Kevin Carey has a fun piece up at TNR where instead of directly rebutting the current glut of articles postulating a glut of college educated workers, he simply looks back at the last few recessions’ worth of such articles. I’m gonna skip to the punchline:
Back in 1982, the Post wrote about Mel Rodenstein, a Peace Corps alum with a master’s degree in international affairs who was slaving away in a “mindless” file clerk job, forced to cut coupons and subsist on rice and beans. He went on to a series of nonprofit management jobs and, by 2010, was a senior research project supervisor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Health. In 1993, a Post article titled “Grads Without Jobs” described two young women graduating from good state universities who planned to spend a year wandering North America in a station wagon because “there are no jobs anyway.” Today, one of them lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, and runs her own H.R. consulting firm. The other got a PhD and works 20 feet away from this author in a Washington, DC think tank.
Sally Cameron, meanwhile, isn’t tending bar anymore. She’s a senior manager at an international development consulting company that works under contract with USAID. Her recent work includes building railroads in cyclone-devastated Madagascar. Her liberal arts degree from Smith College must come in handy, since one of the two official languages there is French. That’s how things usually work out for people who get college degrees.
The other thing that I always think is worth mentioning about this is career ladders. You don’t need a college degree to be a cook in a restaurant. But if you’re a good cook, you might want to start your own restaurant one day. And if you’re looking to start a business, then I think you’re going to find that skill in math, writing, etc. are all very useful. You don’t really “need” to go to college to learn that stuff, but it’s probably helpful, as are the personal and professional connections you might make in college.