So you think my philosophy degree was useless? Think again!

by Ryan Streeter on January 23, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

I just got around over the weekend to looking at this post and accompanying chart from last week at Economix. It’s worth reviewing. Why? Because it helps those of us humanities types – who never saw the STEM wave in education or the explosion of finance-related wealth coming when we were picking our majors – justify ourselves.

I was reviewing this with my ten year old, who is pretty sure he wants to study something more likely to make him a successful entrepreneur when he grows up than what his dad studied, and we both realized together that dad (me, that is) may not have been so stupid after all by majoring in philosophy. It looks like we philosophy majors occupy a greater piece of the 1 percent pie than microbiologists and physicists. And a greater share among those of us who chose such a useless major (how many times did I hear, “So what are you going to do with THAT?”) made it into the top 1 percent than among those who chose some of those useful science degrees. Who knew!

What this chart says to me, though, is it’s what you do after your get that B.A. that matters most. The fact that, say, a greater share of 1 percenters were history majors than finance majors suggests that a substantially large number of history majors went on to law school.

But, still, it’s pretty cool to see the chart amidst the near-daily cry we hear that we need to pump money into STEM and limit funds for those useless humanities degrees!

P.S. – what in the world is going on in zoology? I confess that’s a major I never thought to recommend to my children.

  • Russ Shumaker

    Well, at least there’s some hope of avoiding grad school debt.

  • phillip wong

    Your assessment is not right to me. The better question seems to be how many made it into the 1% by doing philosophy, and not law, medicine, etc.

    Can you really imagine someone getting rich by write expositions on the virtue of Wittgenstein ‘s philosophy? Probably not.

    Also, notice that philosophy, and religious studies are fused into one. Well, people who go into religious studies generally have more than a bachelor.

    There is also a problem with the future. With the continue growth of technology, and globalization. You competition is not only your local town, but the whole world.