By Sid Slesicki and Liliana López, Clarion Staff
If you’re a senior or junior, chances are you’ve been contemplating the next stage of your education – more specifically, college. With it comes the (sometimes) stressful decision of picking a major. This is undoubtedly the hardest, most influential choice of your life that will dictate your success, your social standing, college experiences, and that will walk beside you to all jobs you apply for as your petals of adolescence and youth wither into tedious, desolate adulthood.
Only, that’s not necessarily the case.
When discussing college major choices, there has always been a slight disapproval of majors that don’t fall into areas known for high income wages. Students that have parents with high expectations usually see this in the variance of passive/aggressive to highly “suggestive” steering towards the positions: doctors (anything medical related), lawyers, engineers, software developers – the list goes on and on. The discussion of major studies such as philosophy, gender studies, art, acting, biblical studies, etc. are usually dismissed or suggested to be reconsidered as minor studies, but why? The most common thought that comes to mind is job security, as majors that fall into the humanities category simply don’t set up students to find jobs that provide a stable lifestyle after college and to an extent, that’s true.
Currently the American job environment is focusing on occupations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, (STEM for short) and there are numbers to support this shift in subject preference. According to the U.S. Department of Education, STEM jobs were predicted to have a 14% increase from 2010 up to 2020 – with biomedical engineering jobs seeing an expected 62% increase in demand, and software development jobs seeing a 32% increase in addition. Thus, college major enrollment rates from 2008 to 2016 have seen a 14% decline in the humanities, and a surge of students enrolling in economics majors specifically.
While STEM jobs can provide enough income to maintain a steady living, what the numbers fail to show are the happiness rates for those who decide to pursue the usually long and academically rigorous process of studying mathematics and the sciences.
What exactly are the humanities? Humanities, also known as liberal arts, are subjects such as literature, languages, history, ethics, philosophy, and religion. Over the course of the last five years, there has been a great decrease in humanities majors due to the high demand and preference for STEM careers.
California and New York have seen the greatest rise in STEM majors: 39% and 45%, respectively. On the flip side, humanities majors have decreased or become stagnant in both states, with a -3% decrease in California and a 1% growth in New York. Contrariwise, Virginia and Vermont have the highest rate in humanities majors at 23% and 22%.
A humanities major, however, does not necessarily mean that there will be no job opportunities available. In fact, many employers in the STEM workforce are looking to employ humanities majors. The qualities obtained by a humanities major, such as critical and creative thinking, analysis, and writing skills are often desirable to employers in both the fields of technology and business.
Oftentimes, the sales, marketing, or human resources employees of huge Silicon Valley companies are liberal arts majors including theater or philosophy. These people have the skills necessary to be involved in the communication/consumer relations areas of technology and are therefore vital to the companies for which they work. They are a complement to the “techies” (coders, program designers, and engineers) that we see so many people aspiring to be. If you’re stressed about what major to choose, or wondering if your passions will even lead to a stable job, remember that there are all sorts of high-paying jobs out there for you.