back to article You're more likely to get a job if you study 'social' sciences, say fuzzy-studies profs

There's great news this week for young persons who'd like to get a good job one day but don't want to do much work at university. A report just out says that actually there's no need to get a tough degree in real science, maths, engineering, medicine, IT or similar - in fact, you don't want one of those. What you want, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Social work

    What seems to be the problem with social workers? Most of them work far harder than any IT worker ever dose.

    Also, you do realize that most real scientists and engineers (Including software engineers) see IT degrees as soft science degrees with very little hard content?

    1. Stuart Van Onselen

      Re: Social work

      The (admittedly very sarky) article is talking about the amount of effort put into getting the degree, not the amount of work done in the relevant job, so your first observation is irrelevant.

      And while I've always acknowledged that engineering students work a hell of a lot harder than IT students, your second claim needs some backing up. I did maths, physics and chemistry in addition to my CS degree, and while I found the former three tougher, the latter was hardly a cake-walk. Calling it "soft science" is just laughable.

      And finally, the methodology employed by these "researchers" is disingenous, bordering on the outright dishonest. If that's typical of what's produced in the "soft-sciences", well, 'nuff said.

      1. Tom Wood

        Re: Social work

        Computer science != IT

    2. Jim 59

      Re: Social work

      Agree, Lewis has allowed more than a whiff of intellectual snobbery hang around this article. Still good though.

      Globalization has complicated things. Get a hard degree and you will be competing with engineers or physicists worldwide (for example), as well as the local population and immigrants. A "soft" career usually involves services delivered locally, and will face less competition. Yes, a Polish teacher can move to the UK, but teaching is not subject to intra-company transfers, remote working and the rest of it.

    3. GotThumbs

      Re: Social work

      Thats funny.

      Thanks for the laugh.


      Re: Social work

      Social workers get paid crap. Clearly this one feels like a chump and needs to make up some nonsense to make himself feel better about it. The whole enterprise was carried out in a manner that tends to confirm everyone's biases against the social sciences.

    5. Charles Manning

      What social sciences actually do

      They shamelessly screw around with the numbers to support their pre-conceived conclusions.

      Include architecture, lawyering and teaching to construct one side of your argument then cutting them to make the other half of your argument seems perfectly acceptable to "social sciences", but gets you ridiculed in any real sciences.

      Frankly, I don't even want these incompetents to flip my burger.

      1. Mayhem

        Re: What social sciences actually do

        Oh, they'd flip your burger fine.

        The only problem is it would end up really well cooked on one side, but only lightly heated on the other.

  2. David Black

    Wish I'd done a social science degree being honest. Sure I've earned a great salary and had plenty of travel and great career progression but something inside me just aches to be a "fluffy" and work in politics, HR or marketing. I love people and IT can be so anti-human at times.

    And for the record, my boss is a psychology grad who taught dance for 5 years... she seems to be doing pretty well in IT, better than me in fact :( Maybe she just does the politics a bit better?

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      The horizontal mambo, perhaps?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "Wish I'd done a social science degree being honest."

      I've just finished an Honours BA in Cultural Studies, a broad degree that included a number of disciplines. I really wish I'd had been abe to bring the ideas and underpinning gained in the degree into my IT career, especially the philosophical ideas from history that would really have helped me to position technology in life more accurately than technology likes to see itself. Like others, IT has been good to me, but like others, my IT ability grew organically rather than being studied for, and maybe that's the difference. But I don't think I would enjoy IT if it was too much of a specialism either.

      Tux, 'cos I'm grateful to him too.

  3. John Tserkezis

    Who would have thought learning to say "would you like fries with that" would get you a job?

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Actually the excellent thing about engineering and IT in particular is that you can be really, really average at it and still make a half-decent living.

      How many mediocre developers do we all know who produce ok-ish non-brilliant sort-of-working-if-you-ignore-the-bugs code? How many have had long-term careers?

      Soft-business - marketing, HR, manudjment, etc - is even more forgiving. You can do well in those jobs with a toxic, destructive personality and a negative skillset that destroys the value of other people's work.

      The most demanding jobs are actually in the creative arts. People think you can waft onto a stage in a drug-fueled haze and waft off again after playing or singing a bit. The reality is the hours are long, the work is demanding, and - ignoring the obvious manufactured photogenic mop-tops - the only people who make it work are really, really good.

      And even then the pay can be crap. A few ultra-successes make a mint, but there are a lot of jobbing session people with world-class skills who barely get by.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        I've watched people walk onto stage in a drug (alcohol) induced haze and perform for almost two hours just fine. Of course I also know someone who spent a semester in college drunk, stoned or both and ended up with a 4.0.

        I, personally, type very well, and very fast, while too drunk to stand up (providing that I can still see.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ha! @theodore 14:08

          "I, personally, type very well, and very fast, while too drunk to stand up (providing that I can still see.)"

          Do you drive better too?

        2. Gav

          Re: ha!

          So you can hit keys fast. If you lie face-first on the keyboard you can churn out pages of stuff too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I thought psychology and sociology were all about asking WHY you'd like fries with that?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well they may have a point, particularly if you consider leadership by example

    After all we have a PM who never had a real job prior to that, just "PR".

    And I write as someone naturally inclined to vote for that party :(

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    From my recollection Psychology specifically was most certainly not a soft option (I did a first year course). It was one of the hardest subjects to get a good degree.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Pschology

        I disagree as well, where I studied had a large psychology dept, and a large engineering dept. Engineers could keep up/ grasp concepts in psychology discussions far more than the reverse.

        There's absolutely no way that psychology is as hard as an engineering degree for a student both in complexity and sheer workload, the excuse of we have to do a lot of extra reading which is why we get more free time and do less lesson time trotted out by social sciences is crap as well.

      2. Can't think of anything witty...

        Re: Pschology

        @ Symon:

        Afraid that I disagree with you on this one.

        I've got no experience of studying Engineering, but I did Psychololgy and Sociology at University and our course had one of the highest drop out rates on campus. Anecdotally, I put this down to two things - firstly, a lot of people took it on expecting to be able to understand their own issues and when it became apparent that it was not going to help them, they dropped out. I also suspect that people found it a lot harder than they expected and subsequently dropped out.

        For the record, Psychology often gets labelled as a "soft science" and i believe that people mean that in a dismissive tone, that somehow it doesn't really "count". Really, that is not the case.

        Look into some of the areas that Psychology addresses and there is a lot of depth. One of our modules was on Bio-Psychology, looking at neurons and brain mapping. we covered AI and human - computer interaction. We did a lot of work on research methodology as well, including a lot of statistics and Qualitative research... which is extremely hard to do well.

        Strangely, i think there is a bit of crossover between a subject like Engineering and Psychology - mainly that they are both trying to understand the operation of complex systems. There are a couple of differences though... not least that with psychology you are stuck using the thing that you are trying to understand. It's a bit like trying to figure out how a car works whils you are driving it. Well, that and the fact that it's harder to take someone's head apart and look inside to see what is going on.

        But one thing that you are right about is volunteering for experiments. Milgram got people to voluntarily administer electric shocks of hundreds of volts* to innocent third parties... and all he had to do was ask. I still find that incredible even now.

        *(Yes, i know all about the experiment... but it was real to the person giving the shock. Those were the fun days before those damn ethics committies spoiled all the fun...)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pschology - Milgram has been replicated!

          Surprisingly the Milgram obedience studies have been partially replicated within the last few years (only 150 "volts" rather the original 450). It was published by Jerry Burger in 2009 in American Psychologist (IIRC). In case you are wondering... the results were relatively similar.

          What most people don't know about Milgram is that he spent ages refining his procedure before he began collecting data. He designed a series of verbal prods to encourage people to continue when they started to protest. The actual transcripts of the experiments show a whole lot more argumentation going on than is generally suggested by textbooks.

          There are also undocumented instances where the experimenter pretended to go off and check on the "learner" and would return and tell the "teacher" (the real focus of the experiment) that the person was ok and had consented to carry on with the shocks. So Milgram was great at coming up with eye catching ideas, but he didn't report all this extra stuff so most people don't know about it (not such good science).

          [AC because I'm a psychology lecturer and I don't want you all kicking me for teaching/researching a "soft" science!]

        2. Eric Olson

          Re: Ps[y]chology

          Obviously, I can only go on anecdotal evidence. Yes, Lewis really took the piss with the published work, and I cared enough, I might even read through the actual paper. But as Can't think of anything witty... said, Psychology is not an easy subject, and it's no more a soft science than Computer Science is the same as IT. Accounting for differences I've seen between the US and the UK, psychology tends to pad the early courses with the Freud and Skinner, because they are often used as classes for general education credits and it's easier than trying to learn about action potentials, anatomy, and neurochemicals.

          My experience is that most psychology professors laugh, outwardly even, at the crap produced in the early to mid 20th century that is passed off as psychobabble in media today. It's only those who want to major in psychology that get introduced to the neuroscience, psychophysiology, chemistry, and the like. Once you are there, the first thing you learn is statistics... real statistics. And not just how to use Minitab, but the logic and rules behind the theory of statistics. You also learn the same research methods found in medicine and science, like lab procedures, ethics, etc. It's all there. And it's not easy.

          And personally, I work in IT, or would if my current company hadn't worked hard to keep business and system analyst hybrids on the business payroll (I'm sure it makes the accounting easier). My math and analytical background from psychology has opened more doors than if I had signed up to learn programming languages in college (in retrospect, it would have opened more doors to have at least learned some along with my degree, even if I didn't want to go through those doors right away). Not to mention the stigma in interviews is not nearly as bad as what IT folks experience (I'm assumed to have people skills... ha!)

          I also love the bitter grapes that people have over "working hard" in college, while assuming others did not. I knew CS majors and math majors who were just as likely to sleep through class, get drunk every night, and still stumble to the finish line and get a degree. Psychology had them as well, and if my brother's description of his engineering university is anything to go by, they probably lost more engineers to drowning in their own vomit than academics. It's what college students do, and some can handle it, others cannot. To belittle an entire field of study because you don't understand it is rather ballsy, especially when there is nothing other than your own bias and superiority complex to back it up.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ps[y]chology - @Eric Olson

            I tend to agree. Not only the statistics, but the attitude I learned to statistics doing experimental psychology has stood me in good stead over the years. Psychology really comes into its own when you reach management level and can read all those textbooks people have written on the subject without your eyes glazing over, because there is pretty good advice there if you can understand it. Are you a near-Aspergers engineering nerd? Do experimental psychology on the side for the day you need to motivate a team, then read the book and do what it says, because you're good at that.

            And that's before you get started on avoiding the pitfalls of user interface design.

      3. druck Silver badge

        Re: Pschology

        My experience of soft sciences, (gained from having to explain how to work word processors and printers to people), is that the bulk of the degree is producing dissertations which consist of endless references to other peoples work in books and journals, with a very small amount of original wording to glue it together.

        Given the poor quality of IT graduates I've seen recently, perhaps these days they too can get their degrees by writing a hundred lines of code, and cut and pasting large chunks of standard libraries in to their source.

  6. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Advice given to an ex-colleague

    He came out of university with a 1st in history. After a few jobless years he asked his university careers people. They suggested teaching. He asked his college mentor who also suggested teaching and added "if the worst comes to the worst, there's always computing". Which is how he ended up in an IT company.

    So far as employing social scientists, this extract from the report is telling:

    recruit social science graduates because they have the skills of analysis and communication that our economy and society needs

    Though personally, I'd think that what "our economy ... needs" is people who actually make stuff.

  7. Pen-y-gors

    Good job?

    Does senior executive stock replenishment specialist at Tesco count as a good job?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice dig at "liberal arts" students there. As someone with a degree in history and languages I'm pretty sure I worked a damn sight harder than the science students at my college, most of whom spent their entire time memorising facts without understanding them. And as someone points out above, you're just showing your ignorance if you think a good psychology degree is easy to come by.

    1. Stuart Van Onselen

      Bashing the liberal arts

      Now that's an interesting observation, and it's made me think a bit:

      If you think that science degrees are all about rote learning, then you're clearly ignorant of the courses in question. But of course, that's because you never did them.

      And by the same token, having never done a psych, history or language course, I'm not really in a position to pass meaningful critique on your efforts, either.

      Natural aptitude also comes into it. Even if there was some "objective" measure of the effort needed for a particular course, it would still depend on the individual student. I'd probably have to work much harder than you if I wanted to do a history course, and you'd probably suffer horrendously doing mathematics at university level.

      But one measure I did use at 'varsity (way back last millennium) was "membership of the Student Representative Council" (which I detested, for reasons too long-winded to go into here.) None of them were STEM students. You may argue that politics is a natural extra-curricular activity for many classes of liberal arts student, I argued that "real" students didn't have the time to muck about sticking their noses into everyone else's affairs! (Tongue firmly in cheek, there.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bashing the liberal arts

        If you think that science degrees are all about rote learning, then you're clearly ignorant of the courses in question. But of course, that's because you never did them.

        No, I don't think that all science degrees are about rote learning. The college I went to was just particularly poor in that area, as it didn't encourage analytical thinking - although that is something of a common complaint about UK academic institutions compared to those on the continent.

        As for something like history, it's supposed to encourage information gathering, analysis and critical thinking. Just a pity in my case that I caught the tail end of the 1960's generation of tutors, who favoured starting with a pet belief (Marxist, radical feminist, etc) and then selectively picking information that supported it, all the while ignoring the overwhelming evidence against. For example, I was asked to research the European with craze, with a strong hint from the tutor that it was a male attempt to subjugate increasingly assertive women. Somewhat blown out of the water by the fact that more men were persecuted for supposedly being witches than women. That kind of stuff was why I switched to languages.

        1. wikkity

          Re: Bashing the liberal arts

          > As for something like history, it's supposed to encourage information gathering, analysis and critical thinking

          Ah, I see why history can require more effort that science now, it's not like science requires anything like that. We only had to turn up every morning/afternoon, learn some stuff and go home. BTW, stem subjects in my experience required at least twice as much attendance at lectures and tutorials/labs as none stem subjects .

          What does make stem subjects easier in a way is it's usually easier to figure out if you are correct rather than hoping your beliefs/opinions match that or the person marking your paper.

        2. Juillen 1

          Re: Bashing the liberal arts

          If your university was trying to teach science by rote, then it would never have had people pass, not with any grade that would be useful in the real world.

          Analytical thinking is the foundation of science. If you can't analyse, you can't follow a path from hypothesis to conclusion. Half the problems are about removing personal bias and belief, which, it seems, your history teachers were actually advocating (so, not really teaching "history", but how to discard factual basis to create a revisionist agenda). So, it doesn't seem to have covered information gathering (more information hiding, and bias selection), analysis (you're not analysing anything in that setup, merely trying to select partial information to fit a preconceived stance), and definitely seems to be turning critical thinking on its head.

          So, you reckon the science departments were teaching poorly, but you were taught well?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I don't think the ease at which a degree is obtained is the point, it's how worthwhile it is to have. I mean, why do you need a degree to be a social worker? You just need common sense, a good human nature and a basic understanding of the legal side of things which could be learned on the job in some kind of placement scheme.

      As an bog standard Honours IT graduate I walked into a decent job that pays me very well, I know people with PHd's in philosophy who still can't get work years after graduating.

      When I was at Uni the hours of pure lecturing were on average double that of anyone doing a noddy social science subject and then you need to add on all the tutorials and coursework which involved a heavy amount of coding and documentation.

      The researchers cited in this article are typical of the kind of person working in such a soft industry, desperate to justify their existence. The facts are if you study a STEM subject you are more likely to get a good job.

      The labour government are mostly to blame for forcing inadequate children into soft university courses because they had no other choice.

      Don't worry though, someone's got to make sandwiches for the Astronauts.

    3. wikkity

      > I'm pretty sure I worked a damn sight harder than the science students at my college, most of whom spent their entire time memorising facts without understanding them

      You've just demonstrated that you have no understanding of what engineering or science is about, and just reciting a fact that you believe to be true but is actually wrong. sci/eng not about committing facts to regurgitating them on demand. sci/eng is about understanding and applying those facts, often in a way that has never been done before. The answers to course work and questions do not exist in text books, just remembering stuff is no good without understanding them unless you want to fail.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "You've just demonstrated that you have no understanding of what engineering or science psychology or social sciences are about, and just reciting a fact that you believe to be true but is actually wrong. sci/eng Social Science (is) not about committing facts to (memory and) regurgitating them on demand. sci/eng Social Science is about understanding and applying those facts, often in a way that has never been done before. The answers to course work and questions do not exist in text books, just remembering stuff is no good without understanding unless you want to fail."

        Fixed that for you...

        1. wikkity


          RE: "You've just demonstrated that you have no understanding of what engineering or science psychology or social sciences are about, and just reciting a fact that you believe to be true but is actually wrong.

          I do actually, my sister is a social worker and I helped her a lot with the statical work that she needed to cover. A lot of respect for that field and extremely beneficial to society.

          An ex, who I met at university and lived with for 2 years studied psychology, but the subject bored me so I never paid attention so your posting is 50% true.

          However I don't think I mentioned either of these subjects, I was not actually referring to any subject at all. I was merely was responding to someone was stating a science course at university level was about learning facts. That would that there analysis skill mentioned scientists apparently don't learn.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You've just demonstrated that you have no understanding of what engineering or science is about

        I better stop working as an engineer then - I must have just been winging it for the last 17 years.

        sci/eng not about committing facts to regurgitating them on demand. sci/eng is about understanding and applying those facts, often in a way that has never been done before.

        No it's not. Most engineers can get along by just adhering to the rules without necessarily understanding them - innovation, which should require understanding, is typically a niche requirement for students and most people working in engineering jobs. And notice I said innovation "should require understanding", as I've seen many people doing it by little more than trial and error.

        The answers to course work and questions do not exist in text books, just remembering stuff is no good without understanding them unless you want to fail.

        For undergraduates of course the answers exist in text books. You don't think every engineering student is required to innovate do you?

        1. mahasamatman

          "I better stop working as an engineer then - I must have just been winging it for the last 17 years."

          --> Resignation accepted. Clear your desk.

  9. lawndart


    Science and Democracy sounds an odd combination.

    Is it science by consensus?

    "Yesterday we repealed the second law of thermodynamics, because it was causing problems with our perpetual motion machines."

    1. frank ly

      Re: says

      Your example of the second law of thermodynamics would not be science by consensus; it would be science by diktat. Science by consensus is when things like climate change (or is it global warming?) and the safety of MMR vaccines are determined by newspapers and politicians after gauging public attitudes.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: says

      To paraphrase Homer Simpson: "Lawndart, in this country, we OBEY the laws of thermodynamics!"

    3. Foolish_One

      Re: says

      "Science and Democracy sounds an odd combination.

      Is it science by consensus?"

      Basically, yes. See The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn

      Scientists are people too, and when they get together in groups they behave like groups of people.

      Looking at James Wilsden's bio, he used to be the Director of the Science Policy Centre at the Royal Society so he's not likely to be an eejit.

  10. Joe Harrison

    soft is good, mostly

    I did sociology and geography for A-level in precisely the hope that it would be a bit of a free ride but unfortunately these subjects are as hard as any other. I never want to think about rice production in the Po valley again.

    I made a similar mistake by assuming that being technically good at IT was the only thing. Not that it isn't but in my experience career progress is more strongly indicated by the ability to put yourself about and become well-known as someone who can influence others.

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: soft is good, mostly

      > I never want to think about rice production in the Po valley again.

      OK, I'll bite. What on earth have the Teletubbies got to do with knowing about where countries are?

      (It's probably a good thing that I was told at age 12 that I couldn't do geography any more).

  11. RonWheeler

    I studied Politics

    To give me lots of free time to drink coffee and beer - and there were a lot more girls on the course than in the science subjects - and it was easier. I did zoology in my first year and it was much harder than the two social sciences so I abandoned it.

    Still got a job. I doubt employers pay much attention other than -degree? yes- to be honest, unless it is a very specific field.

  12. Maharg

    I see El Reg has become one of those elitist ‘my degree is better than yours’ types, when in fact the same type of snobbery can be applied to IT by people that hold “tough degree(s) in real science, maths, engineering, medicine”.

    “IT? You got a degree in fixing computers? How much was practicing telling people to turn it off and on again?”

    There is no such thing as a ‘soft’ degree, there are ‘filler’ degrees (David Beckham studies) and degrees that extremely focused to be impractical and just for a interest, but to imply that a recognized degree in psychology, geography or a language is an easy ride compared to a degree in IT is just incorrect.

    What this study is showing is that people with a degree in a subject that is not focused on gaining a job in that subject field don’t all end up doing the same job. Shock Horror.

    1. The Quiet One


      “IT? You got a degree in fixing computers? How much was practicing telling people to turn it off and on again?”

      Thanks for proving your own ignorance there. You clearly have no understanding of what it takes to gain an IT degree;

      1. Computer Science subjects of all kinds from OOPSE, to Artificial Intelligence and all points in between

      2. Management Subjects - Project management, Marketing, logistics etc etc...

      3. Social Science subjects - Behavioural and cognitive understanding combined with Design, reasoning and other psychology type classes. With a smattering of Law thrown in for good measure.

      At no point in my 4 year course did I learn how to fix a computer. Don't get a proper University degree confused with a worthless diploma from a former Polytechnic dump....

      1. Maharg

        Do'h! @The Quiet One

        >“IT? You got a degree in fixing computers? How much was practicing telling people to turn it off and on >again?”

        >Thanks for proving your own ignorance there. You clearly have no understanding of what it takes to gain >an IT degree.

        I have an IT degree, I work in IT, and thats why I am on an IT forum, the comment was an example of exactly what this article is saying about other subjects.

        Thank you for proving my point!

      2. frank ly

        @ The Quiet One

        " ... a worthless diploma from a former Polytechnic dump."

        Again, you illustrate his point. Next round please.

  13. breakfast Silver badge

    The other arts subjects are soft, but not my one...

    I studied Philosophy as a first degree and I can't imagine a better foundation for working as a programmer- a solid training in analytical thinking and a good understanding of logic and problem analysis is more useful in my day to day work than the operating system design and formal system algebra courses my computer science peers were studying.

    Of course, I only know that because I went on to study computer science afterwards ( turns out there's not much money in Philosophy ) so I guess I'm not pure fuzzy anyways.

    Also a subject with a long reading list and not too many lectures a week is way more conducive to an enjoyable university life. Back when one didn't incur a lifetime of debt by going to university, that was actually a real thing. I still feel that it is important for people to enjoy youth for the brief flash it is afforded to them, not just having to work three jobs to finance a degree course they don't even really want to be on except that everyone else in the job market will have one.

    That said, if I was in charge soft degrees would subsidise hard ones, both for national economic purposes and for the betterment of humanity.

  14. kmac499

    Soft Subject Backronym

    From my previous thoughts on the ClockWomble (Tm) thread regarding Coding skills and STEM subjects. I made a landgrab for a Backronym for our poor neglected soft skills cousins..

    My suggestion was HARTS Humanities, Arts and Social studies sorry science

    In the finest tradition of converting TLA's to ETLA's ( extended TLA's) can I propose the addition of Politics and Philosopy to the Brand giving


    Now to complete the picture imagine the civil service interview board..

    "Well now Mr\Ms <insert name here> How did you do at Oxbridge"

    " After three years of studying PPHARTS I got a first in PPHARTS then on my Gap year I was able to apply my PPHARTS to real world problems, I hope to take my skills in PPHARTS to a higher level in the Treasury."

    Where's YouTube when you need it..

  15. Mag07

    Not sure what higher education is like in the UK, but I'd suggest talking to social sciences students outside your country, head on to the Eastern block and I bet you a beer, or a case, or even a truck; sociology, psychology or any other degree for that matter is hard work. There is no need or reason to look down at certain degrees. You really should focus on what you do best - rather a great sociologist than a mediocre tech. If you are good, and you put a brain behind a degree, chances are, your career will be fine. If you follow any trends for the heck of it, with little regard for your own abilities and talents, you will struggle, unless of course, you're lucky by nature, in which case, it's better to take your chances at a lottery.

    In my opinion, there are three types of people that get jobs and advance their careers no matter what happens around - those that are good at what they do, those that have connections, an those that are not necessarily great but hard working.

    While it's common nowadays to move all over the place searching for jobs, not everyone can or wants to. There is little point to studying fancy tech if you can't or aren't willing to go where the work is, in which case, a social science degree gives you a much bigger flexibility as you can target jobs where you are, in any industry, including tech, should there be some.

    Last thing we'd want is for every high school grad to run to a tech college/uni - there needs to be balance. The general attitude in the article is very one sided and narrow minded.

    There isn't a right or wrong - it's a matter of personal choices, capabilities and opportunities. There is no such thing as a future proof profession. It's an individual's attitude that makes the most difference, not the certificate behind one.

  16. Remy


    A number of surgeon friends of mine that I have known since uni (neuro and orthopaedic) always struggle with essays, writing, presentations and sometimes general communication. Maybe that's where social scientists excel and why they make up a high proportion of managers rather than being IT peons...

    1. Juillen 1

      Re: Maybe...

      Most of the medical practitioners I know of (hey, I'm in a hospital, so that's a good number) have no problem stating things eloquently and lucidly. A few possibly don't, and that's where you have dictaphones and medical secretaries.

      Good managers are good managers irrespective of where they come from, but they better understand the parameters of their remit (non-IT managers in an intensely IT technical arena are extremely hamstrung in their effectiveness).

      Interestingly enough, referring to IT staff as "peons" is a very quick way to end up with any of your projects that require any form of tech engagement to be put towards the end of the list (hint; it's a lot of projects, and the list can be long). If that's your attitude, damn glad I'm not somewhere you're a manager.

  17. Thomas 4

    Psychology is a nice, easy subject

    ...because helping someone come to terms with being sexually abused, talking someone out of suicide or handling bipolar patients is really easy...right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Psychology is a nice, easy subject

      Is that really what most psychology graduates do? Most of the ones I knew at college seem to work in HR now.

      1. Maharg

        Re: Psychology is a nice, easy subject @AC

        "Is that really what most psychology graduates do? Most of the ones I knew at college seem to work in HR now."

        Well it’s a good thing they poll more people than your circle of friends to get a better understanding, I'm sure there is a psychiatrist who’s friends with IT degree are all in that 49% that don’t work in IT, thinking, hmmm all my friends with IT degrees work in Burger King…

      2. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Psychology is a nice, easy subject

        > Is that really what most psychology graduates do? Most of the ones I knew at college seem to work in HR now.

        And would they actually achieve anything if they were actual therapist or would they just suck the life out of your bank account for a result you could have gotten from a hooker or a priest?

        Pretending you're helping the client and actually helping the client are two entirely different things.

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: Psychology is a nice, easy subject

      No it won't be, but are you seriously telling me that what every psychology student does? Because that's not true.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Psychology is a nice, easy subject

        Given that the article says that the number one area of work for social sciences graduates is Social Work, I think it is fair to say that whilst not EVERY graduate dose those things many do.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Psychology is a nice, easy subject

          > the number one area of work for social sciences graduates is Social Work

          That doesn't mean that a majority work in social work.

          If psychology leads to a wide range of jobs - then 10% might be social workers, 9% in HR, 8% in fast food, 7% in subway music playing etc etc

  18. Jacksonville

    Zoology vs Drama

    Way back when I were a lad, I did an undergrad BSc in Zoology, and my GF was doing a BA in Drama & Theatre studies. You only had to do a comparison of our schedules. I did approximately 36 hours per week of scheduled lectures, practicals and projects. She had a 1 hour tutorial session, and the occasional rehearsal.

    I remember ending a hectic week, in which I did the normal 36 hours plus about an extra 25 hours of counting Callosobruchus Maculata eggs (tiny things) on cowpeas (small things) and crunching the stats for my thesis. I got home and asked her how her week was and she held up a papier mache mask (with a bent nose) and proudly said "I made this!".

    Ever since then I have been ever so slightly prejudiced against liberal arts graduates...

    1. Maharg

      Re: Zoology vs Drama

      I think this article would (wrongly) lable Zoology as a soft course, just saying...

  19. smartypants

    People are missing the point about the article.

    ... which is surely to keep the flow of people deciding to do 'a degree' coming thick and fast, no matter how thick or slow they might be, or how much more useful it may be to just 'learn on the job'.

    University (or a big chunk of it) is nothing more than an industry predicated on the dodgy suggestion that if you borrow obscene amounts of money to attend the University of Spleen for 3 years to study universitology or whatever, that you will reap untold riches, which will make the obscene cost, the delay in actually working, and the extra damage to your liver all worth it.

    But really, as long as you attend and fill the seats, they really don't care what your life-outcome is. But they must pretend that it's good, otherwise the masses may decide to do something more useful instead.

    I would have preferred them to make the 'old university' world free for people studying 'hard stuff that we need people to do', leaving the hairdressing and restaurant management study to be what it has always been - something best learned 'on the job'.

    1. arrbee

      In the UK you're not really borrowing the money, you're agreeing to pay an additional tax for a fixed period, after which the tax payer picks up the bill (something like GBP 30 billion per year at current prices).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      People are missing the point about the article.

      Which is the typical Lewis Page click bait. Wish I'd noticed the byline before I'd wasted my time reading the article.

    3. Spleen

      "University (or a big chunk of it) is nothing more than an industry predicated on the dodgy suggestion that if you borrow obscene amounts of money to attend the University of Spleen for 3 years to study universitology or whatever, that you will reap untold riches, which will make the obscene cost, the delay in actually working, and the extra damage to your liver all worth it."

      Would you like to join our PR department?

  20. RE:Boot

    What If?

    If putting a man on the moon had been left to Social Scientists they would have spent 5 years discussing how the moon would feel about having it's personal space invaded, built the vehicle out of ethically sourced bamboo, and then, when the astronauts all died, they'd sit around wringing their hands moaning ”Oh, lessons will be learned”.

    I don't know which is worse; Universities churning out so many of these people, or businesses thinking that they are worth employing.

    1. Maharg

      Re: What If?

      What if treating people for psychological issues was left to people who studied science, we would end up with PTSD patients being doped up on drugs to treat the effects and not the cause.

      1. Juillen 1

        Re: What If?

        Essentially, many of them are. Researchers in the field of psychiatry which lead to the treatments are the ones who break the ground (backed up with neurological scans, biochemical analysis etc.), and get to prove the results, rather than rely on quackery. Once the results are in, and methodologies laid down, the less qualified practitioners get their side in the field (hey, I studied hypnotherapy long ago, and took a strong interest in behavioural psychology as part of my comp-sci degree; the part that had me going into AI and ALife).

        If science hadn't been applied, we'd still be exorcising the PTSD patients.

        1. Maharg

          Re: What If? @Juillen 1

          Im not saying PTSD sufferers don’t get treated with drugs, in the same way the Apollo astronauts would have had psychological examinations as well, its not one or the other

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I used to be the office dogs body making the teas and coffees. Then one day I saw an advert on the TV set for an on-line computer course. One year later and I'm a top software games designer with an expensive company car and my own detached house!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The study appears to ignore

    That quite a few with BA degrees, and degrees in soft sciences, go on to take an intensive one year intensive MSc in something likely to get them employed,.

  23. Anonymous John

    "What Do Social Science Graduates Do? "

    Flip burgers?

  24. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Lewis, you snob!

    That article would have offended about 50% of my social circle!


  25. envmod


    er, i'm not an idiot or anything, but can someone explain to me what Sociology actually is? What are the aims of the profession? What are they hoping to achieve with this "Sociology"?

    1. Can't think of anything witty...

      Re: clueless

      Sociology is the study of people in groups (i.e., society).

      The aim of the profession is to understand how groups of people interact.

      If you interact with other people at all, then sociology affects you. Even in a comments forum.

  26. Marley85

    I read Computer Science at a good uni, starting 2004. My significant other read philosophy. We both achieved good degrees and now work in fields related to our studies. We are well respected at work and take home a similar amount of pay. I can tell you who worked harder at university, it certainly wasn't me. The idea that Philosophy (and many other BA degrees) is somehow a soft subject is absurd. Sciences require skill which is not required in many BA subjects, and equally the BA subjects require a great deal of skill that is not required in many sciences, and in the case of Philosophy at least, a lot longer hours and hard graft.

    Some people who look down their noses at BA degrees need to get their head out their own rectum and try one. And trying a first year unit doesn't quite cut it.

    Also, I have a number of friends who are teachers, and far from being 'doomed' to do it, they set out to become one, and enjoy it. Crazy isn't it, someone enjoying something that you would not.

  27. Evie

    Psychology? East Breezy Softy Science? Maybe Back in 1960...

    Batching psychology in there, Mr. Page? Come say that to my face while I'm calculating a two-way factorial analysis of variance by hand, reviewing the principles of synaptic integration or inducing you into a light hypnotic state to kill that pesky anxiety problem you've got with the ladies.

    Easy peasy my ass. Have you even looked at a modern-day psychology degree requirements curriculum?

    The "ladies" snark was a low blow but hey, tit for tat. One unfounded claim for another. If you're gonna trash my degree, I expect you to at least do your research and back up your position with evidence. Like what you did so beautifully in the last paragraph of your poignant analysis :-P


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Psychology? East Breezy Softy Science? Maybe Back in 1960...

      It sounds as though psychology is as easy as it is scientific.

  28. nijam Silver badge

    A collegaue of mine has a sign on his office wall reading

    The science graduate asks "How does it work?"

    The engineering graduate asks "How is it made?"

    The economics gradute asks "How much does it cost?"

    The social science gradute asks "Would you like fries with that?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @nijam 14:04

      Sounds like he uses it to bolster his sense of self-worth. He should see a psychologist :)

      1. Derezed

        Re: @nijam 14:04

        My guess is he can't afford one.

  29. Big Ron

    I have a BS in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a major in Psychology and started to to work in IT the day after I graduated. I have worked on a lot of complex transportation systems include optimization algorithm development, but I never found a need for the calculus or physics that I did take. But the writing skills that I acquired back them have really paid off when I needed to write specifications and other technical documentation.

  30. a cynic writes...

    In summary...

    An engineering graduate writes an article about some social science research. The research suggests social science graduates are more likely to get a job. The engineering graduate notes it's likely to be a crap one.

    In the ensuing discussion, everyone views any subject they didn't do as:

    (1) Piss easy

    (2) Deathly dull

    (3) Both

    I'm no exception.

  31. Soap Distant

    I worked in a STEM department of a pretty good university for a few years. There was some great graffiti in the undergrad's bogs - "Social Science Degrees, please take one" - directly under the bogroll dispenser :)

    But seriously, as an elec. eng. at the time, I'm sure I could have designed many wonderful consumer gadgets but, 1. I wouldn't have identified a need for them. 2. They would have been functional but ugly.

    I think we probably need people with "soft" degrees to make stuff marketable, get inside the heads of consumers etc.

    That graffiti still makes me laugh 20 years on though ;)


  32. Eric Olson

    I will say, the teachers and social workers I know tend to the happiest about their career, if not their compensation. It says a lot about both the UK and US that we laud those who sit in a cube, take orders, and do the 21st century equivalent of the assembly line work (myself included), but we gleefully take the piss on those who dare to do something they enjoy for less money, less respect, and even less safety. For example my wife, a teacher, has been physically and verbally assaulted doing her job, both by students and parents, while the worse I have to worry about in my cube farm is a pissy email from some colleague who thinks red, bolded font is threatening. I've also never been barricaded in my cube by coworkers who decided to stage a riot, or had people intentionally distract me so a partner can sneak into my cube and steal from my backpack.

    Perhaps as a whole, we should really rethink what we venerate and why those who are unhappy about how little control they have over their work situation are somehow "better" than those who take risks.

  33. camnai

    I'm an Arts graduate of many years ago who has to concentrate very hard to understand anything even mildly technical, and who continues to have great respect for the amount of work my Engineering friends had to do to memorize all those formulae and figure out all those right answers, a problem we did not face because in our fields there are no formulas, and there is no right answer. Our retort to 'fuzzy studies' was 'trained seals', but it takes a bright seal to do complicated tricks. What we had to do was to be cogent and original over 25 pages on something like 'Animal Imagery and the Supernatural in MacBeth', from which experience we would, it was hoped, learn to be comfortable with and communicate in complex real-world ideas. That is something that is hard to quantify, which is why technicians and libertarians don't like it.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hidden sexism?

    Are the apparently poor career outcomes for sociology etc graduates linked to the disproportionate representation of women in these fields?

    If most of them are at home with the kids for their twenties then that would create a bias in the sampling, likewise if any of them were subject to some kind of sex discrimination.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hidden bias: toffs?

    We know from prince wotsisname that people who study art history or theology are often those with no need to ever work for a living, beyond a quick chitchat with their estate manager once a year.

    Could this be creating an appearance of negative outcomes for degrees of this sort separate to the question of their actual utility? Would a sociologist be able to answer this question for me please?

  36. Dinky Carter

    I've found that a holder of a fluffy social science degree can easily walk into an almost-as-fluffy computing Masters degree course and end up being my boss, earning three times as much as me.

    1. Derezed

      So what's your point? That they are better than you?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What a bunch of insufferably arrogant and pompous children. I am guessing (or hoping) from most of these comments, that the majority of you haven't actually finished your degrees and are suffering under the weight of your own social ineptitude and intellectual insecurities. Maybe you are trying to counteract this by pretending that because you do 'hard' degrees that you are somehow more relevant to really aren't, you are delusional (and with most of you having Psychology degrees by proxy because you lived with someone for a year or two or did someone's homework once, you'll understand delusions, particularly those of grandeur). I pity those of you who end up in the job market wondering why you don't get promoted, or pretending that your 'hard' job justifies your meager salary. No doubt you'll be toadying for praise from some arts graduate wheeled in to massage your fragile ego (see above) now and then to keep you in line. Go down to the basement, crack open the coca-cola and enjoy your junk food...I am sure the economy would fail without you (well, advertising revenue from lolcats would probably suffer).

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