The Job Market

I was talking to my wife earlier about how in Japan there are too many dentists, to the extent that many are leaving the field because it doesn’t pay enough.  It reminded me of how back in the 80s a law degree was a virtual guarantee of a well-paying job.  Now the headlines are:

The Jobs Crisis at Our Best Law Schools Is Much, Much Worse Than You Think

The barren job market for law school grads has become a familiar reality by now. But here’s something that tends to get lost in the story: The problem isn’t just about no-name law schools churning out JD’s nobody wants to hire. Even graduates at some of the country’s top programs are struggling. 

At this point, it seems, there are only a small handful of schools that could reasonably be called safe bets.

To which I reply- well, what did you think would happen?

I mean, the job market is a market.  The market set wages based on how many people have a certain skill and how much that skill is needed.  If everyone gets the idea that a law degree is a good idea then lots of people are going to go that route.  And end up flooding the market, driving down wages, leaving a bunch of people with useless degrees and huge debts.  That’s got to be a drag on the economy.

I’m going to guess, but after years of churning out MBAs, that market must be due for a crash.  Once everyone starts heeding the voices saying “get a degree in science or engineering” there will be a glut of those in 5-10 years.

I’m not trying to argue with the market here- there’s no realistic alternative for one.  But maybe there’s a better way to approach when and how we educate people?  At the very least it seems like a waste of resources.

I have a bachelor’s degree from University of California, San Diego, in Classical Studies.  That means I spent four years practicing translating Latin.  I know.  It sounds like the most pointless and least remunerative degree on the list.  The first is wrong, the second is, sadly, not far off.

So what do you do with the ability to read Latin?  As far as I know, nothing.  I can’t even read Latin anymore- that was over ten years ago and I have cracked a Latin book maybe once or twice since then.  As far as my knowledge of Greek and Roman culture- it’s above average, but not amazing.  No one has ever offered to pay me for that either.  If my degree didn’t have UCSD stamped on it I don’t think I’d get too many job interviews.

But that’s the negatives.  The positives include the fact that I learned how to learn.  And how to learn language in particular.  You have to memorize a language’s grammar or you will be lost.  You have to figure how sentences are put together before you try to do it.  And you have to drill vocabulary relentlessly.  My beginning Latin teacher said “rote learning gets a bad rap, but you’re going to need it here.”  He was totally right.  Learning Japanese was relatively easy for me and I was, at one point, employed in a job that had my speaking 90% Japanese.  I don’t think I could have done that without having studied what I did in college.  If I could stand Japanese business culture I’d probably be moving up the ladder, but that’s a whole different story.

My dad asked me a few months ago what I want to do for work.  My answer- “retire”.

I was joking (kind of) but the fact that my dad is still asking me what career I’m going to have shows two things- older people sometimes don’t understand that careers in the same industry may well be a thing of the past.  And that I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with myself.  I actually have a plan, but that too is another story.

If I’m in my mid 30s and don’t know what kind of job I want to have (well I do, I’m just not in a position to make it work right now), how the hell was I supposed to know when I was 20?  No way.

Some thoughts-

The expectation that employees show up at a job interview with specialized knowledge is getting to be too much.  Companies do spend a lot on training already, but maybe expecting someone to show up with a master’s degree is putting too much pressure on someone who may not be ready.  What if companies hired people, then figured out who would make a good addition to, say, their legal department and then steered them that way?  They could study while they work in a limited capacity.  I understand why companies would not want to do this, but I’m just throwing out ideas here.

I’m no expert in anything, but university administration and building stuff seem to be getting more attention than education at a lot of our colleges.  Even worse- advertising.  I am highly skeptical of some of the online universities, one of which is based here and I know a few people who worked the phones.  Not encouraging.  But even at UCSD, ostensibly one of the better universities on the west coast, a lot of classes were just too big.  Some of the TAs I had were good, but they too are just students.  But I drive by there all the time and there are new buildings constantly going up.  I guess some people love to donate if their name will end up on a wing of the University, but not for mundane things like hiring more profs.  Majoring in a pretty obscure subject meant I actually had small classes (often 8-10 students total in my upper-division classes).  I don’t know if a University can break even with that kind of class size, but as a student that was a lot better.

Maybe just have people broader educations, then try the job market?  Or try the job market and then go back to school?

I’m lucky.  I have a good degree, a good job and no debt.  It’s not really my problem until my son gets old enough to go to college.  I hope someone has some answers by then.

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2 comments

  1. At some point, college became an avenue to get a job. In reality, it is supposed to be a place where, as you say, you learn how to learn.

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