‘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.

hum student

Are Avenue Campus dwellers doomed?

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.

engineers

Two keen and confident ship scientists

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!

noushie

Anouska is one happy physicist following the good news

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?

morebooks

Will all that reading get you a job?

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.

00grad

These humanities graduates aren’t as worthless as The Times article suggests

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.

33 Comments »

Leave your response!

  • An Engineering or Science Student
    avatar

    “Why don’t we all just do Engineering or Science? But wait. Imagine society without the arts or humanities.”

    The reason the majority of people don’t do Engineering or Science is because it’s difficult and they wouldn’t be able to complete their degree, nothing to do with how society is without art or humanities.

    Reply

    Embarrassed scientist
    avatar

    Well observed. But do remember, on your graduation day (when you will mercifully rid us all of your nauseating superiority complex) please ensure you don’t bang your inflated head on the way out of the hall.

    Reply

    An Engineering or Science Student
    avatar

    I really do not understand why it’s socially shunned to say that one degree is harder than another? It’s the fair truth. Not all degrees are the same in difficulty. Hence why certain degrees have higher entry requirements than others.

    I’m not mocking anyone by trying to belittle their degrees, but saying that the difficulty of all the degrees is the same is really dumbing down all the hard work that anyone doing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degree does.

    Reply

    English Student
    avatar

    Not necessarily true. While engineering and science degrees have more contact hours and higher entry requirements, English degrees are harder to get firsts in as they’re more subjective and you also get less support from tutors. Pretty even.

    Reply

    Embarrassed scientist
    avatar

    Come now, I seem to recall there were quite a few “STEMS” that had pretty low entry requirements come to think of it. Certainly there were a few Bs in there!

    Reply

    Language Student
    avatar

    Claiming that “saying that the difficulty of all the degrees is the same is really dumbing down all the hard work that anyone doing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degree does”, equally dumbs down all the hard work humanities students put in. I’d quite like to see many of those who argue STEM subjects to be more difficult start learning a new language, such as Mandarin, in first year and with 4 contact hours a week be able to write a 6000 word research paper in that language by 3rd year.

    Reply

    Language Student
    avatar

    I should add that that’s 4 hours per language/ module, not in total,

    Reply

    English Student
    avatar

    Couldn’t agree more! Just because STEM degrees have more contact hours doesn’t mean they’re harder. You get more support, and with right and wrong answers higher marks are easier to achieve. You don’t hear about all those English students getting firsts and all STEM students getting 2:2s and 2:1s, do you? And it’s not because we’re less clever – I got 9A*s and 2As at GCSE, A*AA at Alevel and I’m still finding it hard to reach a first.

    Reply

    anon
    avatar

    Quite the contrary actually. As you progress in science you realise how much just isn’t black and white (yet), how much we don’t know, things we can’t yet explain, limitations and gaps in our knowledge. It’s far from straight forward!

    Engineering and foreing languages student
    avatar

    Excuse me, but I am an enginneeing student and I have always studied other languages at the same time that I was doing my degree, thinking of the languague I was studying as another module of my course. Graduated in Telecommunications Enginnering and got a diploma that proves that I am bilingual. Now I am doing a MSc in engineering and learning a third language.
    I would like to see how many people can do such a big effort to be successful in both things.
    I think that doing a whole degree in just languages is completely useless whereas combined with other degrees is clearly a push to your career.

    However, I do agree and not everyone is capable of studying the same subjects given that each person has different aptitudes, and therefore not everyone should do engineering or science degree. It would be impossible for me to do law, for example.

    Love xx

    Reply

    English Student
    avatar

    I know a lot of STEM students who wince when they hear I do an English degree, because to them that’s the idea of hell. A lot of STEM students would find an English degree really damn difficult, just like a lot of English students would struggle with STEM subjects. It’s not really fair to say one degree is harder than the other, they’re just different.

    Reply

    CompSci student
    avatar

    You can’t compare the arts and sciences in terms of ‘difficulty’. It doesn’t work like that. Everybody thinks differently, and as a result what’s easy for one person may not be for another. Arguing about ‘who has the hardest degree’ is just a slightly less crass (but no less boring and worthless) way of telling the world how big your intellectual peen is. The truth is no one gives a fuck one way or another.

    Reply

    Engineering PhD student
    avatar

    I did an MEng and got a comfortable 1st and now I’m doing an Engineering PhD. I find engineering pretty easy but there is absolutely no chance I could have finished an English degree, it would have been way too difficult for me.

    I challenge any STEM graduates to construct an argument as well as an English grad, or assess nuance, or critically evaluate. You can’t because you don’t have a degree in it. Just like an English grad can’t design a car (not that any fresh STEM grad could either, not even close). So stop saying that you work harder, or are more intelligent, or are worth more because it makes you looks stupid and arrogant.

    Reply

  • jeff
    avatar

    Not everyone happens to be suited to science degrees, and there are plenty of employers who need people with more worldly (read humanities-based) skills than those developed by doing sums for three or more years.

    Reply

    anon
    avatar

    Hmmm. You know studying STEM subjects still requires reading, right?

    Reply

  • David Sarky
    avatar

    The humanities faculty fails students – especially first years – with its careers events. Students are unaware of and receive little to no help in preparing for things such as spring weeks and internships in the financial sector – which humanities students ARE fully capable of successfully applying for – and would vastly improve their employability if undertaken.
    Instead we get talks from people who have never had a real job, and don’t get told about university wide careers events. 9 GRAND WELL SPENT.

    Reply

  • Arts third year with grad scheme lined up
    avatar

    Getting a grad job relies more on the person than on the degree subject.

    The Times may have released this article recently because for many of the big “city” firms, psychometric testing is used in order to whittle down the massive numbers of people who apply. These usually rely on your mathematical ability, more geared towards people who do science and engineering. However, assessment centres and telephone interviews and not subject specific and do not appear to value any degree above another.

    So no, if you do an arts degree, it isn’t a useless degree at all, but it may put you at a slight disadvantage at the very early stages of applying. However, with enough practise (I failed 17 psychometric tests before I passed one) then an arts student is more than capable of wow-ing an assessment centre panel as much as the next engineering student. It really depends on your drive and how much you want it as well as work experience and internships gained before.

    Reply

  • Annie
    avatar

    I’m a Maths and French (joint) honours graduate and whilst the maths part of my degree got me the interviews, it was my French language and work experience that actually got me a job.

    Reply

  • Bogomil
    avatar

    I already knew 3 languages before I left high school in Continental Europe (with certificates). While the British Higher Education is awesome, I think that studying a language for 4 years in university is more of a waste of time. I respect the arts, as I read a lot, watch art cinema and go to the theater, but you don’t have to necessarily earn an Arts degree to not be a boring philistine. Don’t get offended, please.

    Reply

    Modern Languages Student
    avatar

    Not everyone has the benefit of coming from a country where the education system puts any emphasis on language learning. It’s an extremely unfortunate truth that many people who went through the British education system are unable to say more than a couple of phrases in another language. Perhaps it would be a waste of time for someone who already speaks another language fluently (as I assume you do, based on the fact that you said you “know” 3 languages) to study that same language at university. However for those who want to pursue a career in languages and finished A-Levels with a B2 level at best, studying a degree in up to 3 languages is certainly not a waste of time.

    Reply

  • sad grad
    avatar

    The I didn’t value enough until I was in work was that the degree subject is pretty well meaningless past the point of getting a 2:1 and you’re studying outside of a career-ready degree (like nursing). Companies all recruit based on competencies like verbal comms, written comms, problem solving, planning – things you get in any degree in different ways. The most important thing is to demonstrate that through your degree. The thing is – even an English grad isn’t ready made to be an editor, bit they can easily demonstrate attention to detail, comms, and probably commercial awareness from the book industry… And so on and so on for other disciplines

    Reply

  • J-B
    avatar

    “But the humanities teach us how to be good thinkers”

    Correct me if i’m wrong, but I think any degree requires you be to a good thinker…

    Reply

  • 2nd Year Physics Student
    avatar

    Live and let live is all I say. There always seems to be comparison, if not between different courses then between Russel Group universities and certain neighbouring non-Russel group universities. People study what they want to and if they’re happy with what they learn then that’s all that matters. But what do I know, since I haven’t been taught how to be a “good social thinker”.

    Reply

  • anon
    avatar

    (i) working in Starbucks counts as a job after 6 months (ii) using a couple of examples of people is redundant and disconnected with the ‘big picture’.

    Fuck you tab.

    Reply

  • jumper enthusiast
    avatar

    May I say the fellow on the left has a superb jumper,

    Reply

  • Medical student
    avatar

    Personally I respect everyone who is at university doing any sort of degree because they all have their own challenges. However I do also agree with some of the comments above. Not acknowledging that there is a clear difference in difficulty is just silly.

    I am a medical student (and no I don’t have a superiority complex) and I personally believe that my degree is much harder than a humanities subject.

    Imagine being in 9-5 almost every day. At the end of the semester there is approximately 130 plus lectures to revise (not including tutorials and two anatomy booklets usually 100 pages plus each). Oh and don’t forget you have to practise your clinical examinations and history taking around this too as well as doing a student selected module every week.

    To compare that volume of work with a humanities degree that requires in general less than 10 contact hours a week is just ridiculous. Yes, I am aware that you have to do a lot of reading and assignments but so do we!

    Like I say, I’m sure I would probably be no good at a humanities degree and that these students do work hard which I respect as I have a lot of friends doing such degrees. But I think these students have to acknowledge the amount of work that we do and give us credit rather than shooting us down because of our ‘superiority complex’ all of the time.

    Reply

  • Zih
    avatar

    While the numbers are pretty clear; STEM graduates earn a lot more over their lifetime than humanities graduates, it’s also true that teachers earn a lot less over their lifetime than stockbrokers, but we all know who we’d rather see hit by a bus.

    Really the stats you should be pulling up are the number of unemployed humanities grads vs the number of unemployed non-graduates of the same age. I expect the humanities grads come out of that comparison looking pretty good.

    Reply

  • Humanities grad
    avatar

    I graduated last year from humanities and have a graduate job at a FTSE 100 company. And I didn’t just spend three/four years at a sausage fest.

    Reply

  • The Purple People Eater
    avatar

    Anyone crowing about the employment prospects of one degree over another should either be employed or have a job lined up for when they graduate.

    There will be plenty of engineering grads who have crap careers and plenty of humanities grads who earn plenty, your degree isn’t going to earn money for you on your own.

    Reply

  • Name
    avatar

    >Arts degree
    >Graduate job
    Choose one.

    Reply

  • A History Student
    avatar

    What I always find holds true is that whilst it’s easier to BS your way to a pass in the Humanities if your knowledge is poor (although you have to be pretty incompetent to get yourself in that situation in any degree), it’s harder to get a first. This is partially due to the more subjective nature of the marking, but mainly because you have to challenge existing knowledge, show real critical thinking and always push the boundaries (as well as have a thorough working knowledge of the subject area) to get up to those classifications.

    Yes it’s fair to say that STEM grads have an advantage employment-wise, but it’s also true that your degree does not define you and there is so much more about a graduate that can decide whether somebody would want to employ them or not. There are plenty of STEM grads who are absolute choppers who nobody would want to employ, and plenty of BA grads who are impressive, well-rounded candidates (and vice versa of course).

    Reply

  • GarbageMan
    avatar

    Pissing contests over what degrees people do is a waste of time and once you enter the real world you will discover that you will find people from all degree backgrounds in all manner of careers from History and Theology students being accountants to Engineers and physicists being journalists. Why do these people end up in these careers? Because they’re a better candidate for the job and the degree is but one dimension of the package employers are looking for.

    The main similarity all graduates that will leave Southampton is that they have (lets hope) at least 2.1 from a Russell group university and that alone is more important than any particular subject, unless the career path you go for specifically requires it.

    At the end of the day its all incredibly juvenile to fight over which degree is better because in a few years it wont matter anyway and lets be honest undergrad is baby education when compared to postgrad in the same way A levels are compared to your first degree and so on.

    Basically have faith everyone and chill out ffs, and not let what subject your undergraduate degree is in deter you from applying for whatever you want to do as at the end of the day being good at your subject and being good at a job are completely different things

    Reply

    GarbageMan
    avatar

    I’ll just continue my rant in saying that you know what matters more than your degree when it comes to getting a grad scheme?

    Connections, work experience, the ability to sell yourself and perhaps most important of all…. the ability to interact with other human beings!

    If you’re some shut in engineer who can walk out of Soton with a first but is incapable of talking to people or an English student who is so up their own arse they can no longer see the sun shine then you are not going to get put onto the dream graduate scheme that you think you deserve.

    So if you’re reading this now undergrads remember and heed these words, get applying for internships now as once you graduate they will no longer be open to you, put yourself out there for everything you can, even just volunteering around campus is a big plus and most importantly learn to speak to people!

    Reply