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Specialization in a tight job market

Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 11:58am

Beginning a career after college is a constant topic of conversations on campus, and a Red & Black article today draws particular attention to the experience of several recent graduates and the seeming mis-match of aspirations and opportunities. More common than not and not a cause for alarm in and of itself, the chase for experience and urgency to begin a career after college present clues about some majors and areas of study that may be better suited to the flexibility needed in an uncertain job market. In the article, for example,

[UGA grad and GEICO employee]Hickman face[d] a difficulty undermining millions of recent college graduates after they receive their diplomas trying to match a highly specialized, niche degree in a labor market filled with generalized, unskilled jobs.

According to the Accenture study, 46 percent of workers who graduated in 2012 and 2013 are underemployed and have jobs that don’t utilize their college degrees, marking a five percent increase from the previous two years.

Getchell said past experience and general skills are usually more important to employers than a degree, especially in today’s market.

“Of course, some careers require a specific degree, but others may not,” she said. “In general, employers are often more focused on skills and experiences than majors. That’s why it’s so important for college students to gain experience and develop skills during college.”

There are many decisions university students need to make - about their present and their future - throughout the course of their studies. Erring on one side can compound difficulties on another, and no student of any age is expected to navigate their college years perfectly. Perfection is not what we're after, and in many ways that is the point of a liberal arts education: a melange of cultivating interests, learning and experiences to build the unique set of credentials that, yes, make graduates attractive to employers, but that also help students discover who they are and all they might do. It's easy to endorse broad majors versus niche fields, though not always the best thing for any particular individual. That being said, we can endorse without caveat the importance of learning as much as you can about as many things as interest you while you are on this or any campus.

A university degree has never been more important - neither has our committment to the classical, liberal arts education model: Communications and analytical skills, critical thinking and creative problem solving. The traits that are applicable to all fields often lay between the pages, the chapters, the tests and projects. They are a product of all of these, plus great professors that trigger curiosity and a campus that nurtures community thinking in a global setting. The degree will say University of Georgia but its emphasis will always be on you. 

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