“Useless” degrees: Not so useless after all


Photo credit: Gracen Hoyle

Certain degrees seem to be much more respected than others. This creates an imbalance with what students want to study in college. I remember in high school so many people wanting to go into STEM and business because they are straightforward. You graduate and either continue school or get a job with the degree you had studied for. The humanities are viewed as a waste of time because they do not follow this direct path. They are “useless” because they don’t help you get a job. I mean, what jobs can you get with a degree in philosophy?

I learned the answer to this question when I switched from being a neuroscience major to a philosophy major. It was scary because I really didn’t know what I could do with my new major; it never got much attention when discussing careers. No one told me to pursue it; in fact, I was kind of told by society never to consider it. I had always loved philosophy, though. It was a simple passion that I pursued in my free time, but studying it intensely in a classroom seemed like a waste. I also could never get over the reactions people would have to my major if it was philosophy. What would my parents tell me? Would I be OK financially after school? Would I waste my time with this degree? No matter my doubts, I knew studying STEM full time was going to just pull me down. It was becoming harder and harder to study.

My intro philosophy course, on the other hand, had helped me get through some hard times my fall semester sophomore year. I still studied and read for the class even when my depression was getting worse, and I even did outside research for fun. I never did that for my STEM courses, even when I was healthy mentally; this was my reason for switching majors.

I made the switch and met with Dr. Bowman, the advising coordinator here at Trinity. She talked me through the changes that a degree switch will bring and told me something I never considered. “A degree is only what you make of it.” My philosophy degree opened me to a wide range of possible careers because the degree is much more skill-based. STEM and business degrees prepare you to be experts in the fields you study with some career-specific skills on the side, but philosophy simply teaches you how to think and write. I can do anything that involves those two things.

These skills also transferred to my everyday life in ways I didn’t predict. I studied life and broke it down to its fundamentals, and I learned how to shuffle through my thoughts and communicate them well. I began to change certain viewpoints I held for the wrong reasons. I grew as a person at a much more rapid rate with philosophy compared to when I was studying STEM.

I eventually learned that I could even use my degree to pursue my passion for medicine. I am currently wanting to work on an ethics board at a hospital, and I find myself happy to have found this nice medium. I think we all should consider degrees based on passion rather than what society considers practical. The world would be dull with only STEM and business majors, so follow your passions and study the arts and humanities if you love them. You’ll be happier and you’ll appreciate yourself for making that decision in the long run.