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University and "Useless" Majors


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Our two kids spent 21 years at University (9 for one, 12 the other - so far) and your questions/concerns are something we dealt with a number of times.  Our deal for them was that as long as they wanted to go to school, we would gladly pay their bills.  One is a DVM (bio/languages/med school) - very much a vocational course of study - and the other...well she has 4 different degrees, so we really don't know WHAT to call her.  She did several things and grad school simply because she loves the whole process of learning and research (as well as teaching).  What kind of ruined her experience in academia of the U was finding that very few students had any interest at all in learning anything - except what it took to pass the next test/exam.  What I can tell you that you WILL find is that whatever you choose to do, IF you are truly passionate about learning, you will be one of the few that might cash in on being taken under the wing of a few good profs.  You will get out of University exactly what you put in.

I agree very much that Universities SHOULD be about academics, with less of a focus on vocation (except of course those disciplines that by their very definition are extremely vocational - medicine, engineering, etc.), but since HR people seem to run a good chunk of policy in business, everyone seems to think they need a University education to get a job - many positions have job descriptions written that will require at least baccalaureate standing.

If just employment and income are your big worry, go to a community college.  One company I have worked for/with for the last 28 years does electrical engineering, testing and field service.  We grab the best of work term kids from EE Technologist schools and after two years at school, and another one learing the ropes in the field, they are all into 6 digit paycheques (lots of work, though, not a walk in the park).  We also put the engineers in the field at least one full year before sending them upstairs - where they can earn LESS money than the tech guys in the field - but do work a lot fewer hours.   THERE is where your career choice can make or break you in the future.  Once you get the white picket fence and family, the long hours, travel, etc. from a high earning - but high demand - career means that one or the other has to give.  If you see yourself there in 10 or so years, go the professional route and think about some kind of unionized job.

BTW: if you ever want to make SERIOUS money, it doesn't really matter what you study - no University can make a businessman out of you - ESPECIALLY if you take "business" courses.

(on edit) sorry, I was interrupted by a few calls, did not make the point I was trying to:  IF you are one of those who take learing serisously, once you are out (if ever) in the world of business, you will carry that with you and you WILL be given responsibilities, challenges and opportunities that others will not.  (BTW, that will NEVER happen in government).

Edited by cannuck
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I changed my major from political science to business technology administration (like an info systems major but it was a BA, and more businessy stuff and less math & science...stuff.) The reason for changing my major from poli sci was, what the hell am I going to do with this? I asked myself.

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6 hours ago, JamesHackerMP said:

I changed my major from political science to business technology administration (like an info systems major but it was a BA, and more businessy stuff and less math & science...stuff.) The reason for changing my major from poli sci was, what the hell am I going to do with this? I asked myself.

Sounds like a combination of skill sets a good backroom man or lobbyist could put to use - lots of revolving doors and back channels to other opportunities going that route.

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  • 3 months later...

I believe the American billionaire Mark Cuban has said that in a decade liberal arts degrees will be more valued than will many highly specialized technical degrees. But I think he should have clarified this by stating that liberal arts degrees entailing the demonstration of broadly applicable intellectual capabilities, including literacy, numeracy and academic rigour (i.e. the capacity to participate in and absorb the lessons arising from objective debate) will be the most valued. Many functions that today must be done by specialists will eventually be done by machines employing AI technologies. Recently, there has been growing discussion of the value of workers and managers who demonstrate a capacity for intellectual complexity, understanding that many problems are more complex than fashionable and/or supposedly common-sense analysis might suggest. Educational specialization, while necessary in some fields like medicine, has tended to undermine intellectual complexity.  

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On 1/5/2018 at 8:29 AM, Ginsy said:

I'm sure you've all heard about the "useless" degree phenomena where graduates from arts, humanities, science and other programs go on to work at Starbucks for a cheap dime (*cough* me). 


I'm not certain if this can go here, or anywhere on this site for that matter. But you are an intelligent lot and I assume most of you are older than I am, so I was hoping I could benefit from your knowledge/experience.

I just wanted to know if there will be a significant difference in my employment prospects graduating from university if I pursue an Economics degree vs. a degree in Urban and Regional Planning. Both majors have so many required credits that there's unfortunately no way I can do both. I would prefer to do Economics but I hear there a lot of good careers in planning. This is at Queen's in Kingston, ON btw. Do any of you have any idea which would set me up better for the job market? 


Both have their advantages - they are not useless degrees.....but you need to figure out which one suits your innate skill-set. We're not talking about a job - we're talking about a career - with luck, it's something you'll be doing for a good portion of your life. It's often said "if you love what you are doing, you'll never work a day in your life". Urban and Regional Planning sounds very interesting and if you think you'd really enjoy it, go for it. But first, do some research and see what jobs are out there in your niche - perhaps scour Indeed and Monster and find some Job Descriptions - see if they motivate you. Below is a link that might be some help. Best of luck.

Link: http://www.canadianbusiness.com/lists-and-rankings/best-jobs/2016-urban-planner/

Edited by Centerpiece
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  • 10 months later...

Yes, I also agree with the statement that if you are math/science oriented you will be able to realize yourself in various fields (this is mechanical engineering, civil engineering, etc.) and achieve significant success. Of course, by studying which of these disciplines you will come across other subjects that are more general, which will not particularly affect your sleep, and in this regard you can rely on essay writing services, which should ease the academic burden. Additionally, you can ask (through various job search sites and related) about development and prospects in a particular area in order to understand what to be ready.

Edited by lanters
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  • 4 weeks later...
9 hours ago, Maghana said:

 "useless" degree phenomena is a topical issue today but I think on of the reasons of such pattern is shifting priorities of young generation. 

One priority which has never shifted is the need to get decent work. That's why most people go to universities these days, not to get educated or enlightened. They go for the scrap of paper which they hope to trade for a job which is more rewarding on several levels. In most respects, universities are trade schools.

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  • 1 month later...

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