Art students make choice

By Editorial Board

Nobody said being a successful artist would be easy. But a new study released Jan. 4 shows that recent graduates with degrees in the arts, humanities and architecture suffer the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Undergraduates with degrees in architecture faced an unemployment rate of 13.9 percent; the arts, 11.1 percent; and the humanities, 9.4 percent. Data from the Census Bureau’s 2009 and 2010 American Community Survey was used for the analysis. Students who majored in technical fields fared much better. In fact, workers who majored in engineering, computer science or business have gained 50 percent more earnings in their lifetime than those who majored in the arts.

This is not the best news for students at Columbia, but it shouldn’t discourage or surprise them. Any degree, whether in biology or graphic arts, is better than no degree at all. Students are realizing that a degree is an investment, not just a means to an end.

Unemployment rates were 22.9 percent for recent high school graduates and 31.5 percent for high school dropouts. And some majors that were closely related had vastly different unemployment rates. Information systems, for example, had an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent while computer science was 7.8 percent. Not to mention that “the arts” is a broad category of majors; the study’s attempt to speak to every single major at every single college is probably a little too ambitious.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual student to determine whether a certain major is right for him or her. Some students value monetary success above all else, and there is nothing wrong with that. Others live meagerly but are content. Students need to be a bit more honest with themselves, and they especially need to realize that a degree isn’t a free pass.

Therefore, high school graduates must think about what will truly make them happy. Showing high school seniors unemployment rates instead of simply telling them “the world is their oyster” might seem cold, but in the end, it will help them make an important decision.

There are options for all graduates, though many of them are not glamorous. When job offers are scarce after college, pursuing a graduate degree isn’t such a bad option, as it will make students more valuable to prospective employers.

Recent graduates must also be willing to swallow their pride and dig in the dirt for a while, whether that means fetching coffee for the boss or performing menial tasks. Everyone has to start somewhere.