Are Students Picking 'Profession' Majors Over Arts and Humanities?

Are Students Picking 'Profession' Majors Over Arts and Humanities?

Jun 25, 2013

PICK AND ROLL: Is it really true that students are choosing more career-focused, technical majors over English, arts and humanities? Somewhat, says data modeling and prediction wiz Nate Silver on his NYTimes FiveThirtyEight blog. But he argues that we should also take into the consideration that while the number of bachelors' degrees awarded in the U.S. doubled between 1971 and 2011, the number of typical graduates, which he approximates by the number of 21-year-olds, only grew by 25 percent.

Based on this, Silver finds degrees in English, math and engineering are indeed declining as a percentage of all Bachelors' degrees awarded, but hold steady when calculated relative to the total college-age population. The majors that are seeing a marked increase are those strongly tied to professions like health, business, criminal justice, and even visual and performing arts.

Silver concludes: "...perhaps there can be a balance between recognizing two concepts: on the one hand, that college has become more of a necessity for more careers and a wider array of Americans; on the other hand, Americans are now more likely than before to change professions throughout their working lives. Perhaps we should at once encourage or require college students to take coursework in English--and tell them to be wary about majoring in it."

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