Monday, June 10, 2013

Journalism Degree. Lousy Investment?

Thanks to the magic of Twitter I came across this piece today (hed: Journalism is the worst 4-year college investment -- Be a sailor instead) that riffs on this study.  As Ken Layne points out in his lede:
If the constant downsizing in the news-media industry hasn't already convinced you to pick something else to do with your life, a new study shows the worst "return on investment" for a four-year degree is a job in journalism. It takes journalists nearly 32 years to pay off their college loans.
Ouch.  Does not sound good, I'll be among the first to agree.  Except not.

First, I'm biased.  I'm a journalism prof, dammit.  I need students, otherwise I gotta work for a living. 

But let's set that way aside for the moment, way way aside, and look at the study itself.  At first blush it's hard to argue with the stats, which come from the feds and appear on the surface perfectly sound and logical.  Here's my problem -- the salary for journalists is misleading.  Journalists often become something else after putting in their newsroom time.  Maybe they go into government, maybe they become a flack, maybe graduate or law school.  If you're a dentist, you tend to stay ... a dentist.  A pharmacist?  You're probably gonna stay a pharmacist.  So the salary reported for journalists can be fuzzier and fizzier than what's presented here.  Plus so many journalism jobs are starter jobs in small markets that the numbers can mislead.  There's a churn in journalism jobs that you don't see in other fields.

That said, it does suggest if you're going to journalism school, or becoming a marriage therapist, find a way to avoid school loans.

Finally, to put in a UGA plug, I wonder about those "college costs" given access in Georgia to the Hope scholarship.  Both of my kids go to UGA.  Neither is a journalism major (one is in geology, the other a double major in microbiology and genetics), but there's no way either is gonna cost me $52,596.  If so, I'll be dancing topless on Jackson Street to pay the bills.