The Truth About Useless College Degrees

Have you ever heard people talk about useless college degrees? Maybe someone cautioned you in college about the degree you pursued. Perhaps, they questioned your degree choice, and, in turn, made you question if you chose the right path.

I often had people questioning me as I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in English. It would infuriate me for someone to suggest that I wasn’t making the best choice or tell me that I could “do better”. I felt like I knew what I wanted, and I knew where my talents were.

Here’s the thing though, what if those people were right all along?

Typically, society tells us that college is the answer. Everyone should make college their goal because college equals success. I always thought that. I assumed that getting a college degree would translate into success for me. Success being a reasonably good income, a fulfilling job, and the ability to enjoy life.

However, what people don’t tell you is that if you aren’t strategic in choosing your degree path, college can actually leave you in debt and out of luck by the time you’re finished.

So, what is the truth about useless college degrees?

Well, frankly, they do exist.

I hate saying that, but it’s just true. My twenty-two year old self scorns me and laughs in my face somewhere. But, y’all, it is possible to get a college degree that is more or less useless.

Let me define how I’m using the term “useless.” To me, in terms of a degree, this means one which is not immediately applicable to a job/career path.

In terms of self-growth and interest, anything you pursue will be beneficial for you. Learning, in any capacity, is important and good for the soul and for humanity. But let’s be real, what’s good for my soul ain’t good for my pocketbook, ok?

Am I saying become a sell-out? No. Am I saying do something you have no interest in to gain the all-mighty dollar? No. Am I saying make sure your degree choice will lead you to a prosperous future? Yes, absolutely.

I finished my degree and all of a sudden I was like, ok, now what? There was no clear path for me to follow. I had a degree that could apply to a lot of things and nothing at all. I made the fatal mistake of believing that if I went to class and finished my degree that a job would be waiting for me at the end. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I felt smart and capable in college. Heck, I had a 4.0 all the way through, but then the world didn’t give a crap about that. And that’s all I had to my name. I didn’t have any real job experience or any skills that were directly related to the demands of the workforce. On top of that, the degree I had didn’t really apply to anything.

I found myself out of college and jobless. Unfortunately, I didn’t even know where to begin to find that career that was supposed to now be mine for the taking. The job searches I did all turned out to need a more focused, less broad degree and set of skills. I thought I was prepared for and marketable for so many things. Sadly, I learned that I was prepared for very little.

Did I think a job was going to fall out of the sky? No (but kind of). I did, though, think that I would come out prepared for work and a career. Wrong.

Don’t just take my word for it either. So many people that I know experienced the same thing that I did. We were disillusioned by the idea of college and the narrative that told us once we were done we would achieve success.

So, what do I do if I have or get one of these useless college degrees?

1. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

It’s what you did or what you want to do, and that’s ok. Sometimes, I think whyyyyy did I do this to myself when I was capable of so much more, and that’s an unfair way to think.

I chose my degree for a reason, and so did you. Remind yourself why you made that decision and embrace it. I don’t think I would be as understanding of people if I hadn’t spent so many years studying literature. I don’t think I would have the courage to blog if I hadn’t spent so many years writing and studying great writing.

So, ultimately, I did benefit, I do have a job, and I’m dong well; it just didn’t happen in the way I expected.

2. Hustle, baby.

If you get a broad degree like I did that is not tied to a direct career path, be prepared to hustle to find a career. It is possible, I promise. I don’t in any way suggest that these degrees I’m deeming useless will never get you a job. Of course they will!

But, you are going to have to be more creative in how you get those jobs. You’re going to have to outwork those who are more directly qualified for those jobs.

Find a way to make it work. You can, I promise! I have found ways that my degree works for me, and I’m working and in a steady career path.

Thankfully, it really isn’t all about the degree you have. If you can sell yourself and work hard, you can find a job. Like I keep saying, it just is going to be harder and it may not be the one you had in mind.

Maybe you can find a non-traditional way to make money or to utilize your degree. Is there an opportunity for you to start your own business? Start a blog? Work online?

So what’s the big take away here?

1. Know your goals.

2. Choose a degree path that will directly lead you to those goals.

3. Make sure you research, research, research to ensure you are doing everything you can to achieve those goals outside of the degree alone.

4. Don’t depend on your shiny diploma to get you a job.

5. If you have one of these degrees, understand what it taught you and do whatever it takes to go after what you really want.

I am proud of my degree. Actually, I even went back to school for my Master’s in the same thing. (Mostly because I didn’t know what else to do and couldn’t find a job, but I digress.) I think I have a knack for analyzing and critical thinking. I think words are my thing. So, my degree does work for me. I never had a day where I dreaded class or questioned if I loved what I was doing. However, I did doubt where it was going to take me.

I just wish I would have known and been prepared for the harsh reality of the world and the job market. What would have happened if someone would have told me to narrow my focus? Perhaps I could have taken other classes more closely related to the field I dreamed of. Or, maybe I would have realized that I needed to make a change.

I’m so sorry if this post seems super negative. It truly is not meant to be that at all. Rather, consider it more of a cautionary tale. If you went through college and got a degree like mine, then you can relate. If you are in the process of deciding on what degree to pursue, then remember what I’m telling you. Follow your interests, but make sure that they are able to lead you in the direction you want to go after college. If not, then make sure you’re ok with that.

27 thoughts on “The Truth About Useless College Degrees

  1. Pat malone says:

    Great read. I often picked at Emery that he chose a 4 year degree( industrial engineering) and had a job that he could possibly have gotten without it. But I was glad he had that degree and so was he. And in the end the degree probably helped him start at a management level .

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    • Leah Elizabeth says:

      It’s crazy that you can spend all that time getting the degree and then wonder what to do with it. I’m sure that definitely helped him be successful! I’m glad you found this relatable 🙂

      Like

  2. Tabitha Bradley-Raines says:

    I am right there with you! I got an education degree and thought a teaching job would practically fall in my lap. (It didn’t.) However, I am okay with that. After so many changes to the school systems and the recent increase in school shootings, I don’t exactly want to be in the school system. I am still deciding what path I want to take. I am glad I have my degree though because I can home school when my husband and I have children.

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  3. Coral R Allen says:

    I love this! I’m currently deciding if I even want to finish college at all because I’m making quite a bit right now without having one, but I do think it’s SO important to not waste money on a college degree that won’t be helpful in the end. My parents are still paying off their college debt 10 years later and my mom barely even used her degree. She ended up being a stay at home mom. I agree that whatever you choose to major in should be applicable and useful for your future or it could end up being somewhat of a waste of money (although knowledge is important, like you said.) Great post!

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  4. Beth says:

    it is always good to have a dream, and also a little something based in reality. I think the people with “useless degrees” just take the scenic route.

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  5. Lecy | A Simpler Grace says:

    These are definitely things that high schools need to bring to the attention of juniors and seniors preparing to go to college. I know so many people who got a degree they don’t use at all now and it can seem like a waste of money. I do believe, however, that there are some life lessons that you only learn in a college environment and those are just as important as the degree. Great post!

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  6. Summer Telban👩🏼‍💻 (@SummerTelban) says:

    YASSSS girl!! My college years were all over the place in terms of what I was studying. I went in studying youth ministry – not to be a pastor or anything but because I have a heart for teens. Long-story-short, I switch to just getting a degree in Bible to quick finish up haha. I’m not using my degree in the form of a job. Sometimes I beat myself up over it – I wish I knew I was going to pursue being a full-time blogger back then. I don’t use my degree in the means of a career, but I do in life. So while most days I feel it’s useless, it’s really not – and looking back in retrospect, the lessons I learned in my college years help me realize the experience wasn’t useless. Such a great topic!

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    • Leah Elizabeth says:

      I’m so glad you liked this post, Summer! Don’t waste anytime beating yourself up and I won’t either! Thanks for sharing your experience with me!

      Like

  7. adriana says:

    This is so important to consider when picking your major! Unfortunately there ARE a ton of majors that won’t get you very far in the job world, even if it is something you love to do. It’s definitely not negative girl – it’s just true and real life! I totally get you!

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  8. throughthelensofjenslife says:

    At the end of the day, experience beats a degree in my opinion! lol Loved this post. You totally touched on things that so many people have an issue admitting!

    Like

  9. Emily says:

    This was a really refreshing take to the status quo! Totally agree that a degree can be useless. Loved the part you share about having a 4.0 but that’s about it. I wish my college degree also came along with real, valued work experience. Work girl!

    Like

  10. Julianne Robinson says:

    Such an important post! I learned this later on in life after college and went back to get a trade certificate so I could get a paying job! Best decision I ever made and I wish I never spend money on my bachelors degree now haha although the college memories really are priceless.

    Like

  11. sharablesarcasm says:

    Any degree can be a useless degree these days. I went back and got a degree in advertising/public relations. Surely there would be jobs in that field. And there are—but only for people with years of paid experience in the field willing to work for what a new grad would work for. I have seen “entry level” positions that required five years of experience.

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  12. livelovetru says:

    I loved reading this, very well written! I don’t think you were being negative at all. This was very informative and I am sure that anyone that needs advice choosing a degree, would really benefit from reading this.

    Like

  13. vivalazeny says:

    It’s so important to have a clear vision on what you want for your future & what your life purpose is. It’s sad how many people go to college & study something tbey aren’t passionate about & just waste their time & $! I took a long break from college because I found myself wasting my time because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I’m back in college now finishing my degree in education because I found that teaching is what I’m meant to do in this life! Thanks for sharing!

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    • Leah Elizabeth says:

      I’m so glad you realized while you were in school. It’s awesome that you got to take a break, be sure, and follow your real passion. Good luck in your future teaching!

      Like

  14. mamaofkings says:

    First of all, love your blog as a whole 😍😍 Second, I have a “useless” certification that literally just sits in a frame, and I have to agree with everything you have written! This was an awesome piece!

    Like

    • Leah Elizabeth says:

      Wow, thank you so much! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the blog, and I’m glad you loved the post! It was hard to write, so the fact that you connect helps so much! Thanks for reading!

      Like

  15. Kristin says:

    Someone told me once (while in college) that you learn how to do a job while you’re working, and a degree just gets your foot in the door. I think that’s so true. Unfortunately, that is a key role, though, when it comes to finding a job quickly after college. If you think about all the recent college-grad-applicants a company may have to weed through, looking at that degree is an easy way to cull the list. I’ve also been convinced that work experience coming out of college cannot be over-valued. If you think about it from the perspective of the employer, who would look more attractive—someone with the right degree, or someone with the right degree who has proven through some internships that they can do the type of work you’re hiring them for?

    (I like this topic. It is a very confusing one, and one you can really only see clearly after you’ve been through to the other side. I know I didn’t have clear goals in mind when I picked my degree. I’m glad I had others looking out for me when I was younger.)

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