Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'd Like to Exchange My Liberal Arts Degree for Something Useful

Just read a letter (probably fake - but still funny) from an Arizona State University alumni with a B.A. in English, who wanted either a refund for his defective product - which has failed to get him respect or a job - or wanted to exchange his B.A. for a useful degree like a B.S. in science or an MBA.

I quite often get asked what our history majors do with their degrees. Old stand-bys like: go into public history, teach h.s., go to graduate school or law school, work in media/journalism are easy enough to discuss. However, most of our graduates probably end up in the business world and they soon discover that they aren't so unique because many of their colleagues also have B.A. degrees.

In fact, my department chair just did a survey of Fortune 500 Companies and discovered that at least six of the Top 100 CEOs of had been a history major as an undergraduate. This far surpassed the number of humanities/social science majors represented in the study. So while I don't know exactly how useful a B.A. is in English, I think that the B.A. in history can provide a firm foundation for a career in many different areas of employment.

Here are the six Top CEOs with history majors:

Samuel Palmisano, IBM
John Mack, Morgan Stanley
Alan Lafley, Procter & Gamble
Richard Parsons, Time Warner
Kenneth Chenault, American Express
John Faraci, International Paper

2 comments:

EHT said...

My dear son is currently working on his own history degree, and he is beginning to wonder how he will put it to use. Since I don't see him following my steps into the classroom your post gives me faith he will procure a position in the business world. Hmmmmm....my son, the CEO. It has a nice ring.

Andy Walpole said...

Employers aren't really that fussy about what a degree is actually in...

They know that skills learned by undergraduates are pretty flexible across the subjects...

The most bizarre degree from anybody I've met was a degree in the gambling industry... he not works in the media and has nothing to do with the gambling industry...