Humanities majors struggle for jobs

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Humanities majors struggle for jobs

Four out of 10 university graduates who finished school in 2014 with a degree in humanities at the country’s top three universities failed to get jobs, information collected by the JoongAng Ilbo showed.

Out of 3,745 students who graduated from Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University last year with degrees in humanities or social sciences, only 1,702 - or about 45 percent - are employed.

When factoring out foreign students, military recruits and those who moved on to graduate programs, roughly 40 percent, or 1,105 students, remain jobless.

“I see many students going to grad school as a stopgap after getting rejected from companies,” said a 31-year-old history major from Seoul National University, who is also a graduate student.

“Unless you’re one of the very few students who gets into law school, many people worry about highly opaque futures.”

Another Seoul National University graduate, a 29-year-old who majored in political science and diplomacy, said he thought he had fairly good qualifications for employment last year: a GPA score of 3.58 on a scale of 4.3; a Toeic (Test of English for International Communication) score of 945 on a scale of 990; an internship at a conglomerate; experience as a foreign exchange student; and various other certificates from training programs.

Yet the young man, who only wished to be identified as Kang, only made it through the document screening processes at six companies he applied to. He applied to 22 companies.

He was hired by none.

“I’m nearly 30 years old and I’m totally at a loss,” said Kang, adding, “I don’t even have the nerve to see my relatives over the Lunar New Year holidays, so I might as well just stay at a library.”

In contrast to the dark prospects for humanities majors, employment rates for science majors are much higher on a national scale, data shows.

The annual employment rate for engineering graduates from nationwide universities was roughly 67 percent in 2013, more than 20 percent higher than that of their counterparts in humanities, at just 45.9 percent.

Walking proof is 27-year-old Seo, who studied mechanical engineering at Pusan National University in Busan and got accepted at the first company he applied to last year.

His track record was a GPA of 3.38 on a scale of 4.5 and a score of 805 on the Toeic test.

“I guess I had it easy because there are many fields that a science graduate can apply for,” he said.

Among the new recruits at Samsung Electronics early last year, more than 85 percent majored in sciences during college. Other leading conglomerates like LG Group, SK Group and Hyundai Motor Group had rates ranging between 70 to 80 percent.

Park Jae-geun, who heads the labor policy team at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says the reputation of being a “SKY” graduate, referring to Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University, is no longer enough to get a job, as it was in years past.

The only way for humanities students in the future to face a better job hunt is for their schools to develop courses integrating their studies with practical learning, which will benefit local colleges in the long run as well, said Park.

Seo Mi-yeong from Incruit Corporation, which runs the popular job site Incruit, agreed with Park, saying times have changed.

“At a time when the labor market is lackluster, students majoring in humanities really struggle to get hired,” said Park.

BY YOON JUNG-MIN, SOHN GUK-HEE [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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