As we’ve demonstrated in the past, the US labor market contains vicissitudes that at times run contrary to the conventional wisdom. For example, going strictly on the percentage of people accepted vs. total number of applicants, Delta is more selective about hiring flight attendants than Harvard is when selecting its undergraduate class.

The same is true when it comes to analyzing the value of a college degree.

For a long time, conventional wisdom held that, in the long run, Americans would always be better served by having a college degree than not having one, because according to data, college graduates earn nearly 60% more, on average, than workers with only a high school diploma. This stat was often invoked to encourage uncertain young people to enroll, even if they didn’t have a coherent long-term plan. This is one of the reasons why skyrocketing student-loan  delinquencies are nearing a crisis level.

And the latest example of this fallacious thinking comes to us courtesy of, which recently conducted a study on the most- and least-profitable college majors. While actuaries earn the most on average (while also benefiting from low unemployment and little incentive to obtain a graduate degree), the study found that the “niche” fine arts majors not only earn one of the lowest average salaries of the 162 majors examined, but worse, graduates with that major struggle with a 9.1% unemployment rate.

What is astonishing is that if that number is indeed correct, college grads with a fine arts degree are far worse off than the average high school dropout in the labor market. Even the lucky ones who do have a job are worse off. The rest are not only unemployed, but probably drowning in student-loan debt.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for people with less than a high school diploma is 5.7% – significantly better than those with art school degrees – as America’s employers increasingly turn to the cheapest unemployed resources and train them on the spot.


The takeaway: Unless you have a trust fund, or wealthy parents who will pay for your schooling, potential art school grads might want to give their career choice a second thought.

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