Get whatever degree you want?

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RazorOutlaw
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Get whatever degree you want?

Postby RazorOutlaw » 2010-07-21 03:50pm

A friend of mine takes the stance that an undergrad should take whatever degree they want and not care if they can do something with that degree or not. They should, according to her, just "enjoy the subject". She's mentioned this to me in the past and I know it ties in to her idea that too many people go to college to earn a degree, make money, and not learn what they want. So, for instance, maybe an business major of some sort really enjoys the fine arts. He knows he can't make much money with an art degree, and that he will incur a substantial debt going to college, so he goes with a business degree. I suppose the same might apply to a biology major or an engineer, those majors are more job secure, but even those seem like niche areas (so if you're in it, you probably enjoy the hell out of it already).

Anyway what she is saying is the complete opposite of what I was told by my college advisors when I first started. Their question always was: "What do you plan to do with your degree?" or "What do you plan to learn in college?" The end point being a job to pay the loans back. Help me understand her position. I've seen plenty of good arguments here for not taking a "bullshit degree" because, primarily, what are you going to do with it? But I've also seen people advocate taking a "bullshit degree" if it's what you're really passionate about.
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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby Twoyboy » 2010-07-22 04:51am

I'm with you. I have several reasons why:

-If you don't plan to do anything with it, why take the degree at all? Why not just show up to lectures and read the course materials and save yourself a bundle? Why does it matter if you are qualified or not?
-Every job has it's great bits and its shitty bits. If you are really passionate about something, having to do those shitty bits around the bits you love may put you off it. Your job may actually be worse than one which you just do to get by while doing what you are passionate about in your spare time.
-The whole idea of a degree is to kickstart a career. For a LOT of subjects, certainly most arts ones, experience seems more valuable than education, so three years working your way up the your chosen field is often more valuable and enjoyable than lectures and exams. And you might get paid for it instead of paying for it.

So my thought is, decide what it is you want to do for a career, decide if a degree is appropriate, get degree if it will help. You should still choose a career path that you will get some fulfillment from where possible, but it doesn't need to be your overriding passion.

An exception might be if you are passionate about something but limited in time. Thus studying externally might be an option, as they send you all the course materials and you can log on to learning portals, etc.
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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby Captain Seafort » 2010-07-22 01:38pm

Twoyboy wrote:-If you don't plan to do anything with it, why take the degree at all?


Because of the skills a degree demonstrates, regardless of whether the specific subject is relevant - research, time-management, attention to detail, punctuality, etc.
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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby Broomstick » 2010-07-22 02:29pm

Well, if someone doesn't have to worry about cost and income, sure, study whatever you want.

If you are truly passionate about something... sure go ahead and get that degree. But be prepared to accept the consequences of your choice. That might mean long years of poverty-level income while gaining experience, or onerous loans, or fierce competition for limited job openings, or whatever.

Hey, I studied Fine Arts - a bit of a risk, that. I also had a fallback plan, and paid off my loans and supported myself while doing so.

On the flip side, I see nothing wrong with getting a purely practical degree, with the aim to get a high-paying job. Nothing wrong with that at all.
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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby Kanastrous » 2010-07-22 05:46pm

RazorOutlaw wrote:He knows he can't make much money with an art degree,


How does he know?

Or maybe his idea of "much money" is in the seven figures rather than the mere six figures. Which you can certainly reliably earn, with a BFA (seven figures being of course possible but likewise more difficult). Although of course it's not the degree that allows you to earn but rather (theoretically) skills and abilities cultivated in the course of earning the degree.

I'm a a little bit tired of what seems like a prevalent idea that you can't earn a living having a fine arts degree. Sure you can. If you're actually good at the work and understand your field.

I don't know; maybe the fellow in Razor's theoretical example doesn't think he'll ever be good enough at anything in the arts, to make a living there. But that would have a lot more to do with the student, than the degree.
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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby RazorOutlaw » 2010-07-22 11:44pm

Broomstick wrote:Well, if someone doesn't have to worry about cost and income, sure, study whatever you want.
She really doesn't have to worry about cost or income. On her own she is a hard worker with the animal shelter she is running (and now, the family members whose sicknes she has to deal with) but the fact that both of her parents worked for the college she attended allows her to go there for free. Now two classes away from completing the requirements for her degree, she actually has the option of starting a new degree entirely. The only condition for her tuition to remain free is that she not graduate.

My personal feeling is that she was too sheltered from the idea of needing to pay student loans, or having to pay for anything really, that she couldn't see that "don't worry about what you're going to do with it" was bad advice to ANYBODY.
Broomstick wrote:Hey, I studied Fine Arts - a bit of a risk, that. I also had a fallback plan, and paid off my loans and supported myself while doing so.
Right, I actually had you in mind when I mentioned the art degree in my OP. I held you as an example, in my mind anyway, of someone who succeeded with an art degree but then you're one of those people who is really devoted to the subject.
(As a side note your speaking up a few times in defense of art degrees allowed me some mental breathing room to appreciate my love of philosophy)
Kanastrous wrote:How does he know?
Not to break the theoretical example but AFAIK business majors tend to make more money than art majors. Purely for the sake of finding a job post-bacc, might someone go with a business degree?
Kanastrous wrote:I'm a a little bit tired of what seems like a prevalent idea that you can't earn a living having a fine arts degree. Sure you can. If you're actually good at the work and understand your field.
I'm really sorry and I think I've walked away from these forums with the wrong idea about a lot of things. If anything I'm trying to get a clearer picture of what's right and what's wrong.
Kanastrous wrote:I don't know; maybe the fellow in Razor's theoretical example doesn't think he'll ever be good enough at anything in the arts, to make a living there. But that would have a lot more to do with the student, than the degree.
Isn't that taking the example a little too far? Perhaps he's really that uncertain about his abilities or maybe he's ignorant of what's actually available (which is where I'm at, I'll admit). Or is there just something I'm missing with this comment?
Twoyboy wrote:-If you don't plan to do anything with it, why take the degree at all? Why not just show up to lectures and read the course materials and save yourself a bundle? Why does it matter if you are qualified or not?
-Every job has it's great bits and its shitty bits. If you are really passionate about something, having to do those shitty bits around the bits you love may put you off it. Your job may actually be worse than one which you just do to get by while doing what you are passionate about in your spare time.
-The whole idea of a degree is to kickstart a career. For a LOT of subjects, certainly most arts ones, experience seems more valuable than education, so three years working your way up the your chosen field is often more valuable and enjoyable than lectures and exams. And you might get paid for it instead of paying for it.

1) That crossed my mind and I brought that up with her. I asked her why I would pay $4000 or more a semester to learn basket-weaving? She never replied but I think she may have felt that I missed the point.
2) Could you clarify this? Are you saying that although I may do what I like there could be shitty party that make me hate it?
3) I've heard this explanation before and it put me at ease at the time. It's not so much the degree itself but the skills acquired. Yet I come here, read the criticisms of more easily obtained degrees, and I'm suddenly very uncertain.
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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby Twoyboy » 2010-07-23 12:48am

Captain Seafort wrote:
Twoyboy wrote:-If you don't plan to do anything with it, why take the degree at all?


Because of the skills a degree demonstrates, regardless of whether the specific subject is relevant - research, time-management, attention to detail, punctuality, etc.


Which would only be applicable if you wanted to do something with it? But like I said earlier, these traits are better shown through work experience than by a uni course.

RazorOutlaw wrote:2) Could you clarify this? Are you saying that although I may do what I like there could be shitty party that make me hate it?


Exactly. I love chemistry, 2 weeks in QC at a pharmaceuticals company cured that. Same with radiography. Every job I've had has had bits I love and bits I hate, and I've worked in some interesting jobs. Even my latest job, which I LOVED the sound of, has it's own baggage.

I'm sure some people can put that aside for the chance to get paid for what they love, but to me it ruins the whole point of an interest or hobby.


RazorOutlaw wrote:3) I've heard this explanation before and it put me at ease at the time. It's not so much the degree itself but the skills acquired. Yet I come here, read the criticisms of more easily obtained degrees, and I'm suddenly very uncertain.


I can put my hand up and say the only skill I acquired from Uni other than in my actual discipline, was the ability to give bullshit reasons why my assignments were late and get away with it. I was lazy, unmotivated and only passed because I'm smart. Others only passed because they knew people from the year before that passed them the course notes.

If I was hiring, and someone had a Uni degree that was unrelated to the job, I'd almost ignore that qualification. Not quite but I'd certainly preference other types of experience.
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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby Broomstick » 2010-07-23 06:46am

Twoyboy wrote:
Captain Seafort wrote:
Twoyboy wrote:-If you don't plan to do anything with it, why take the degree at all?

Because of the skills a degree demonstrates, regardless of whether the specific subject is relevant - research, time-management, attention to detail, punctuality, etc.

Which would only be applicable if you wanted to do something with it? But like I said earlier, these traits are better shown through work experience than by a uni course.

My experience is that corporate America values a degree, ANY degree, over real life experience, particularly when one is starting out. Even if your degree is completely unrelated to what you are being paid for, if you have a degree you are likely to get paid more for doing it.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby Broomstick » 2010-07-23 02:18pm

RazorOutlaw wrote:
Broomstick wrote:Well, if someone doesn't have to worry about cost and income, sure, study whatever you want.
She really doesn't have to worry about cost or income. On her own she is a hard worker with the animal shelter she is running (and now, the family members whose sicknes she has to deal with) but the fact that both of her parents worked for the college she attended allows her to go there for free. Now two classes away from completing the requirements for her degree, she actually has the option of starting a new degree entirely. The only condition for her tuition to remain free is that she not graduate.

Under those circumstances, as long as she fulfills the other responsibilities in her life, I see no reason NOT to study whatever she wants.

I was raised with the notion that you can do whatever you want with your life under two conditions:
1) You don't hurt anyone else by doing it
2) You can take care of adult responsibilities while doing (that's rent/mortgage, food on the table, bills paid, children/relatives cared for, etc.)

The thing a lot of people stumble over is that doing what you want and being rich are not always compatible. You can actually have a damn fine life despite poverty, but it's also true that being rich lets you be miserable in comfort.

My personal feeling is that she was too sheltered from the idea of needing to pay student loans, or having to pay for anything really, that she couldn't see that "don't worry about what you're going to do with it" was bad advice to ANYBODY.

It is certainly possible she is naive about surviving in the world outside of college and study. Can't say without knowing her personally.

Broomstick wrote:Hey, I studied Fine Arts - a bit of a risk, that. I also had a fallback plan, and paid off my loans and supported myself while doing so.
Right, I actually had you in mind when I mentioned the art degree in my OP. I held you as an example, in my mind anyway, of someone who succeeded with an art degree but then you're one of those people who is really devoted to the subject.

(As a side note your speaking up a few times in defense of art degrees allowed me some mental breathing room to appreciate my love of philosophy)

:lol: Not sure if most people would view me as "successful" right now, given my finances, but I'm hoping this bump in the road smoothes out after awhile.

But in accordance with the conditions I listed above, for the most part I've been a responsible adult for the past 25 years or so.

There's nothing wrong with pursing a career in the arts as long as someone is fully informed about the decision to do so. Just like any other path in life there are consequences to the decision, some good and some bad.

Kanastrous wrote:How does he know?
Not to break the theoretical example but AFAIK business majors tend to make more money than art majors. Purely for the sake of finding a job post-bacc, might someone go with a business degree?

Yes, on average a business degree will result in greater wealth than an art degree. The few big-name, big-money artists are exceptions, not the rule. In fact, most professional artists have to supplement their artwork income with other money, particularly early in their career. This is something I caution young people contemplating an art career about - you might be able to sell your work but still not have it support you full time. That applies equally to visual artists, musicians, writers, actors...

The fact I married a musician only compounded the problem in my case. Although the Other Half does have a degree in mechanical engineering which has brought in some money in the past. And my sister, who played professionally with a symphony for several years with her music degree, later acquired three other degrees which substantially improved her income level. You note the pattern here - these folks all have a back up plan or skills to help keep the roof overhead and the refrigerator full.

It's comparable to people who go into medical school who are told that, during their training, they pretty much have to give up all their other interests to get through it (not always true, but you're best off assuming that will be the case). That's part of the price of getting up the ladder. You have to make some sacrifices and compromises, and in the case of the arts there is no guarantee of a big pay off so you had better love what you're doing, because at times that will be your ONLY compensation!

Kanastrous wrote:I'm a a little bit tired of what seems like a prevalent idea that you can't earn a living having a fine arts degree. Sure you can. If you're actually good at the work and understand your field.

Eh... being good and understanding your field is essential, yes, but it's very important to know that in the arts there is NO guarantee of a big payoff. There is an element of luck (so when opportunity knocks you'd better be ready to knock!)

Because I was able to "translate" some of my fine arts skills to corporate America I was able to get a nice office job for a long stretch of years, which definitely had some benefits, but that isn't always possible, either.

-Every job has it's great bits and its shitty bits. If you are really passionate about something, having to do those shitty bits around the bits you love may put you off it. Your job may actually be worse than one which you just do to get by while doing what you are passionate about in your spare time.

Oh, my - this is SO TRUE! Nothing can ruin a favorite hobby like making a job out of it!

-The whole idea of a degree is to kickstart a career. For a LOT of subjects, certainly most arts ones, experience seems more valuable than education, so three years working your way up the your chosen field is often more valuable and enjoyable than lectures and exams. And you might get paid for it instead of paying for it.

Um... yes and no. The purpose of a degree is to educate you, which often has the effect of kick-starting a career, but the fact is many, if not most, people wind up doing something entirely different than what they went to college for, at least in the US (other countries may be different, of course - I can speak only of the American experience)

Yes, you certainly CAN make it big in the arts without a degree, but getting a degree is far from useless. In some fields, such as classical music, it's pretty much required (not so much for rock and roll). Formal study of a subject can fill in gaps that frequently occur when a subject is self-taught.

2) Could you clarify this? Are you saying that although I may do what I like there could be shitty party that make me hate it?

I realize this was not directed specifically at me but yes, that may be true. I've seen it happen to people. I think the closest I came to really experiencing this was my stint working in comic books as an artist - prior to that I was quite the fan, played around with my own ideas, etc. After... well, I stopped buying them, reading them, pretty much dumped them out of my life. Put my collection in a box and literally did not look at it for twenty years. Didn't rekindle my interest until the Spiderman and X-men movies came out. Yeah, sometimes when you do what you love you find out you don't actually love it after all, and it can even turn into hate.

3) I've heard this explanation before and it put me at ease at the time. It's not so much the degree itself but the skills acquired. Yet I come here, read the criticisms of more easily obtained degrees, and I'm suddenly very uncertain.

There's a difference between pursuing an "easy" degree because you're lazy and doing so because you really like the subject. Also, there is a certain disconnect and failure to realize that obtaining an engineering degree, a Ph.D, an M.D., or some other degrees really is MUCH more difficult in many ways than getting a BS in English or History. There is nothing wrong with English or History degrees, but people embarking on them are frequently ill-informed as to possible consequences. If you have an MD you are pretty much guaranteed to have a job and make significant money once your training is over. If you get a bachelor's in English your training is much shorter and much less expensive, but you are also much less likely to get rich off it, and you have far fewer guarantees in regards to employment.

If one doesn't have the math chops for some of the more impressive degrees, your funding is limited, and you will need to be truly self-supporting in just a few years then getting an "easy" degree might, in fact, make the most sense. After you walk out the door of the college you find a job and you won't be able to find a really, really lucrative job but you should be able to get something to keep a roof overhead while you contemplate your next step - which might be finding a means to get more education, or deciding that your current situation is fine for the time being.

So much comes down to the person - a highly motivated person can go to a shit college, get an "easy" degree, and then go on to very big things down the road. An unmotivated person can go to a top college, get a very impressive degree, then wind up living in mom's basement.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby Junghalli » 2010-07-23 05:25pm

RazorOutlaw wrote:Help me understand her position. I've seen plenty of good arguments here for not taking a "bullshit degree" because, primarily, what are you going to do with it? But I've also seen people advocate taking a "bullshit degree" if it's what you're really passionate about.

I imagine for a lot of people a big part of it is a question of priorities. Which is more important to you, having money or being able to do a job you love or acquire skills in a field you're interested in even if you probably won't make much money from it? For some people, the latter is more important.

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Re: Get whatever degree you want?

Postby HMS Conqueror » 2010-08-08 09:32pm

What's wrong with that? It's just like a hobby. You might object to paying for it, if you have state subsidies in your country, but that's it.


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