‘If you want a job, get a science degree’.
That was the headline of an article published in The Times recently.
It explained that, according to some of the biggest firms in the country, studying science or engineering is the way to get employed.
Yes, studying the arts is “very nice”, says the boss of some big firm, “but at the end [students] wonder what the job opportunities are.”
In other words, arts degrees are a waste of time.
According to Unistats, while 78% of Engineering students are employed six months after graduating, the same can be said for an average of just 54% of English, History, Philosophy and Modern Languages students.
As the end of the academic year approaches, most final year students of Engineering and Science seem to be either receiving job offers of full of confidence about their employment prospects.
One final year Engineering student, Oli Short, has no doubt that he’ll find work post-graduating. He said:
I already have a few job options. I think anybody coming to the end of an Engineering degree and being proactive about looking for work will find it.
Everybody on my course who’s looking for work have interviews and with so much opportunity I think everybody will find work.
Anouska Partner, final year Physics student, recently got through to the final stage of a graduate job. She said:
It’s the first assessment centre I’ve been to and I’m really chuffed to be through to the next stage. Fingers crossed it goes just as well!
Meanwhile, many final year humanities students seem to be feeling comparatively lost when it comes to post-graduate employment.
Sophie Phipps, fourth year English and French student, is trying to avoid thinking about what will happen post-graduation. She said:
I don’t want to think about it because currently I feel like unemployment is on the cards. I’m just hoping that being able to speak a language will be useful.”
It raises the question- why bother studying a humanities subject?
The few contact hours are spent discussing Victorian novels or reading about 16th century battles. Many humanities students graduate with no idea as to what sort of job they want to do.
Why don’t we all just do Engineering or Science?
But wait. Imagine society without the arts or humanities. Is that what the government truly wants?
Subjects such as English Literature, History and Philosophy may not point to the jobs that will boost the economy, but something has to be said for the humanistic perspective and critical thinking that they encourage.
Clare Hanson, English lecturer at the University of Southampton, explains that skills learnt in the study of humanities subjects- while perhaps not directly applicable to a job- are invaluable. She said:
Humanities subjects teach students the ability to reflect on situations objectively. They encourage critical thinking skills that can be applied in a wide range of professions, including finance and mangement, where they are often very successful.
English Literature graduate, Sophie Dawson, explains that she is constantly using the transferable skills she gained from her degree. She said:
You don’t realise how it can prepare you for a job because it’s non-specific.
Although I’m not always directly using my degree in my job at the moment, I’m always using skills that I used while studying, such as organising information and researching things.”
In fact, the stats show that unemployment rates among humanities graduates are not very different to that of Engineering graduates, with just 2% difference between them.
Yes, an Engineering degree may place you in better position to find full-time employment straight away, providing you with those technical skills that a lot of the big companies seek in graduates.
But the humanities teach us how to be good social thinkers. At the end of the day, life isn’t all about science and machines.
Are students doing arts degrees wasting their time? Should we all be doing science and engineering? Let us know in the comments below.