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Jan 29, 2014 01:46 PM EST

Humanities Majors Are Lucrative in Their Own Way; 5 Highly Successful People With 'Useless' Degrees


It is not coincidence that the most common humanities majors are widely viewed as being "useless" in the workforce, but a recent study says that label is undeserved.

Speaking at a World Economic Forum panel discussion, David M. Rubenstein, the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, emphasized that humanities teach students to think critically, the New York Times reported. He said that particular skill is lost on many young people in school today, especially many who chose a more technical major.

Rubenstein's assertion challenges the popular notion that students graduating with degrees in math, science, engineering and business will help curb unemployment among young adults.

"You shouldn't enter college worried about what you will do when you exit," Rubenstein, who majored in political science, said on the panel.

He also noted that many top Wall Street executives majored in humanities and they learned job skills after graduating. He said the study of technical majors is fine, but should not replace the study of philosophy, literature and other humanities courses.

As Jordan Weismann wrote for the Atlantic, "I want to address an underlying problem with this whole debate. While it's important for college students to understand which majors are most marketable, this creeping notion that college majors should be valued mostly based on what the median or average graduate earns is very, very wrongheaded."

He noted that careers in the fields of various humanities are not lucrative, but are also not poverty-stricken. Rather, he argues that money should not be the measuring stick for success.

However, Rubenstein offered a formula for students to remember: "H=MC. Humanities equals more cash."

Ted Turner, founder of CNN

Major: Classics

School: Brown

Upon explaining his major, many people likely rolled their eyes at Turner, but he is doing alright these days.

Conan O'Brien, world-famous comedian

Major: History and American Literature

School: Harvard

A comedian with a degree from Harvard may be a head scratcher, but O'Brien's success is certainly not. He has his own talk show and has written for "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons."

J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter series

Major: French and Classics

School: Exeter

Rowling is a classic rags-to-riches story, but she did not just create an extremely lucrative series of books (and adapted films). No, she created a work of fiction that will define her literary generation.

Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan CEO

Major: Psychology and Economics

School: Tufts

Dimon was a gifted student in the classroom, but he initially used his strong intellect for a psychology degree before later earning his MBA at Harvard Business School.

Steven Spielberg, world-renowned filmmaker

Major: History

School: Cal State - Long Beach

Spielberg chose his school for its proximity to Hollywood, where he was caught sneaking into movie studios. How did he do it? He portrayed someone who seemed important by dressing up, carrying a briefcase and speaking to people on set.

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