Gates v. Jobs on liberal arts

While Bill Gates urges governors to invest in college disciplines”that actually produce jobs,” Apple founder Steve Jobs says “it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

New York Times’ Room for Debate asks which college drop-out is right?

After the first 10 years, liberal arts majors catch up to graduates in career-oriented majors, writes Edwin Koc of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

In 2010, the average offer to a computer science major was $60,473; the average offer for a history major was $38,731.

. . . Once in a career path, the more general skills of communication, organization and judgment become highly valued. As a result, liberal arts graduates frequently catch or surpass graduates with career-oriented majors in both job quality and compensation.

Only 39 percent of U.S.-born technology CEOs hold engineering, computer or math degrees, responds Vivek Wadhwa,  director of research at Duke’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization.

Humanities students learn to write, a critical skill for the business world, argues Mark Bauerlein, an Emory English professor.

To be honest, some humanities majors learn to write.

Employers pay a premium for business majors, but humanities majors will be worth more, argues Richard Vedder of the Center on College Affordability and Productivity.

. . .  in the core business areas of management and marketing, I have long felt that the instruction is largely of limited intellectual content and little practical utility – people can learn how to sell wickets or manage a small group of employees just as well by studying engineering, communications, history, or, for that matter, mortuary science. . . . Salary data suggest that earnings rise dramatically with age, suggesting much “learning” is done on the job, and students studying intellectually weak and information-deprived courses in business are not going to have the critical thinking skills that might assist in the post-graduate learning-by-doing process.

Business is the most popular college major, followed by psychology, nursing, biology, education, English, economics, communications, political science and computer science, according to the Princeton Review.

The most profitable majors are: engineering, economics, physics, computer science, statistics, biochemistry, math, construction management, information systems and geology, says WalletPop.

On Payscale’s list of degrees with the best mid-career pay, a government degree is the top earner that isn’t math-centric. Business majors aren’t high on the list.

About Joanne