A List of the Degrees the Media Say Are Worthless

A look back on the doom-and-gloom coverage of higher education

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Reminder: if you got a law degree, or an MBA, or an undergraduate degree, or if you stayed in school a minute longer than it took to complete the fifth grade, you're an optimistic fool and you've wasted your time! That's the common refrain these days, at least. We've seen a spate of stories in recent weeks and months about how higher education simply isn't worth it anymore; the latest chatter about the law school bubble and the Ph.D. glut puts it over the edge. Below, a roundup of the cases against institutional learning:

Law degrees. As we noted a few days ago, The New Republic believes law students graduate into a so-so job market, and the entire legal-education field is built on a swell of unsustainable speculation. Slate's Annie Lowrey holds the same view. "The demand for lawyers has fallen off a cliff," Lowrey wrote in October. "The job market for lawyers is terrible, full stop."

Ph.D.s. Last week, the journal Nature had a big package about the Ph.D. crisis, and the need to reinvent the system. "Exceptionally bright science PhD holders from elite academic institutions are slogging through five or ten years of poorly paid postdoctoral studies, slowly becoming disillusioned by the ruthless and often fruitless fight for a permanent academic position," reads an editorial. Nature's not the first to address the issue: in December, The Economist launched a broadside against Ph.D. programs, saying the system has "genuine problems" and noting that "the fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes."

M.B.A.s. It's unclear whether you should pursue an M.B.A. or not. Here's The Economist again, arguing that "an MBA is not required for business success"; here's Business Insider making the case that "the MBA effectively does nothing--it has no impact." The Twin Cities Star Tribune ran a feature last year about the M.B.A.'s existential crisis: "Since the most recent financial crash, criticism has been leveled against the kind of training the MBA provides." On the other hand, M.B.A.s--from Harvard, at least--got a fairly good rap in this New York Times story from 2006, though the article does quote a McGill professor who says that "M.B.A. programs train the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences."

B.A.s. You know what? Do yourself a favor and don't even bother going to college. If you go, you'll be hamstrung by debts, and you probably won't learn anything. By the time you're 65, the guy who skipped college will have saved three times as much money as you. And anyway, Peter Thiel thinks you have a better future in start-ups. Take it, as with all these stories, with a grain of salt, though. As Reuters's Felix Salmon pointed out last January, those trashing undergraduate degrees will probably be sending their kids off to expensive four-year schools nonetheless: "The US has big problems with its colleges, and they need to be fixed," but "let's not kid ourselves that avoiding going to college entirely is a remotely sensible or scalable solution."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.