More Undergraduates Every Year Than People Employed In The Field, And That Field Is:

Responding to a discussion on today’s earlier post, I happened to look up some statistics on undergraduate degrees in the United States — and, as the Taboola ads say, you will be shocked!

This table shows the changes in undergraduate degrees awarded over the past forty-five years. There’s been a total 132% growth in the number of degrees, so if a field is at 232% of its 1971 total it’s just keeping pace. Here are some winners and losers.


Education (73% of the 1971 total in 2016)
Literature (64%)
Foreign languages (84%)
Social sciences and history (about flat!)
Math and statistics (about flat)
Architecture (122%)


Business (330% of the 1971 total in 2016)
Biomedical sciences (327%)
CompSci (2,990%, duh)
Health professions (943%)
“Multidisciplinary” (785%)
Gender and race studies (302%)
Homeland security, law enforcement, fire fighting (2,913%)
General humanities (581%)
Visual and performing arts (310)
Psychology (306%)

That last one caught my eye. In 1971, this country graduated about 25% more bachelor’s-degree engineers every year than it did psychologists. In 2017, we had 116,861 engineering majors and 115,640 psychology majors. This might lead you to think that there are about as many engineers as psychologists working in their field at the moment. The truth of the matter, however, is that there are apparently 106,000 psychologists working in the country compared to more than 1.6 million engineers! Obviously the vast majority of psych grads don’t go on to get the advanced degrees they’d need to practice, but still — who is advising all these people to get that degree? What happens to all of these would-be psychologists? Here’s a hint: instead of writing prescriptions, they’re writing on coffee cups. Maybe it’s not your bartender you should be sharing your troubles with, but your barista. Be aware, however, you’ll be sharing your therapist with this guy.

26 Replies to “More Undergraduates Every Year Than People Employed In The Field, And That Field Is:”

  1. AvatarBeccaria

    My experience has been that the vast majority of psychology majors wind up in positions under the marketing and sales umbrella. At many schools, there’s now significant overlap between both psychology and marketing programs. I have my own ethical concerns about that, but it helps explain why there’s been such a surge in that major compared to liberal arts like history or literature. It is relatively marketable degree as far as “soft sciences” go.

    My broader view of it is this: it’s fine to major in the humanities in college. I did. It’s fine to do it if that’s what you want to do, and it’s fine to do it if you know you’re not cut out for STEM. A bachelor’s degree, any degree, is still a hugely valuable thing for most people. Not because the wages paid to most college graduates have kept rising, but because the situation for almost everybody that doesn’t have one has become profoundly unstable and is only going to get worse. Much worse. However, parents and guidance counselors have the responsibility to make cost-benefit decisions on behalf of new high school grads, which they have neglected to do in way too many cases. There are so many freshmen who would be better served enrolling at community college for 2 years, getting quality face-to-face instruction in gen eds from profs that are invested in teaching, and spending a fraction of what they would enrolling at 4 year campuses. If it turns out that you really can’t hack it or life gets in the way, you’re not going to be out tens of thousands of dollars. And for the love of God, do not enroll in any for-profit school. Anecdotally, I believe this reality is starting to sink in for the generation that is graduating high school now. They are going to avoid making some of the mistakes that my generation and our parents did in terms of educational financing, and they will be better off for it.

  2. AvatarCJinSD

    Many of the growth majors are what used to be categorized as MRS degrees, but who would ever marry a girl who has put on a pussy hat for Christine Blasey Ford only to later say they’d vote for Joe Biden even if she had to watch him rape Adam Schiff?

    • Avatarstingray65

      Joe Biden, the man behind the Obama administration’s Title IX push to make sure universities did not give male defendants any of their Constitutional Rights when they are accused of sexual improprieties by female students, because we are supposed to “believe all women”. According to Joe its alright to skip due process and promptly destroy the educational and career opportunities of a 20 year old who kisses or has intimate relations with a fellow student who decides she was raped after sobering up or getting angry he didn’t text her afterwards, but he himself of course deserves due process when accused by someone from his own office staff and political party. Why? Well we just have to trust “hair sniffing” Joe when he says it didn’t happen (Google: “Biden plagiarism”), and besides he has promised a female VP who will be picked by his good friend Chris Dodd (Google: “Dodd sandwich”), and to reinstate the Obama era Title IX protections against giving defendant due process rights during his first week in office that the evil Trump administration has reversed.

      Leftists – if they didn’t have double-standards they would have no standards at all.

  3. AvatarREM

    Undergraduate degree in business is the real joke. They don’t have to do any work. Just ask the kids in the Greek system. I’d hire a psychology major, any day, over a business major.

    Plus, an undergraduate degree in pysch (especially b.s. degree) makes an easy step to one of the medical fields that requires post graduate education, like physical therapist.

    Next topic for discussion: one or two spaces after a period?

    • AvatarS2k Chris

      All business degrees are not the same. There’s fluff like marketing and management, and then there’s finance and accounting which are much more math based and less feel-good. Get an accounting degree and do decently well and you might not be pimping lamborghinis but you’ll never be hurting for work.

      -guy with an accounting degree

  4. AvatarChris FOM

    Psychology is also frequently a springboard bachelors degree before getting a more advanced degree in something else. In my medical school class there were a fair number of psych degrees since med school doesn’t really care what you major in as long as you’ve completed the prerequisites, and in fact sometimes the opposite as majoring in something else can make you a more rounded applicant. I majored in biology myself but with a minor in music and I know which of the two got talked about more during interviews. Also my wife is an occupational therapist with a masters degree in OT, but her bachelors is also psychology. So there’s a number of ways of getting a useful degree in psych without necessarily working in that field. Something more focused, like biomedical science is good for either medicine or an advanced degree in BIMS but not much else if you want to go in a different direction.

  5. AvatarMental Ward

    Psych degrees also carry a lot of weight in HR and positions in education besides being educators. It’s a springboard degree for a variety of Masters programs.

    Not to mention how many psych degrees end up law enforcement, military and other non-DoD intelligence associated careers.

    • Avatarstingray65

      The difference between a psych degree and a business, education, or criminal science degree is that the psych BA will almost certainly need to get a graduate/professional degree to find decent employment. The rise in graduate school enrollment has been largely driven by the huge number of predominantly female undergrads who choose a non-employable major (including other winners such as visual and performing arts). As they load up debt during their undergrad years and are indoctrinated into Leftism/social justice pablum by faculty who would be working as baristas if they weren’t professors, they eventually discover they will need to load up even more debt in graduate school if they want to be more than a barista themselves. If they are somewhat intelligent they will choose an MBA or Medical degree, and if they are not they might end up with a PhD in womyns studies and become Dr. Starbucks. This is why the “free college” and “loan forgiveness” is such a big campaign issue for Democrats trying to capture the votes of single females working at Starbucks with a $100,000 student loans and BA in psychology or performing arts.

  6. Avatarstingray65

    Interesting that your degree statistics date back to the early 1970s, because that also is the same time frame as the biggest boon to higher education: Griggs v Duke Power (1971). The case involved a black employee of Duke Power who felt he was discriminated against by an aptitude test given by the firm to decide on promotions to higher paid positions. Statistical analysis showed that blacks were less likely to achieve the necessary test scores for promotion, and the Supreme Court ruled that such “disparate impact” was a sign of racial discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act. Thus rather than continue the former practice of hiring high school (or less) graduates and training them on the job and promoting them on merit (as indicated by aptitude test scores), many companies decided the risk of disparate impact lawsuits meant they should only hire college graduates to ensure they got employees with the necessary work ethic and intelligence to do higher level work. This new reliance on the college degree holders was because historically college had been reserved for elites, who by and large had high IQs and good social networks that made them valuable employees. True college level work is typically thought to require an IQ of 110+, which means only about 1/3 of the population is true college material, and such rarity of cognitive skill is why college degrees brought significant salary and employment payoffs for its mostly elite graduates.

    Thus Griggs arrived just at the time when some colleges were worried that the end of the Vietnam war might reduce the number of applicants because male college students got deferments from the military draft, but Griggs made college degrees mandatory for a wide variety of jobs that had formerly not required them. Griggs also heightened the diversity push on college campuses and drove affirmative action and other forms of application discrimination against white males to new heights, and thus the 1970s were the unprecedented era in the rise of female and minority enrollments. But guess what happens when universities start letting in people who are not really college material in terms of attitude or aptitude, or who just don’t like all those white male dominated majors? They certainly didn’t want to lose income by having students drop out, especially if drop-outs were disproportionally people of color or female, so they created or expanded easier and more friendly majors – i.e. victim studies programs, social justice emphasis in social sciences and humanities, which became the first choice or fallback positions for students who just didn’t have the interest or mental horsepower to handle more demanding majors. Given that 70% of US high school graduates at least start university, this means that over half are not really capable of doing college level work, and these junk degrees are the mechanism for keeping them in school and generating income, but the much higher proportion of the population with a college degree of some sort also means they are less valuable.

    Thus legal fears on the use of workplace aptitude tests is a major reason why the US has so many predominantly female students graduating from college with expensive but otherwise worthless degrees, and even more (predominantly non-Asian people of color) who start higher education and go into debt but never finish.

  7. AvatarJohn C.

    Interesting all the criminal justice degrees. Do police forces no longer have academies? Similar with homeland security degrees. Why not just join the Army? Well perhaps if the part of the homeland you want secure is the mall.

    • Avatarstingray65

      I suspect the Leftist indoctrination they receive in university criminal justice and homeland security programs makes it easier to achieve Leftist social justice goals such as decriminalizing crime (see link) and protecting criminals from WuFlu by letting them out of prison, which opens up a lot of jail cells for throwing political prisoners such as hair salon owners who cut hair to avoid starving, or mothers taking their kids to the park, or blue collar types who protest closure orders because they want to go back to work instead of taking welfare. I also suspect that moving beyond patrol officer to higher ranks increasingly requires a college degree, and that a lot of homeland security majors think the military is beneath them.

        • AvatarJohn C.

          On the Taki article, I more a Bunky Mortimer type of Taki reader. I live in a condo building with those packages pile up in the lobby. All the delivery guys I meet are nice and hard working and yes mostly black. You will find more villains among the residents.

          • Avatarstingray65

            I am sure you are correct that most delivery people are honest, but the evidence presented in article left no doubt about who the criminal was in this particular case, and the police and DA weren’t interested in making an arrest. Meanwhile, the police are arresting joggers on the beach, and speeders on the empty freeways.

      • AvatarJohn C.

        I wouldn.t worry too much about indoctination, at the IQ levels we are talking about getting them to sit still in a classroom setting for four more years is such a degree of torture that I am confident most are not following close enough to be indoctrinated.

        The bigger problem as I see it is attracting enough police from those themselves not of troubled youth background. My daughter skipped a grade in boarding school so was a little younger than those around her in University. Her roommate was friendly with cadets at the local police academy and she had never seen such a bunch of hooligans. They were all white as she went to University in Canada. Her roommate ended up dropping out and working for McDonalds.

  8. Avatarhank chinaski

    Random thots:
    Engineering is hard, with a risk of being replaced by your freshly graduated equal or an H1B. The current day whipping boy of white males on the spectrum fill its ranks.
    Math and stats guys are now quants on WS.
    Psych: why the Lizard People Commercial you riffed on recently is a thing.
    Homeland security: see also post 9/11 police and surveillance state.
    Healthcare: the healthcare industrial complex isn’t going to serve the growing gerontocracy without midlevels. There aren’t many more US trained M.D.s over that period.
    Gender/race studies: just a tripling??

    For most of these, follow the money, for some in non-dischargeable debt offered to anyone with a pulse.
    The John Adams quote (war/engineering/poetry) comes to mind.

  9. Avatar-Nate

    Psychology has been an integral part of marketing for a long time now, I wonder of that’s why so many are getting what I consider worthless degrees in that field : because JOBS in marketing, TV commercials and so on .


  10. AvatarNoID

    My wife just completed her sophomore year pursuing a BS in developmental psychology with a minor in Biblical studies. Her desire (after getting her master’s) is to work with families who are at risk for having children removed due to abuse and neglect, BEFORE the state intervenes to remove the children. Often kids being removed can cause just as much trauma as whatever was going on in the home in the first place, and having seen this first hand as foster parents, we’d both like to do what we can preemptively to address problems without separating families. Our opinion is if there isn’t an imminent and ongoing risk of harm to the child, they should stay in the home while Mom and/or Dad get a first crack at fixing themselves.

    Anyways, my wife actually needs a psych degree to do this job properly, and in a field where there is a dire lack of services / people willing to work. The bonus is that neither she nor we need her income to survive, so she can stomach the woefully low salaries that people in social work tend to pull in.

    Someone above mentioned marketing / sales pulling in a lot of psych degrees, and that seems to be the case. We were looking for jobs she could take prior to receiving her master’s, and about half of them were in sales and marketing. It was kind of disgusting, really…

    Your line at the end about going to see a barista instead of a bartender hit on something I’ve been mulling over this weekend while doing yard work. How about a bar, but all of the bartenders are degreed psychologists, psychiatrists, CPAs, financial advisors, counselors, etc. People come in to get a drink and complain, but in doing so stand a good chance of getting sound advice from the person behind the counter. I’m sure the concept violates some kind of professional oath in all of these fields, but it seems like a good way to force feed some sensible advice into people who are struggling.

  11. Avatarjc

    What no one wants to say outright:

    The majority of the growth degrees listed are EXTREMELY EASY. The only exceptions are those actually drivent by technological changes since 1970 (Biomedical sciences, for example).

    Business Administration (jocks, frat boys, party city)
    Multidisciplinary (means screwing off and partying, mostly – when you’ve foundered amongst majors for six years and you need to get a degree, any degree)
    Homeland security, etc. – these used to be taught in trade schools/police academies, etc. – I had no idea they had become college degrees.
    “General humanities” see “Multidisciplinary”
    Psych – jocks, cheerleaders, partiers.

    If as Paul Fussell suggested the proportion of people completing real meaningful degrees from real, rigorous institutions, has remained roughly consistent ever since the GI Bill of the late 40s, then the vast expansion of the supposedly “college educated” can only come by opening large numbers of non-rigorous institutions (University of Phoenix, anyone?); by converting large numbers of junior colleges, secretarial colleges, and vo-tech institutions into “Colleges” and sometimes even “Universities” that grant things called “Bachelors Degrees”; and by the existing less-serious schools opening new divisions where rigor is not present.

    For the easy programs I’ve listed, show up for most classes, get a copy of the “jock notes”, cram the night before each exam; and you’re good to go!

    I know this from personal experience as well. As an engineering major, I didn’t have time to take real courses in humanities subjects as required for “distribution”; so I (and all my fellow engineering students) identified the most “gut” courses to be found (hint: look for scholarship football players and cheerleaders), bought copies of the “jock notes” and basically pulled As and Bs for about ten class attendances a semester and an evening of study before each exam. Oh yes, sometimes you had to write a paper, too, so that was two more evenings.

    Even though they both are labeled “bachelors degree in humanities” I assure you the BA in “Multidisciplinary Studies” from Eastern West Michigan State College (which was called Podunk Secretarial School back in 1970) bears the same resemblance to the BA in English from the University of Chicago, that your aunt’s paint by numbers rendition of a kitten does to the Mona Lisa. Yep, they’re both paintings.

    • AvatarMike

      A story I enjoy sharing…

      After I graduated with a mechanical Engineering degree and had a few years’ work XP under my belt, I decided I wanted to go back for my Master’s degree. Two options I explored were going back for my MBA, which I figured would be decidedly easy, or pursuing a Masters in M.E., which would be more difficult, take longer, and carried a degree of risk (i.e. failure).

      I chose the latter. 4 years later, my M.S.M.E. in hand, I was applying for a promotion in the company that paid for my Master’s, and after receiving a somewhat lower salary offer than I’d anticipated, wrote an email to the HR director explaining my work and educational background. I received a phone call that afternoon with another $15,000 tacked onto the offer, along with an apologetic “Sorry, we thought your Master’s was in business, not engineering. We mostly get MBA’s applying.”

      Fast forward 12 years, and I’m currently working taking Program Management classes. I like engineering, but at this point in my career, I need to start branching out. And PM is a specific skillset, not just generic “business” classes.

  12. AvatarBlueSilverWave

    This is probably due to a signaling breakdown between the companies trying to hire for in-demand jobs and the adolescents enrolling in college to be trained for them. As an entering freshman, you are presented with an implicit equivalence between majors; most schools generally charge the same tuition for a degree in computer science or German. However, there’s currently a slight difference in demand between the two. Sure, you can look up wage numbers and employment totals, but as every department is advertising for more declared major students to keep their faculty allocations up, the numbers you see are only to be trusted so far.

    While I think most STEM initiatives are really attempts to drive programmer wages down as close to H1 as possible, they seem to be the only coordinated attempts to direct high school students towards careers with employee demand out there.

  13. AvatarJames

    Many academic departments make a business out of granting degrees they find meaningless–the undergraduate economics degree, the masters in mathematics. I read a newspaper story once of a women who obtained her Ph.D. from a German department, for a dissertation on Americans who played text-based adventure games (in English)–it confounded only the reporter that the woman had never found (and never sought!) employment as a professor of German.

    This situation is stable because while people outside the field see a degree as a credential, people inside the field must look at your work–your transcript, your dissertation, your publications. Graduate programs in economics aren’t checking your transcript for econ courses. Academic departments don’t hire professors whose research they find irrelevant.

    In many cases, I think, the credential is useful. Certainly, many engineering programs find value in forcing their students to pass Calculus–a sequence of courses that all mathematics departments find irrelevant! In some cases the credential is useful through no effort by the issuing body (I think of the M.S. in math). But in many cases, the credential is intended to be useless, and the recipient remains un (or under) employed.

  14. AvatarFred

    LIke anything else, it probably depends on where one gets his degree as to how valuable it is. Almost 50 years ago I got a business degree from Illinois State University; it was primarily survey courses, easy if I read the book and attended class. Not anymore. ISU is one of the top 10 accounting schools, and that has pulled the rest of the business department up and up. As I understand it today’s “Introduction to Business” now entails several research papers and at least 1 research project. Perhaps they should rename it Introduction to Dissertation Writing. And this is the introductory course. I can’t speak for any other university but I have my doubts that this rigor is the norm and not the exception.

    As an aside, hey Jack, jettison this Helvetica or Arial font for something where Is (eyes) and ones don’t like alike, where and r and an n don’t look like an m — rn.

  15. Avatarthornmark

    when I took Pysch 101 the prof asked for psych majors to raise their hands – half the class did

    he said “you’re here to figure out why you’re nutz”

    and it’s true, psych majors are trying to figure themselves out


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.