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.