year college certificate will. Or rather, while certainly there's some merit in the more general/theoretical stuff (and can help give you more viewpoints on how to tackle problems), a lot of it is going to be forgotten and not used. There are people who stay in school their whole lives, either as a student or professor, because they like the atmosphere or the idealism of learning for learning's sake.

    Colleges are different. And I've never gone to one, so I can't comment that much, but I can say I fully support making technical schools more mainstream, and encouraging students whose aptitude or enjoyment leads them that way to attend them.
    In Amerikkka, colleges and universities are fairly synonymous. The only big difference, typically, is that universities offer graduate degrees while colleges do not. A degree from a four year college is the same level of education as a degree from a university four year undergrad program.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cless Alvein View Post
    I refer you to an ex-professor of the British education system, now 75% more disillusioned: http://www.lambdassociates.org/blog/decline.htm?
    As messed-up as my schedule is, I'm surprised and somewhat glad to see universities here haven't messed up like that, for once. The curriculums are very rigid here and very, very few courses are optional, and even when they are, the other options are pretty much equivalent. Overal, it's tough as hell and you can go fuck yourself if you don't like it.
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    The Luckiest Guy Arac's Avatar
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    All of my senior/recently graduated friends aren't really having any trouble finding jobs with a Bachelor's Degree right out of school, or even having it lined up before they graduate. The few that are majored in something like Gender and Sexuality Studies. Even the Archeology major is doing fine.
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    I'm in the same boat as everyone else, but worse. I'll complete my Bachelor's in History when I'm 26, with massive debt. One of the reasons I was considering the military. The only good thing is that I go to an "Honors College". Strangely, I'm unworried about all this. I guess its more a feeling that if everybody is fucked with massive debt, we can't all end up poor and destitute... unless America really goes down the drain. Plus, it seems the government is moving to subsidize a sizable chunk of the debt.

    Lots of interesting comments, but I want to just again point out that our economy can sustain itself with our entire young generation exempting themselves from the work pool for 4-6 years(a majority take longer than 4 years to get a Bachelor's). This leads me to believe that the college phenomenon is a result of a shrinking of available jobs. This is an old theory, but basically as there are less non-professional jobs in America because of outsourcing, we need to keep young people away from the job market so they don't steal jobs from older people with families to support. This seems to make sense to me.
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  15. #15
    Poet Laureate Xwing1056's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinistral View Post
    I don't think degrees in the liberal arts are useful for getting jobs, which was readily demonstrated in several threads in the past couple years. According to Xwing , these degrees should all be eliminated.
    Not so. I never mentioned the liberal arts. I said,
    Quote Originally Posted by Xwing1056
    The key is deterring the pointless arms race of modern education, where people obtain unhelpful degrees solely to distinguish themselves from non-graduates.
    First, liberal arts degrees can be helpful. At the New York law firm from which I just got a permanent offer, my interviewer said, "I like to hire English majors, because I can count on their ability to write. The science majors, they understand the law, but sometimes you need to pair them with others who can write." Persuasive communication plays a central role in business, law, public relations, customer service -- even in medicine, where doctors and nurses must convince patients they are getting competent treatment. For intelligent and interested students at good schools, these are not "unhelpful degrees."

    Second, natural sciences degrees only help people who use them. Obviously, doctors, researchers and engineers qualify. But what about, say, technicians and IT workers? Do they really need advanced biology and chemistry classes? Maybe a directed two-year program would serve them just as well. Or maybe not -- I cannot speak for technicians and IT people. Certainly, science majors who end up mechanics, or outside of science altogether, wasted some time and money.

    My point is this: People who get degrees not to use them, but solely because (1) they want to distinguish themselves from non-graduates, or (2) they feel obligated to go to college, should not get bachelors degrees. To address this, we need high schools to start giving students more realistic appraisals of their future success, and to encourage technical schools as a dignified alternative to college. State governments should stop funding bad colleges and divert that money to technical schools. State governments should also better fund their major schools, so they do not need to inflate their enrollment just to survive. The federal government should add merit requirements to its need-based scholarships, and create new scholarships for students at technical and trade schools. Perhaps the federal government could heighten its college accreditation requirements and strongly advise employers not to count on the quality of a non-accredited degree. Undoubtedly, there are countless ways the government could achieve this.

  16. #16
    Viva la nebolution! Nebagram's Avatar
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    Solution is quite simple: find a career path you want to go down and fit your career around that rather than going for a four year piss-up, studying 'bullshit for dummies 101' and emerging with a worthless 2:1 and going straight into the benefits queue. Seriously.

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    I think what matters more is to address the excess of people in those fields. What ends up happening is that the excess that doesn't get the few jobs there are to get with those degrees then go into the job market and find out they weren't prepared for it.
    You do have to ask why there's an excess, but its important to also understand that there's *not* a lack of people pursuing science, math, or technical degrees. Its just that most of those people are foreigners. Its not as if all those excesses in the liberal arts could all choose to simply switch over to science... there wouldn't be enough room. So the real question is why they can't compete with foreigners...
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    Makes music with the bloops and bleeps and whatnot Kagato Toujou's Avatar
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    A Bachelor of Arts is more or less just the first step on the road to spending the rest of your life in school



    Yeeeeeeeeeeep.

    Bachelor of Arts in General Music here. That's study of music with no internship other than concentrate really fucking hard on what you're good at and see where you can go. At least I have performance recommendations and playing experience on the fly. That's about it.

    My goal was to go get another Bachelors, except it would've been a Bachelor's of MUSIC in Music Business. When I toured the campus and Fine Arts department there, I asked the music sec. on call what was the job success rate of recent graduates. He said 90% roughly; two people had graduated with the degree in December, both went on to get jobs in their related field/choice of study in music business. Last weekend, I met with the department head and he told me four people graduated, three got their first choice of jobs immediately afterwards. The other one got denied the first, but was well on his way to Virginia for his second choice.

    Note this is a college in Alabama. I know I knock my homestate more times than Ike knocks Tina, but still (At least it's not Mississippi, sorry for all the Mississippi viewers, but damn..). At least it was Gulf-Region Alabama, where there's commerce and opprotunities and Not sister-fucking tobacco-dipping rednecks who worship Nascar and have a Dale Earnheart commerative collectors plate nailed up to the wall next to a Holy Cross.

    But anyways, yeah. If things were different back then, I wish I had gone into food science and nutrition, or demographics.
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  19. #19
    Pokey LockeJV's Avatar
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    I've never understood the thought process behind "I'm going to graduate with a BS in Liberal Arts and then go get a job". You're basically taking easy, intro level classes, and specializing in nothing. You might as well just have an Associates Degree from a community college in a bunch of different subjects.

    I see Liberal Arts degrees as practical in four situations:

    1. You're undecided, and are looking to find out through study what subjects you are good at and/or interested in.
    2. You are pretty bright and will go on to grad school to study a subject that will get you a job.
    3. You are rich or already have something lined up for after you graduate (some type of connection), and your major is inconsequential; you just need the slip of paper.
    4. You're just going to school to find a spouse.

    It's good in situation #1, because if you pick a real major after two years, most of the crap 100 level courses you've taken were needed for electives anyways.

    Re: the glut of graduates discussion:

    Colleges / Universities generally exist to make money (correct me if I'm wrong), so all but the most respected schools (or programs) dumb down their curriculum every few years and are turning into diploma mills in order to maximize revenue.

    Case in point: Business Administration majors used to have to take Engineering Calc I & II. It was considered a weed out class. But this hurt enrollment into Business school, so now there is Calc I & II for non-engineering majors (a dummies course, basically). IT concentrations at the business school used to have to take Computer Science I & II with the CS majors; this too was crushing the dreams of many aspiring IT people (or causing them to take the classes at community schools and have them transferred in - bad for business!). So now there is CS I & II for dummies as well.
    Last edited by LockeJV; 08-04-2009 at 03:54 PM.

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    Post-Zeppelinist Anarcho-Samurai 6969ballsballsbal Ramza's Avatar
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    I'm just glad I'm insanely intelligent so I'll be able to get wherever I want in life
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    The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta... Kasey's Avatar
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    Well, it isn't really true that they dont mean much because you can't really get a decent job without one anymore. While they used to mean you were educated, now its a way to get a job that allows you to pay your rent and car payment all in the same month!

    A lot of places don't even care what your degree is in, just that you have one. I asked the caseworker I had at the NH Dept. of Health and Human Services what education she needed for her job, and she said she just has to have a bachelors degree in something. Hers was in art history. Obviously irrelevant to the job, it just showed she was not a high school only loser. If you just go to high school, you can get a job at McDonalds, maybe a job as a laborer of some sort.

    The days of old where Dad worked at the plant and Mom stayed home making pot roast in your modest house are gone it seems. Everything is in China (blame Zeppelin! He helps them!) and our society has gotten a little fucked up. So, bachelors degrees are important because theyre the difference between 15k and 45k for a lot of people.

    Which is so stupid.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by LockeJV View Post
    I've never understood the thought process behind "I'm going to graduate with a BS in Liberal Arts and then go get a job". You're basically taking easy, intro level classes, and specializing in nothing. You might as well just have an Associates Degree from a community college in a bunch of different subjects.

    I see Liberal Arts degrees as practical in four situations:

    1. You're undecided, and are looking to find out through study what subjects you are good at and/or interested in.
    2. You are pretty bright and will go on to grad school to study a subject that will get you a job.
    3. You are rich or already have something lined up for after you graduate (some type of connection), and your major is inconsequential; you just need the slip of paper.
    4. You're just going to school to find a spouse.

    It's good in situation #1, because if you pick a real major after two years, most of the crap 100 level courses you've taken were needed for electives anyways.

    Re: the glut of graduates discussion:

    Colleges / Universities generally exist to make money (correct me if I'm wrong), so all but the most respected schools (or programs) dumb down their curriculum every few years and are turning into diploma mills in order to maximize revenue.

    Case in point: Business Administration majors used to have to take Engineering Calc I & II. It was considered a weed out class. But this hurt enrollment into Business school, so now there is Calc I & II for non-engineering majors (a dummies course, basically). IT concentrations at the business school used to have to take Computer Science I & II with the CS majors; this too was crushing the dreams of many aspiring IT people (or causing them to take the classes at community schools and have them transferred in - bad for business!). So now there is CS I & II for dummies as well.
    You're making what might be a false assumption, though, which is that most, or at least a lot more, liberal arts majors are even capable of hacking it in science/math. You have to have to have some skill to be allowed to continue in those majors; and it may be that the vast majority of people simply don't have enough skill to keep up their grades enough not to get kicked out of the major. There's also limited slots... and as said, foreigners are coming over here in droves and taking those spots.

    Not everyone can work every job.
    Last edited by Curtis; 08-04-2009 at 07:38 PM.
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    The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta... Kasey's Avatar
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    I thought foreigners came here to steal jobs at taco bell?
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    I have a bachelor's in the theatre arts. I have the most useless degree in the world. But I can honestly say that unlike most of my fellow students that I actually earned it. I honestly felt bad for my professor, and head of the department (community college, keep in mind.) Only about half the class did the final project for Intro to Dramatic Literature, and despite only spending a week on my thesis paper, I still scored far, far above what she's seen in the last few years.

    And yes, I'm still having trouble finding a job, in any profession.
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  25. #25
    Pokey LockeJV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curtis View Post
    You're making what might be a false assumption, though, which is that most, or at least a lot more, liberal arts majors are even capable of hacking it in science/math. You have to have to have some skill to be allowed to continue in those majors
    What are you talking about? I would think most students could not earn a bachelors in mathematics or science, at a respectable university, because of the difficulty of the upper level classes. But there are dozens (hundreds?) of 'easier' majors geared for employment that will better prepare someone for a job than a liberal arts program, in my opinion.

    Wait...are you the guy who said awhile back that science, math and language are the only majors that will get you a job?

    edit: yes
    Last edited by LockeJV; 08-05-2009 at 08:42 AM.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by LockeJV View Post
    What are you talking about? I would think most students could not earn a bachelors in mathematics or science, at a respectable university, because of the difficulty of the upper level classes. But there are dozens (hundreds?) of 'easier' majors geared for employment that will better prepare someone for a job than a liberal arts program, in my opinion.

    Wait...are you the guy who said awhile back that science, math and language are the only majors that will get you a job?

    edit: yes
    I *am* saying that science and math is too difficult for most people.

    There are "dozens" of practical majors that aren't science/math? What the hell are they? I can see Education, but most states now have laws saying you ahve to get your Masters to stay certified, which is usually the path that those with generic liberal arts degrees take to get certified.
    Last edited by Curtis; 08-05-2009 at 08:32 PM.
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  27. #27
    The Greatest Defender of Freedom and Liberty on These Boards The 984's Avatar
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    English and social science majors (history, poli sci, geography, etc) coupled with a teaching major are highly useful. Then again, that's partly because you're getting a second degree in teaching.

    The various psych degrees are useful. I don't think therapists generally require anything beyond undergrad.
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  28. #28
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    But because of some state laws, both those with generic liberal arts degrees as well as those who get "initially" certified as undergrads have to get a Masters. The same thing the generic liberal arts guy would have to do. Initial certification could lead to a better job; but those with generic liberal arts degrees can easily become teachers doing the same thing that those with education undergrad degrees would have to do anyway.

    It takes years of post-undergrad study to become a psychologist. My memory is a little hazy, but I recall a psychologist telling me ultimately its about 10 years before you can be certified as a psychologist including undergrad study. That falls under the category of "too challenging for general population", as was pointed out about most science/math/language degrees.
    Last edited by Curtis; 08-05-2009 at 11:08 PM.
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  29. #29
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    I said therapist. Counselor. That kind of thing. I think they may be less qualified than psychologists or psychiatrists.

    And I am not familiar with what new laws you're talking about concerning teachers.
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  30. #30
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    In some states those initially certified have to get their Masters within a certain length of time to be able to keep teaching. Generally, a Bachelor's degree in Education does not make you "permanently certified".

    That's a good point about the therapists. I don't necessarily doubt that these different degrees exist; I just want to know what they are. I've only gone to small liberal arts colleges up to this point, so that may be why I don't know about them.
    Last edited by Curtis; 08-05-2009 at 09:03 PM.
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