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Fact Check: Do Welders Really Make More Than Philosophers?

If you watched Tuesday's GOP debate on Fox Business, you undoubtedly heard Neil Cavuto tell you that things were really, definitely interesting. And they were: each candidate had ample time to lay out broad details of their economic agenda, and an opportunity to show why theirs was superior to the others. Many times, however, the most interesting thing that was said wasn't a policy issue, but instead anecdotal claims left unchecked by the moderators. In particular, Marco Rubio had some interesting things to say about vocational training.

If you watched Tuesday’s GOP debate on Fox Business, you undoubtedly heard Neil Cavuto tell you that things were really, definitely interesting. And they were: each candidate had ample time to lay out broad details of their economic agenda, and an opportunity to show why theirs was superior to the others. Many times, however, the most interesting thing that was said wasn’t a policy issue, but instead anecdotal claims left unchecked by the moderators. In particular, Marco Rubio had some interesting things to say about vocational training.

marco rubio 

(Photo Credit: Marc Nozell/Flickr)

The heart of his point is not without merit. During the debate, Mr. Rubio expressed concern that “we have stigmatized vocational education.” A valid claim, and one certainly close to the heart of this writer. But he qualified it by saying, “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

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But do they? And do we?

Thank Goodness for Fact Checkers

While he wasn’t corrected on live TV, it didn’t take too long for reporters to jump on Rubio’s claim. According to Politico‘s Maggie Severns and the Wrongometer, the senator didn’t quite nail down the facts on this one.

In fact, we’ve got the data right here! Based on PayScale’s survey data, the median annual salary for welders in the U.S. is $41,259. On the other hand, a philosophy professor – that is, someone who’s earned their PhD in Philosophy and now teaches in postsecondary education – brings in a median salary of $88,460.*

But that’s not totally fair right? Rubio said “philosophers” not “professors.” And how high is the demand for philosophy professors over welders? Well, according to that same data, the overall salary range for a welder is $28,593 – $75,965. And if we define a philosopher as someone who simply their bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, things change as well: common careers include paralegal, network engineer, IT manager, and even executive director. The salary range for Philosophy BAs is then $32,772 – $81,756 for men and $33,291-$71,510 for women. As many Rubio defenders will conclude, however, this does not account for the differences in the cost of a BA versus simply going to trade school to become a welder.

So Was Rubio Wrong?

The tricky part of politics is that pretty much any comment can be interpreted any way anyone wants to interpret it. On the surface, Rubio was flat-out incorrect that welders earn a better salary than “philosophers.” And while he’s right to say that trade school is a viable option that leads to a successful career, he’s wrong to stigmatize the humanities in the process.

* Note: Numbers reflect median salary for professors in all subjects, not just philosophy.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think Marco Rubio was wrong to say what he did? Is this article just the musings of an English major with a chip on his shoulder? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter

Peter Swanson
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Luis
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Luis

Of all the fields ‘philosophers’ worked in… philosopher wasn’t one of them. The fact every philosopher ended up having to retrain in what are essentially white collar vocational trades has essentially proven his point. Paralegal not lawyer and it trades not computer scientist. Of 10 fools who go for a phd in philosophy perhaps 1 of them will land a tenured professorship. Philosophy is a dead end to a call center like every other humanities ‘education.’ Welders work as welders and don’t incur massive debt to do so. Further, you aren’t counting the salaries of welders that went into lateral… Read more »

Brian Leong
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Brian Leong

Rubio is right. Most philosphers dont have a job.

Holly
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Holly

This helps. Thank you Jen.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt

This might be what you’re looking for, then: http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Bachelor_of_Arts_%28BA%29,_Philosophy/Salary#by_Years_Experience
(Cut and paste the link.)

Holly
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Holly

I honestly want to know the Median Salary of philosophy majors, so that I can use that data in another post. Thank you.

Holly
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Holly

Yes, philosophy majors enter into different jobs. That’s the point. There are few “philosophy” jobs.

There are different kinds of welders in different positions (master, apprentice, small business owner, etc.), yet a Median Salary of $41,259 is giving in the article.

My question remains. Yes, philosophy majors have varying salaries depending on their position. If one computes all their salaries (despite the varying jobs), a Median Salary can be computed. Correct?

I am not a pay scale/career/human resources expert. I assume the author of this article is and could provide a Median Annual Salary for philosophy majors.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt

It varies widely, depending on which job they choose after graduation. For example, the median salary for an executive director is $69,963, while the median for a paralegal is $44,317.

Long story short, it’s hard to compare apples to apples when it comes to welder vs. philosopher, because one is an occupation and the other is a major or a mindset, not a single job type.

Holly
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Holly

You state that the median annual salary for welders in the U.S. is $41,259.

What is the median annual salary for those who earned a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy? You state the ranges for men and women ($32,772 – $81,756 for men and $33,291-$71,510 for women), but not the median.
So what is the median?

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