Employers Really Don’t Care About Your College Major

Unless you majored in nursing or engineering or something in college, the truth your major doesn’t really matter.

While it’s become a common feature of conservative criticism of college to suggest that college is worthless (and people can’t get jobs) when students major in sociology or women’s studies—as Florida Governor Rick Scott put it, “We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, math degrees. So when they get out of school, they can get a job”—it turns out that’s not really true.

According to a survey of employers released yesterday by the Association of American Colleges and Universities,

74 percent of business and nonprofit leaders say they would recommend a twenty-first century liberal education to a young person they know in order to prepare for long-term professional success in today’s global economy.

Nearly all employers surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”

In addition, some 67 percent of employers surveyed thought that “most college graduates have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in entry-level positions.”

This suggests that the “focus on the practical major” discussion is perhaps not the most productive use of political reform efforts. It’s not so much that Rick Scott’s idea is trouble because of its potential to undermine the American liberal arts; focusing exclusively on the majors that are supposed to lead to jobs might, well, make it harder to for people to succeed in their jobs.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer