Friday, June 10, 2011

How's that urban studies degree working out for you?

This story comes from a comment on an article about which college majors do best in the job market. The writer has been gainfully employed for most of the time since she graduated college, but not in any jobs where she has used her degree. Her story sounds familiar.
I have a B.A. in Urban Studies (city planning). I graduated in 2003 (as a married mom of two, who was temporarily a stay at home mom, after working full time for years). I found another job a few months after my graduation, in the mortgage industry, making $30,000 a year. I left that job after a year and a half, when the bank went through massive downsizing, and announced that the entire division I worked in would be eliminated. I found another job as a research assistant with the national offices of a church, still not really using my degree, but making $35,000 a year.
I got laid off from that job in 2008, and was out of work for 5 months until I got a $10 a hour temp job with no benefits, with my local county. I worked in that job off and on for a year (got laid off once), until I found my current full-time job as an administrative assistant for a small nonprofit organization. I make a little less than $30,000 a year, still not using my degree. I would feel downright rich if I could find a job paying $50,000 a year.
I am convinced that college degrees have lost much of their value over the past decade, as employers have figured out that with the economy being so bad, college graduates will work for pennies, rather than go hungry.
My husband has a high school diploma, and works as a mechanical maintenance technician and welder for a factory, and makes significantly more money than I do. I have a brother who is a plumber, and owns his own small plumbing company, and who earns in the six figures.
I loved college, but nowadays I would recommend to any high school student who is considering a 4 year degree to instead either consider going into the trades or get an associates' degree in a high demand health field like nursing, and wait until when or even if the economy improves, and then go for the bachelor's degree.
Here's a graphic from the article, showing area studies as the lowest ranked college major.


  1. My understanding is that you can't get a job in nursing anymore with just an associate's

  2. My DH and I were discussing useless majors last night at dinner. He said that his parents told him, when he went off to college, that he needed to choose an employable major. Liberal arts majors, they said,were for "other people", that he would always have to work for his living. Interestingly, they let their daughter major in French studies without batting an eye. At that time, I guess people didn't think women had to work. The daughter went on to a longterm, lucrative career in finance, with just a French studies BA.

  3. Wow about your H's sister. I think that would be much more unlikely today.

    I go back and forth on what should be on the list of useless majors. Some are obvious, I think, but others not so much. Anything with "studies" in the name is on the useless list, as far as I'm concerned, partly because I think the actual content can be so fuzzy. I guess it depends on the school.