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Alex McRae Columnist

Published Sunday, May 13, 2012

Update the grad speech

I’m blessed to have sat through two memorable college graduation speeches. No surprise, really, considering the speakers were Ted Turner and the Dalai Lama.

Their arrivals were as memorable—and as different—as their remarks. At my son’s graduation, Turner sauntered alone to the temporary stage at UGA’s Sanford Stadium and sat quietly until he spoke.

Turner’s talk was short and sweet. He closed by saying, “Remember, if you keep your expenses lower than your revenue, you’ll always make a profit.”

My daughter’s graduation remarks were delivered by the world’s most famous Buddhist, The Dalai Lama. The holy man forsook his vows of poverty long enough to wheel up to Emory University in a massive stretch limo, surrounded by more handlers and groupies than a rock star.

The Dalai Lama’s remarks were delivered by an interpreter. It didn’t help. The only thing I understood was a vague reference to “becoming like a tree.”

On both occasions, the grads listened politely, then wandered off to seek fame and fortune. Back then, there was a chance they might be successful. Not any more. According to the latest hiring statistics of college grads, diplomas should come with maps to the unemployment office.

A recent survey done by the Daily Beast website said the tried and true degree programs of the past are tickets to the poor house.

The report rated the worst degrees in America for new college graduates. The degrees were rated according to the number grads who couldn’t get a job, starting, median and highest salaries, and likely job growth this decade. The results were stunning.

Listed below are college majors you should pursue at your peril: The percentages shown are average unemployment rates among recent grads in the field. Dollar figures indicate the average starting salary.

1. Fine arts: 12.6%, $30,000.

2. Drama and theater arts: 7.8%, $26,000.

3. Film, video, and photographic arts: 12.9%, $30,000.

4. Commercial art, graphic design: 11.8%, $32,000.

5. Architecture: 13.9%, $36,000.

6. Philosophy, religious studies: 10.8%, $30,000.

7. English literature and language: 9.2%, $32,000.

8. Journalism: 7.7%, $32,000.

9. Anthropology, archeology: 10.5%, $28,000.

10. Hospitality management: 9.1%, $32,000.

According to the report, there are still plenty of good jobs out there. They just don’t get discussed in the faculty lounge of your local liberal arts university. According to Daily Beast, if you want a degree in an area where you can actually find a job that will pay you enough to live and retire comfortably, here are the careers you should be pursuing in college:

1. Executive Pastry Chef (90th Percentile Pay: $102,000; Median Pay: $45,100)

Executive pastry chefs work at exotic resorts, on cruise ships and at swanky hotels. What’s not to like? (Plus, if you enjoy getting tattooed as much as cooking, you might qualify to host a show on the Food Network.)

2. Master Plumber (90th Percentile Pay: $102,000; Median Pay: $60,000)

Sooner or later, everybody needs a plumber. And when the sewer backs up, nobody, absolutely nobody, calls a philosophy professor.

3. Radiation Therapist (90th Percentile Pay: $104,000; Median Pay: $77,100)

Health care is one of the few industries with long-term growth potential. As long as Americans are trending older and sicker, this job market will remain healthy.

4. Intensive-Care Unit Nurse. (See comments, figures from number 3).

5. Sheet-Metal Worker. (90th Percentile Pay: $122,000; Median Pay: $63,100). Even a windmill won’t work until someone welds it together. Degrees are great. Jobs are better. College grads, you’ve been warned.

(Send your email comments to: alex@newnan.com )

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