Liberal Arts majors find post-college jobs hard to find

By Ke Xu


Brett Crowell, a college graduate in computer science at Northeastern University, spent three weeks to get his current job after his graduation in 2012.

However, it took nine months for Evan O’Toole, a college graduate in music at Northeastern, to find his current job after he graduated last year.

Last October, Forbes magazine released a list of “The 10 Worst College Majors” based on high initial unemployment rates and low initial median earnings of full-time, full-year workers. Most of the “worst” majors are Liberal Arts majors. Music ranked No. 6 in the list with 9.2 percent unemployment rate for recent grads and $30,000 in median earnings.

On the other side, computer science ranked No. 3 in its “The 15 Most Valuable College Majors” list. According to Forbes, the starting median pay for recent graduates in computer science is $56,600. The growth in pay is 73 percent (over 10 years) and projected job growth is 24.6 percent through 2020.

Degreed & Underemployed

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, a student’s college major substantially affects his or her employment and  earnings. (Graphic created by Ke Xu)

“Our field is a little different,” said Crowell. “The companies are competing for graduates, but in other fields, the applicants are competing for companies.”

After he graduated from Northeastern University last May, Crowell spent three weeks with his family on a trip to Los Angeles. Afterward, he received a call from a job recruiter  who was hiring for  Affinnova, a software company based in Waltham. He got an interview and several days later, he received a job offer from Affinnova.

Meanwhile, his friend, O’Toole was struggling to find a job despite an aggressive job hunt.. “I sent plus 200 applications and got eight or nine interviews.” O’Toole recalled. Now he is a business development representative at AG Salesworks, a marketing services company in Norwood. He got the job through a recruiting service nine months after graduation.

O’ Toole is not alone. Tim Strain, a college graduate of 2012 in Media Studies at Emerson College, has applied for 64 jobs since graduation and said the result was “miserable”.

“The most difficult thing for me is to continue to maintain a positive attitude about it all. It has been very discouraging last year just getting rejected over and over and over and over again,” Strain said.

“He was very frustrated and very troubling at that time,” said Strain’s schoolmate and roommate Andrew Hucheson, “It was a really humbling experience. You go through college, you get your degree and you think that it prepares you to go to the workforce… But he never lost his drive to find work. He is always very career-oriented and focused on his work.”

According to Diane Ciarletta, a senior associate director in Career Service Center at Northeastern, computer science and engineering are two majors with the highest employment rate and earnings. Arts and social science majors are the ones with lowest employment rate and earnings after graduation.

“In general, the arts and sciences students have a harder time to get started because recruiters are looking for people with specific degrees that fit their jobs. Arts and sciences degrees are not necessarily career-focused,” said Ciarletta. “But what we find is that arts and sciences students start off slower and lower, but they surpass later on because usually they are the ones that go on for graduate degrees. And they are the ones that are very well-rounded. So they make it into the high ranks of the career world later on.”

Listen to the comments about the job market from Kent Wampler, the deputy director of JobNet Career Center, which helps match  job seekers and employers. 

1. The common challenge that the class of 2012 are facing?

Kent Wameler 1

2. Why the underemployment rate stays so high in Massachusetts?

Kent Wampler 2

3. Why there is a difference between the graduates from liberal arts majors and the ones from science majors in the workforce market?

Kent Wampler 3

4. Do you have any tips for the class of 2013?

Kent Wampler 4

About Ke Xu 8 Articles
Ke Xu is a second-year graduate student in journalism at Emerson College and an intern at Latitude News. She believes that a good story should be both audience-centric and story-driven, and a good journalist should not just care about the facts, but also the human beings or issues behind the story. Outside of journalism, she is passionate about reading, music, food, skiing and running.