Your Degree's Worth Is in Your Hands

Is there such thing as a worthless degree? If snide critics are to be believed, then any education that isn't a ticket to a high-paying career is a waste of time. This kind of simplistic answer misses the point - it's up to you, and not your degree, to get the kind of job you think you deserve.

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By Sarah Wright

career choice how to pick a major

Determination Over Cynicism

Anyone who isn't majoring in a science, technology or business field is wasting their time. How dare a college student have an intellectual interest in anything other than making money? What a useless pursuit, to study the development of human culture. Who likes books, anyway? Nerds, that's who.

Can you detect our sarcasm? The very idea that there's a 'worthless' degree, that there isn't a value to gaining knowledge and expanding perspective, is sad and cynical. To reduce education to a pure economic consideration devalues the very notion of self-improvement through intellectual activity. And it's also foolish to assume that a specific degree will be a one-way ticket to career success. With a little determination and planning, you can major in a supposedly useless field and end up with a rewarding career that will pay the bills.

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No One Will Do It For You

Having the right kind of education is essential to getting certain jobs. You're not going to get into med school without any background in biology and chemistry, for example. But pursuing a course of study without a definitive career end point isn't necessarily a mistake. It's more of a gamble than, say, earning an engineering or computer science degree, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue what's interesting to you. It does mean, though, that you'll probably have to start thinking and preparing for a career much earlier than those in career-defining programs.

The fact is that no one is going to just hand you the perfect job (unless you're well-connected or just very lucky). Students who do well in liberal arts degree programs gain skills in communication, research and analysis that are beneficial to a wide variety of career fields. Positioning yourself to enter one of these fields can begin before graduation through internships and work experience.

Life - and Education - Is What You Make of It

If you have your heart set on studying history, English, art or any of the other interesting and important academic disciplines that are frequently maligned for their lack of (monetary) worth, you should go for it. Just keep in mind that there isn't a clearly laid out career path for you to follow if you do major in one of these fields. If you can't find a job after graduation, that's your fault, not your degree's. Just ask one of the many unemployed business majors. Earning a degree that's said to be 'worth' something might not be the best use of your educational time.

Plenty of alternatively-employed recent graduates feel that their education was not a waste, even if they don't have the kind of jobs their parents do.

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