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Everyone knows that getting a degree is critical to professional success in today’s economy, but there is a misperception among many veterans that all paths leading to a degree are equally viable. Veterans who rush to get into the easiest or the quickest program may find out the hard way that a high student-debt burden and a still-weak economy are a dangerous combination. In fact, attending college can become a financial catastrophe for student veterans if they allow themselves to rack up thousands in debt while earning a degree that is in little demand, or worse, if they become one of the many online college dropouts who still owe their school money for courses they never completed.
Given the stakes, it is notable that new data from the “2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report” released earlier this month by the Department of Veterans Affairs indicated that between 2002 and 2013, more veterans pursued degrees in the liberal arts than any other field. Further, the reported noted, “degrees requiring shorter duration of study are perceived by Veterans to provide a quicker path to economic competitiveness with their non-Veteran peers.” This is problematic because while a liberal arts degree may only take a few years to acquire, more often than not, it leads to limited job options and low-paying salaries.
Liberal arts education has been under scrutiny for the value it offers graduates for decades, but the 2008 economic crisis triggered a renewed debate about the financial and professional value of a liberal arts degree. Some have even suggested that no degree at all may be better than an expensive liberal arts degree that is undesired by employers. While the liberal arts frequently get an unfairly bad rap, it’s important for veterans to understand the implications of their degree choice.
A recent review of a 2013 report funded by the Association of American Colleges & Universities included several important statistics that are especially useful in assessing some of the ways that different degree paths can impact long-term earnings potential.
According to that report, on average, liberal arts majors tend to begin their careers with a lower salary than their peers, but they also make up much of the ground by the time they reach their peak earning potential (ages 56-60). Liberal arts majors even outperform pre-professional majors (pre-med, pre-nursing, etc.), earning about $2,000 more per year at their peak. Unfortunately, much of this hike in peak earnings is because of the high proportion of liberal arts majors who pursue graduate degrees. When we compare the salaries of liberal arts graduates with only bachelor’s degrees, they tend to earn less than other graduates their age.
In short, veterans who plan to major in a liberal arts field should not be surprised if their early career salaries are lower than their peers from other majors. A veteran can mitigate some of this gap in lifetime earnings by going to graduate school, but that isn’t a viable option for everyone. Given this state of affairs, here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re a veteran weighing the possibility of majoring in one of the liberal arts:
- There is a major difference between going to a liberal arts college and taking classes in one of the liberal arts at a more traditional school. Liberal arts colleges are famous for providing excellent student-to-teacher ratios and often have access to financial and academic resources that traditional or online schools can’t match.
- If you’re considering a degree in the liberal arts because you are afraid that other degrees will be much harder, think again. Introductory classes in “squishy” fields like philosophy and art history are often appallingly difficult. On the other hand, if you have even a little aptitude for technology and math, one good introductory class in engineering or electronics repair could open up a new world for you.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking that employers don’t care about your degree as long as you have one. Bachelor’s degrees are so common now that simply having one is not good enough to get you noticed by a hiring manager. Employers are looking for people who are smart, but they are also looking for people who already have some of the hard knowledge and skills that will help the company succeed. In other words, if you have a sense of what you want to do, it is best to get a degree directly related to that field, even if the degree will be much harder than other options. Sometimes employers may be more willing to take a risk on hiring a candidate from an unrelated background who went to an elite school (think Vanderbilt, Emory, Stanford, Duke, etc.), but don’t count on it.
- Some argue that a liberal arts degree in the classics or history provides you with skills in writing and critical thinking that are invaluable in all later career pursuits. I would agree with this assessment. However, not all hiring managers will understand this about your background, so you will have to work hard to explain how your resume and the quality of your work reflect your education. If you go for a degree like this, think about getting a minor in something technical or business-related to show breadth.
If you’ve considered all of the above, and you still feel a burning passion to study one of the liberal arts, then go for it. But be smart about it. Get an internship while you can, build a strong network, find interesting technical training wherever it’s available, and keep your mind open about your career options.
Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.