MONEY

Why You Shouldn’t Get a College Degree In a “Hot” Job Field

Advertisement for Baruch College of CUNY on the side of a NYC transit bus
Frances Roberts—Alamy Advertisement for Baruch College of CUNY on the side of a NYC transit bus

Do you really want that degree in international tourism? Probably not, says Wharton professor Peter Cappelli.

A big move on many college campuses has been the proliferation of degrees and majors that sound just like job titles: Golf course operations, screenwriting, pharmaceutical marketing, you name it. There is no official count of these majors, but websites like mymajors.com list more than 1,800, along with the colleges that offer them. Ads on the street in any major city make the pitch that you can get a job in healthcare records administration, construction management, or something equally specialized with a degree from the advertised school.

There have always been degrees that seemed aimed primarily at getting the graduate a job. “Business” has been the most popular major in the U.S. since the 1981 recession. As I discuss in my new book, Will College Pay Off?: A Guide to the Most Important Financial Decision You’ll Ever Make, what’s different now is that these degrees and majors target specific job titles rather than occupations or broad fields. A number of studies find that students do chose majors based on their guess of where the jobs are. Currently students are following the advice to get so-called STEM (for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degrees.

There are many good reasons why attending college to prepare you for specific jobs is a bad idea. The first one, which is pretty basic, is that it’s almost impossible when picking a college to predict what the job market will look like years later at graduation, especially recognizing that only 40% of full-time students graduate in four years. What will you do with that casino management degree if gambling is down the year you graduate and casinos aren’t hiring? You might well be better off with a broad, liberal arts degree.

The unpredictability of the job market even applies to STEM fields. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it turns out math and science degrees per se are not and have never been particularly hot. A recent Texas study found, for example, that sociology grads made more money than biology grads. Instead, it has generally been applied science degrees like engineering that have been gone through periods of huge demand—but even within those broad fields, what’s hot at any given moment varies sharply over time.

In the past few years, for instance, the hottest job by far for new grads has been petroleum engineering, which had a dead job market until fracking unexpectedly revived it a few years earlier. Unfortunately, as new students follow advice to pursue hot jobs, graduates have been pouring out of petroleum engineering programs just as declining oil prices are smothering new exploration. Of course, freshly minted petroleum engineers can’t necessarily transform themselves into the next hot kind of engineer, so they very well may be stuck.

The general point about these engineering and tech jobs, as economist Richard Freeman observed decades ago, is that they are highly cyclical. As new technologies develop, they boom; and later they bust, partly because students pouring into hot job markets helps cool them off.

Nor do people stay in these technical fields for long, in part because possibilities for advancement are limited. In the peak of the dot.com era, for example, only 29% of grads with science and engineering degrees were in those fields two years later.

Most tellingly, employers don’t seem all that interested in vocational degrees. When asked about new grads, employers report that they are probably overqualified with respect to the job skills the employers expected them to have and underqualified in the areas we thought college was supposed to address: communication skills, interpersonal abilities, and self-management.

When asked what they look for in new college grads, a recent survey shows that employers are overwhelming interested in experiences outside the classroom, such as any kind of work experience students have had. (Of their top five criterion, “college major” is the only academic attribute.) This isn’t very surprising given that only 25% of new grads report getting a job in their major—not unexpected if your major was philosophy, but a disaster if it was fire prevention management.

The truth is, it isn’t necessary to have a degree in a field to get a job in that field. Most computer programmers, for example, have no IT-related degree. A few specific classes and some real-world experience, even if as a volunteer, may be enough to get a job in most fields, and those actions can be taken much closer to graduation when it is possible to tell where the jobs are.

How about the long-term, after that first job? Taking all the practical courses for a vocational major means there are other courses one cannot take that might be better preparation for the long run. Economist Ofer Malamud did an interesting study comparing English college grads, who typically study only one subject in college, to Scottish grads, who take a broader mix of courses before focusing on a specialization. He found that the English grads changed careers more often (possibly because they knew less about alternatives) and had more difficulty making those changes (possibly because of narrower preparation) than did their Scottish peers.

So is it worth getting that degree in international tourism? The college course in probability (that you wouldn’t have time to take) says “no.”

Peter Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources. He is also the author of numerous books, including his most recent, Will College Pay Off?: A Guide to the Most Important Financial Decision You’ll Ever Make.

MONEY The Economy

What Do the Jobs Numbers Actually Mean?

A look at the monthly employment reports and what they mean.

The unemployment rate can often be used as a measure of how tough or easy it may be to get a job at a certain time. That one number, however, paints a picture that’s a little too simplistic. The unemployment rate fails to include people who have given up looking for work and those who consider themselves underemployed. To get a clearer picture, look at the employment growth number and the unemployment rate together.

MONEY Workplace

Minority Retail Workers Paid Less Than Whites

A higher minimum wage could help even things out.

A study revealed minority retail workers are paid less than white peers. Researchers say this feeds into poverty and recommend an increase in minimum wage. The minimum wage nationwide is $7.25 an hour, but many states have higher minimum wages. Fast food workers have been protesting for higher pay recently as well.

MONEY Workplace

Should You Give Someone a Bad Job Reference?

Donna Rosato, MONEY's Careerist, addresses the question of whether you should give someone a negative reference.

What happens when someone asks you to be a job reference, but you don’t have anything nice to say about him or her? The best thing you can do is say you don’t feel comfortable being a reference for them. Some companies even have policies against giving people negative job references because it could come back to haunt them—and you. Check with your company’s human resources department; if they say no, that’s an easy out.

TIME Careers

Why High School Athletes are Cool Even After Graduation

(c) davepeetersphoto

They're just better at everything

Nerds are supposed to get their revenge after graduation.

Sure, high school jocks are popular. But as mothers across America tell their uncoordinated children: Study hard, get good grades, and you’ll have the last laugh by making more money later in life.

However soothing as this tale may be to athletically challenged youngsters, economists say it’s a lie. Former high school athletes “display significantly more leadership, self-confidence, and self-respect than those who were active outside of sports—such as being in the band or on the yearbook staff,” according to a recent study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies (via The Atlantic).

Not only that, but former high school athletes retain these qualities as long as 60 years after they hung up their varsity jackets. The Atlantic also points to several other studies that former athletes earn “from 5 to 15 percent” more than non-athletes.

The jury is still out on whether this statistical difference is because the act of playing sports in high school teaches kids skills like hard work and determination, or because kids with those qualities gravitate towards sports in youth. Either way, it would appear that there are more reasons than fleeting glory to go out for the football team this fall.

TIME Careers

These are the Most Extreme Jobs

skydiving
Getty Images

Venom milker and skydiving instructor make the list

Adrenaline addicts looking for a new job may want to consider a few of the following: Crocodile physiologist, venom milker and skydiving instructor. They all made a list of the world’s most extreme jobs, at least according to YourTradeBase, a company that helps other businesses with the entirely sedate job of completing their paperwork.

Take safari guide, for example, which was identified as the extreme career with the highest average salary. They are exposed to potentially dangerous animals like lions, work in an area lacking in medical facilities and drive on muddy and bumpy dirt tracks. But let’s face it: Despite the danger, it’s a great job.

Here are he most extreme jobs ranked by average salary per year (or season) are:

  1. Safari Guide: $73,000
  2. Professional Stuntman: $70,000
  3. Crocodile Physiologist: $62,500
  4. Storm Chaser: $60,968
  5. Cave Diver: $58,640
  6. Smoke Jumpers: $33,000
  7. Venom Milker: $30,000
  8. Skydiving Instructor: $24,000
  9. Whitewater Rafting Guide: $6,675 per season
  10. Everest Guides: $5,000 per season

In case you were wondering what a venom milker does, YourTradeBase writes that it’s a position to “massage the venom glands of many snakes, whilst pressing their fangs on a plastic plate/tube, to collect their venom.” It notes that “snakes don’t enjoy being milked.” Well, imagine that.

TIME Careers

These Jobs Are Most Likely To Be Taken by a Computer

SPAIN-TECHNOLOGY-ROBOT
Gerard Julien—AFP/Getty Images A man moves his finger toward SVH (Servo Electric 5 Finger Gripping Hand) automated hand made by Schunk during the 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Madrid on November 19, 2014.

Great news, dentists!

Telemarketers’ jobs have the highest chance of being automated, according to recent report. Other positions with huge potential for being overtaken by robots? Cashiers, tellers and drivers, among others, according to this new NPR interactive.

While telemarketers have a 99% chance of one day being totally replaced by technology (it’s already happening), cashiers, tellers and drivers all have over a 97% chance at being automated. Many positions within the “production” category put together by NPR, including packaging and assembly jobs, tend to rank highly as well.

The job with the lowest shot at being overtaken by technology in the future? Mental health and substance abuse social workers. They have a 0.3% chance, according to the data. Occupational therapists also rank at 0.3%, while dentists, surgeons and nutritionists appear pretty safe at just 0.4%.

Per NPR:

The researchers admit that these estimates are rough and likely to be wrong. But consider this a snapshot of what some smart people think the future might look like. If it says your job will likely be replaced by a machine, you’ve been warned.

To play around with the complete data, check here. But beware, it’s pretty addicting.

MONEY Wages

Here’s One Statistic Explaining Why You Haven’t Gotten a Raise Lately

115979017
Krakozawr—Getty Images

A big chunk of workers are yearning for more hours, raise or no raise.

More than one-third of American workers would be willing to work longer hours without a raise, according to a new Federal Reserve report.

The report, which surveyed nearly 6,000 individuals about their financial well-being, found 36% of respondents would prefer to work more hours at their currently hourly wage. Another 58% of respondents said they are happy with the number of hours they currently work, while 5% wished they could work fewer hours.

While those who took the survey were not necessarily hourly workers, a Federal Reserve spokesperson said the question is a general proxy for whether employees would be willing to work longer for higher pay.

As Bloomberg notes, the Federal Reserve’s findings may help explain why inflation-adjusted wages have remained essentially flat, even as the economy has improved.

“When [Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen] says that the unemployment rate probably does not fully capture the extent of slack in the labor market, this is exactly what she’s talking about,” said Thomas Simons, a money-market economist at Jefferies LLC, in an email to Bloomberg. “Until workers perceive that there are more opportunities available that offer higher wages, they will be content to work for the same rate rather than take a risk for more.”

MONEY Sports

These 10 Women Athletes Are The Top Earners

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates her victory over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in the Women's Singles Final on Day Eight of The Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2015 at the Foro Italico on May 17, 2015 in Rome, Italy.
Mike Hewitt—Getty Images Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates her victory over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in the Women's Singles Final on Day Eight of The Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2015 at the Foro Italico on May 17, 2015 in Rome, Italy.

Guess who raked in more than $24 million last year?

We often hear about astronomical salaries in men’s sports, but we hear little about the top female sports earners. The main reason is the greater popularity of men’s professional sports leagues and the corresponding TV and merchandising revenue. There is no women’s counterpart to the NFL or Major League Baseball. In sports where there are counterparts such as the WNBA in basketball, salaries lag far behind.

As a result, we find the majority of top female sports earners in the non-team sports of tennis, golf, and figure skating. In tennis, the prize money and sponsorship opportunities for women are nearly equal to that of men (and occasionally greater). Otherwise, equality is elusive — first place on the women’s list of sports earnings only earns 34th place in the overall sports earnings list.

Accordingly, the Forbes list of the top ten highest paid female athletes for 2014 (using values from June 2013 to June 2014) features seven tennis players, one golfer, and one figure skater. The other sport represented is auto racing.

  1. Maria Sharapova – The Russian-born tennis star (pictured above) does not earn the most on the court, but thanks to multiple endorsement deals, she was the top earner at $24.4 million. Sponsors include Nike, Porsche, Evian, Samsung, and Avon. She even created a line of gummy candies, appropriately named Sugarpova.
  2. Li Na – This up-and-coming tennis star from China hauled in $23.6 million, with $5.6 million in prize money and the rest through multiple endorsements in worldwide markets.
  3. Serena Williams – Propelled by $11 million in prize money, the younger of the Williams sisters earned $22 million in total income last year. Serena has earned the most in prize money over her career in women’s tennis, nearly twice that of second-place Sharapova.
  4. Kim Yuna – The top figure skater on the list, Korean star Yuna earned approximately $16.3 million on top of winning a silver medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
  5. Danica Patrick – Auto racing’s entry into the top ten, Patrick earned $15 million despite having no Sprint Cup wins and limited top-ten finishes. She is arguably as well known outside racing for her sponsorship with GoDaddy (although that sponsorship recently ended, as will her contract with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2016).
  6. Victoria Azarenka – Azarenka, the second ranked female tennis player in 2013, pulled in $11.1 million with $7.5 million in endorsements from Nike and Red Bull, among others.
  7. Caroline Wozniacki – The tennis star and up-and-coming men’s golf star Rory McIlroy ended their engagement last year, but it seemed to work out well for both. Wozniacki earned $10.8 million, propelled by $1.3 million in prize money and a lucrative deal with Adidas.
  8. Agnieszka Radwanska – The Polish-born tennis star earned $6.8 million, with $3.8 million in prize money and a sponsorship from the Cheesecake Factory.
  9. Ana Ivanovic – The “comeback kid” of sorts with respect to earnings, Ivanovic won three tennis tournaments in 2014 and earned $6.4 million total in 2014, buoyed by a lifetime contract with Adidas.
  10. Paula Creamer – Golf’s lone representative on the top ten list earned $5.5 million in 2014. The “Pink Panther” earned $1 million in prize money, with the rest in endorsements from the likes of Citizen Watches and Bridgestone Golf.

The future top-ten earners are likely to come from these same sports with one possible exception. Ronda Rousey, the best-known female fighter in the increasingly popular sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), may break into the fold before long. She’s already broken into the entertainment field, co-starring in Expendables 3. We’ll have to wait until the next Forbes list in August to see if Rousey makes the 2015 list. After all, who dares to tell her “no”?

More From MoneyTips:

MONEY financial advice

NatureBox CEO’s Biggest Money Mistake

Gautam Gupta, CEO of healthy snack company NatureBox, shares his advice for entrepreneurs—and his biggest money mistake.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com