How about Historians and Welders?

Cross-posted from AC 2nd

U.S. Navy welder
A welder on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson – U.S. Navy/Wikimedia

At last night’s GOP presidential debate several candidates used our friends in the discipline of philosophy as a punch line. Most memorably, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) claimed that “Welders make more than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

Or as he put it today at an event in Iowa: “You deserve to know that the market for Greek philosophers has tightened over the last two thousand years.”

“I’m going to tell you right now: I am not going to win the philosophy vote in America,” he joked. “I’m going to find another major to pick on here soon.”

Uh-oh. Look out, fellow historians.

After all, the same 2014 Georgetown University study that found that recent philosophy graduates have an unemployment rate of 10.8% found that the same figure for History majors was 10.2%.

But: that’s the initial number. Among college graduates aged 30-54, the unemployment rate for philosophy majors is 6.8% — and for history majors it’s even lower: 5.8%. That’s roughly the same rate as for general engineering, computer science, and hospitality management, and it’s actually a bit better than for graduates with degrees in marketing, HR management, communications, journalism, public relations, and psychology.

And as FiveThirtyEight.com pointed out today, several studies show that philosophy (and history) majors have a range of earnings — but generally do better than welders. For example, data from PayScale.com shows Philosophy grad earnings ranging from $37,000 to $83,000, versus $23,000 to $63,000 for welders. The range for history majors (citing jobs as diverse as high school teachers, paralegals, and operations managers) is even greater: from $26,000 to $88,000. And that doesn’t include attorneys with History degrees; they range from $38,000 to $248,000.

Or consider this infographic from the U.S. Census’s 2012 American Community Survey:
Pathways After a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts

Of course, earnings is far from the only — or best — way to measure the value of different kinds of education. But claims like those made by Sen. Rubio are demonstrably false, and do nothing but fuel the hysteria surrounding the supposed “crisis of the humanities.”


2 thoughts on “How about Historians and Welders?

  1. I would like to say that Rubio is an idiot, but have also tried to keep away from mean labels. I will say that he doesn’t know what he is talking about and clearly does not understand what a liberal arts education is or what philosophy is all about, or that many philosophers ( and historians ) are doing far more to help others and save the planet than some welders who may not have any other skill. I don’t want to be put in the category of putting down a skilled welder. We need all of these folks to have a productive society. My mind has been seething with ideas ever since the debates last night as the campaigners try to reach the heights and lows of pandering to the angry disaffected voter. But I am old enough to be his grandmother and could tell him a thing or two (which he wouldn ‘t listen to) about what it is like to be the grandchild of very poor immigrant Swedes whose greatest joy was to see their family get the education that they didn’t have.

  2. The reason historians are paid the least is because, ‘since history always repeats itself’, most people figure they’ll just pay-up the second time it comes around!

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