09 April 2008

We Can't All Be Steve

On the honour roll of highest starting salary by college major (from the WSJ via Kids Prefer Cheese via Marginal Revolution), there is no sign of Linguistics. I wasn't really surprised at first but then, there's no biology either, so perhaps so many people who choose those subjects at university just go to grad school. Then again, some of the grad students I know who did rather well in the funding stakes make as much as I do, in a year (after tax, anyway). Say I stick with my "minor" of foreign languages - that's still $34k, which is pretty nice.

Even in the UK, the average graduate starting salary is about £18-19k, last time I checked (which was when I completed the National Graduate Survey last year and I realised that I was bringing down the average). Still, The Ex, with his fancy engineering degree (engineering being ranked top on this league table) would be lucky to get the $50k they list as the average, even working for Eavil Pharma, as he does. Presumably, these guys were whisked off to Silicon Valley or recruited into the i-banks and consultancies who have big-time hard-ons for engineers.

This reminded me of an excellent - if depressing - interactive feature on my favourite spoof linguistics journal, SpecGram: Choose Your Own Career in Linguistics. The initial decision is major in Linguistics or major in Economics. If you choose Econ, "you complete your econ degree with honors, and go on to get an MBA from a world-renowned university. A good job, a big house, and lots of promotions follow. Twenty years later you are a highly compensated but readily replaced cog in a large soulless corporate machine." But then, "You realize that your spirit has been crushed, day by day, and you sometimes dream of conjugating Latin verbs or unravelling the complexity of Inuit, but you bottle that up as fast as it arises. You buy a fast car and a condo in Maui to compensate for what you’ve missed in life. It helps, a little."

All of the other options (which involve Linguistics, to a greater or lesser extent), lead to the end, "You start your new job... “Would you like fries with that?”"

Oh yes, self-deprecation abounds on SpecGram; the latest issue also has an article from "SpecGram Suzie" who parodies linguists and linguistics rather nicely:

My name is Suzie. A long time ago I thought that maybe I wanted to be a linguist, but then I realized that linguistics actually isn’t very much fun! Linguists try to study human language scientifically in part because they can’t think of anything better to do with their time, and in part because they just can’t manage to get a date for Saturday night. Girls, you don’t really want to be a linguist, because sometimes it can be really, really hard, and it’s always really, really boring! If you study linguistics, you’d have to learn about weird ideas with strange names, like center embedding, ergativity, agglutination, C-command, and glottochronology — does that sound like it would be any fun? Of course not; it sounds horrible!

Ah, ergativity...now that's something I don't miss!

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