The familiar joke: What are the six most important words a liberal arts major needs to know? "Would you like fries with that?"
The idea, of course, is that anyone studying the humanities, arts or social sciences is going to find a job only in a fast-food restaurant. Indeed, a Google search of "a liberal arts degree is useless" brings up more than 10,000 hits, enough to make anthropology majors cry into their half-caf lattes.
But comes a report from the prestigious Association of American Colleges and Universities and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems that says otherwise.
"Majoring in a liberal arts field can and does lead to successful and remunerative careers in a wide array of professions," the report claims.
At the "peak earning ages" of 56 to 60, those who pursued undergraduate degrees in the humanities or social sciences earn about $2,000 more per year than majors in professional or pre-professional fields, the study says.
The website Business Insider lists successful people who majored in philosophy — the epitome of the "useless" liberal arts. Among them: billionaire investor Carl Icahn, Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, former FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair and former Hewlett-Packard President Carly Fiorina.
True, the survey pointed out that many liberal arts majors pursue graduate degrees in professional fields, which leads to more financial success.
But for those now studying religion, linguistics or political science — take heart. You may not have to flip burgers.