Home > Academia, Inflation > What’s the Value of a Bachelors Degree?

What’s the Value of a Bachelors Degree?

I say not much at all. I thank grade inflation for some of it. I thank the over supply of bachelor degrees in the workplace for the other.

The oversupply is easy to understand. When there are more people with bachelors degrees in the workplace, they are less scarce, seems obvious. The Law of supply and demand dictates, that if a product (degree) is less scares then it’s value drops, in this case the wage of the worker.

From NACE, Spring Salary 2010 Survey: (It’s gated, so you might have to consult the Oracle of Google)

Starting salary offers to the college Class of 2010 are down compared to last year at this time, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

The Spring 2010 issue of NACE’s Salary Survey shows the overall average salary offer to a bachelor’s degree candidate is $47,673, which is 1.7 percent lower than the average offer of $48,515 made to Class of 2009 bachelor’s degree candidates.

Graduates earning liberal arts degrees may be the hardest hit by the effects of the recession: Currently, their average salary offers remain well below last year’s levels—8.9 percent lower at $33,540.

It’s not all bad news, Computer Science majors saw their salaries increase “by 4.7 percent, bringing it to $60,426.” I’d say that has more to do with demand being high than anything else. Also, the other majors with increases are the “harder” majors anyway, those with a high demand of math, which is hard to grade inflate away. (Math being one of the few subjects that is almost completely objective)

So why the big decrease in Liberal Arts majors? Well for one, they aren’t in demand. Why? Because they are worthless. A note on my personal bias, I’m a chemistry major so I have always seen Liberal Arts as the “can’t do anything hard, so I’ll get an art or english degree.” I know it’s wrong, but old habits are hard to break.

I still think that my opinion that Liberal Arts degrees are worthless, does have basis in reality. They are easier than science degrees, at least in the objective sense. They are more subjective, and therefore lead to be more apt to suffer from grade inflation. It’s a lot easier to give a C English paper an A, than it is to give a biology student that doesn’t know the what DNA Pol II does in a genetics class.

It would be interesting to see a trend line of the data. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere, I just don’t have the time to search for it right now. Unless anyone knows of a link they can send me.

So what does this mean really? Well if your an engineer of some kind, that bachelors is still worth something. So if your starting school, an engineering or computer degree is you best bet. If you plan on majoring in any other field, bad news…that bachelors isn’t worth jack. If your a biology major and want to make a decent living, consider medical, nursing, dental or pharmacy school. Maybe even graduate school. Business majors, your better off going for an MBA. Liberal Arts majors, I think your screwed. Even a Ph.D., will not guarantee you a good salary. But don’t fret, they are doing their best to subsidize you.

Categories: Academia, Inflation
  1. Seth
    April 20, 2010 at 12:09

    I see grade inflation as one of the primary causes of the over supply of college degrees. Perhaps the reason why engineering and computer programs have decent starting salaries is that grade inflation exists less in those disciplines.

    • April 21, 2010 at 07:46

      That’s what I was getting at. Some subjects are harder to inflate. But all things being equal, when the value of a degree suffers from grade inflation, the value of all degrees suffer. How do you know which ones are real and which ones are inflated? You can’t tell on the surface.

      • Seth
        April 22, 2010 at 16:02

        True, you can’t tell on the surface, but the market ferrets that out for us.

        I do find it strange though that the demand for the worthless degrees doesn’t wane. Perhaps those students are going for something else – to please their parents, party, or just bumble around while figure things out.

        Life would probably be better for them in the long run, though, if they were bounced from the University and were forced to go figure out how to acquire some marketable skills.

        • April 22, 2010 at 17:22

          Yes the markets do ferret it out, which is why a basic bachelors degree won’t get you jack. More and more companies are wanting the E-word as well, experience. That is harder to get, which is why it’s so valuable for a company. But of course that leads to the you don’t have experience to get a job to gain experience, death spiral.
          I just wish people would blame the party really responsible, the universities handing out worthless paper.

          I agree a lot of people don’t need to go to University. We really don’t need a janitor to have a bachelors in fine arts do we? And really, with a BA in Fine Arts, that’s about all you can do. If you want to teach, more schools are requiring a MA or above…which just reaffirms my point, Bachelors degrees are worthless.

  2. yttik
    April 20, 2010 at 19:38

    I love education. I’m a big fan of learning and never stopping.

    That said, I’ve been unhappy with the push for education, the promise that it will increase your earning power. There are unintended consequences, like elitism, like believing people with a Harvard education are smarter and more worthy then anybody else. The other side of that is that we don’t honor American ingenuity and resourcefulness anymore, we honor a piece of paper. Then we have people who don’t even try anymore, who believe that since they don’t have an education they aren’t worthy of any success.

    The stories that are not being told are the ones about the guy who can’t even read who has built a 5 million dollar plumbing business, people who have refused to believe that education is a piece of paper, that it defines who you are and what you are capable of. Instead we just hear about the poor child with a crappy education doomed to sell crack on the street corner.

    Sarah Palin’s treatment is an example of this kind of elitism. She doesn’t have a fancy education so people ridicule her for being not too bright. Well darn, she’s earned 12 million dollars in the last couple of months. Dear Lord, please bless me with that kind of “stupidity.” These are the kind of Americans I’m interested in hearing about. The ones who embrace that American spirit of resourcefulness and ingenuity.

    • April 21, 2010 at 07:48

      Now your getting into a discussion on what is knowledge. It an important topic that needs to be addressed. I recommend Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society, I think it’s chapter 2 or 3. I have the audiobook so it’s hard to quote from it.

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