Is it worth doing a degree?

_45375581_graduation226In the toilets of the student union bar, somebody had written on the paper towel dispenser ‘Peace Studies degree – please take one’.

That’s what they thought my uni course was worth! Ros and Mark were teasing me about it too in the WHYS meeting yesterday. 

By the way, I’m Claudia from the WHYS team and you’ll be able to find out more about me when I post my intro on the ‘Meet the team’ section later this week.

 So not everyone thinks my degree was valuable, but in these difficult times with more unemployed graduates and higher fees leaving more students in debt, is it worth doing a university degree?
Some are questioning the usefulness of grad degrees too. And business tycoon Donald Trump, thinks experience is better than education.

Like John comments, I chose my degree subject because I was interested in it, but as Michi says most people don’t have that luxury.

And if it’s a choice between hospital beds and sending people to university, is higher education a luxury society can afford? This blogger doesn’t seem to think so, especially for worthless ‘mickey mouse’ subjects. Hmm, wonder what she’d make of Peace Studies…

18 Responses to “Is it worth doing a degree?”

  1. 1 Bob in Queensland
    May 26, 2009 at 08:19

    Shouldn’t the debate be about whether a degree is learning for the sake of learning…or a career path? Even different faculties disagree on this…engineering or medicine is pretty much a guarantee of work while, I fear, if you took Peace Studies for any reason other than academic interest, you were conned. Only the student can decide whether it’s worth getting thousands of pounds in debt to indulge an interest.

  2. May 26, 2009 at 10:12

    So True!
    Money, motivation, the trend of to-morrow. Get street-wise!
    No respect to the establishment, but today’s world revolves around money. What do people want, what are they willing to pay for, that’s the question.
    Goodness, yes. Virtue, certainly, but keep it to yourself!
    All of a sudden the botton has fallen! Pension funds, healthcare, savings, etc.. The alarm bells are ringing. Can you make money? For yourself and for everyone else? Make him prime minister.
    If only, if only…….

  3. 3 Jack Hughes
    May 26, 2009 at 10:37

    Sorry, but Peace Studies does sound like a bogus subject.

    Like studying silence or darkness or indifference or lack of anything else.

    We all know what brilliance would look like in medicine, physics, chemistry, biology. In fact we are surrounded by the achievements of those excellent doctors and scientists.

    What would excellence look like in peace studies and what are its achievements to date ?

    • 4 Dennis Junior
      May 26, 2009 at 22:38

      Jack: Peace Studies is a BOGUS subject and a waste of money in an already over-burden College [University] system….

      ~Dennis Junior~

  4. 5 Rob (UK)
    May 26, 2009 at 13:22

    Many people think my chosen study path – psychology – is ‘mickey mouse’ but that’s just snobbishness. Why should ‘proper’ subjects like English and Maths be more valuable? The problem is that employers (and the general public) have no idea what it taught on the course – English and Maths!

  5. 6 patti in cape coral
    May 26, 2009 at 13:42

    I think it is worth getting a degree, but I think kids nowadays have to be more practical as to what kind of degree they are getting. My daughter wanted to be a lawyer since she was 10, but then she took a psychology class in high school and loved it, so that is the degree she is pursuing. I was really worried about it, it didn’t seem a practical area of study, but as it happens, there is quite a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists in our area. I think there is more of a demand for math and science-based subjects in the USA now, but unfortunately, she has never shown much aptitude for those subjects… It reminds me of Steven King’s book the stand, where the whole world was wiped out, and they were in dire straits because most of the people who were left had no real practical skills, they had degrees in humanities and such.

  6. 7 patrick Odadi
    May 26, 2009 at 14:40

    It is depend wich part of the world you are writting , In Africa where I have many years of expereince ,it is cardinal worth studying a degree, this is very important not only to get formal employment to be able to make rational decision in life.

    I dont whqt to categoricqlly state thqt people who do hqve degrees cant make rational decison and live their lives rationally, But the difference exist between one who hqs studied up to degree level qnd the one who drop out of of high school or completed highly school

  7. 8 Jennifer
    May 26, 2009 at 14:44

    Peace Studies? haha

    Yes, it is worth getting a degree. Be book smart and street smart.

    • 9 Dennis Junior
      May 26, 2009 at 22:36

      @ Jennifer:
      I think that the Peace Studies Degree is a big waste of Financial Aid…money….I think that you can choose another degree….

      ~Dennis Junior~

  8. 10 T
    May 26, 2009 at 16:15

    The days of working at one company and then retiring with a secure pension are gone forever. In this global economy, you need to be as flexible as possible.

    One part of that is to get some type of professional degree/training. Also, if media studies is a such a daft choice to major in, then why does it pay so well?

  9. 11 Syed Hasan Turab
    May 26, 2009 at 17:59

    Education is fundimental right of an humanbeing & suppose to have easy access, those who want to get it. An humanbeing may be bold & brave because of education, this global time is beyond the slavery, colonism & diversity, obiously we have enough education to understand our destination & goals, which may not be achieved without education.
    In my openion education is not limited upto certain college or university degree, a real education have no depth, boundries & field.

  10. 12 ecotopian
    May 26, 2009 at 20:38

    It’s not whether it is worth doing a degree, but the feeling that there is no other choice available. The driving force behind this is to get a good job with a good salary. You cannot look at this without looking at the macro-economy. There are few good paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. They know they need the degree and will go into debt to get it.

    If you ever decide to have this topic on your show, I suggest that you get Dr. Reich on your show. Have him discuss the drop in median wages here in the US over the past 35 years and maybe you’ll understand why this is happening.

    Then again, maybe it would be best if you didn’t open up this can of worms. It might bring up outsourcing and globalization, which are contentious topics in of themselves.

  11. May 27, 2009 at 17:23

    It is important to know the difference between a “degree” and a “major” or “minor.” One of my friends is a potter. He is at the top of his field, an artist, and he makes good money. He also happens to have a BA. Conceivably he could be at the same level as a potter if he had not even graduated from high school. So what did he get out of a university experience?

    It is possible to choose a major subject that has many requirements. If you choose physics, for instance, your life is rather well planned out for you for all four years. I started with five hours of physics and five hours of calculus the first year The other five or six hours you may devote to university requirements, e.g., freshman English and world history. Year after year, your schedule is already filled out for you. You have physics requirements and university general requirements. If you want a course in abnormal psychology you will have to plan carefully to squeeze it in. At the university where I teach now the physics department specifies 49 hours of classes for its major.

    A philosophy major, on the other hand, only requires 27 hours, leaving the student a much greater amount of time outside of university requirements to learn about areas of personal interest. People who intend to attend medical school or law school could choose this major and add in relevant courses recommended for pre-med or pre-law students.

    It is almost impossible to become a physician or a physicist without having gone through a regular undergraduate education. It is possible to get a regular undergraduate education and become an artist or an insurance salesman. I guess it is possible to not get any source of financial security at all.

    I do not know what a major in “peace studies” would look like, but if I were the leader of a country such as Pakistan I might want to know what objective study has shown to really work How was the twelve year Emergency quelled in Malaysia? What were the Vietnam War era Thai government efforts to gain the allegiance of individuals living on the borderlands to the central government? How does India blend tribal people into the national political system? Does a highly centralized form of government work well in a situation like that of Iraq? Or would it work better to have a system with “states’ rights” more like the U.S.? All of these questions are important, and a leader would be better off with objective, well vetted, answers.

    There would actually seem to be a need for objective study on how to get peace going (as opposed to how to avoid countries’ going to war). As with psychology, individual people might have drawn their individual conclusions on how things work, but that kind of information is not very useful to others unless there is a well-constituted field, a system of peer review, a mental playing field on which issues are constested and flaky ideas discovered and labeled as such.

    In China, having the credentials to be a teacher is regarded as an iron rice bowl, i.e., it is a way of making money that goes with you wherever you end up, cannot be destroyed, cannot be lost, cannot be taken away from you. There are other forms of preparation that may leave you out of work if the economy falters or if other conditions change.

    Other kinds of preparation can be good too. If you want to repair TV sets or dental equipment as a career, a vocational school may be the best deal. Learn your craft and start making money. The one thing that is constant is that you are very unlikely to become a brain surgeon without getting (and paying for) a great deal of step-by-step training.

  12. 14 James Ogola
    May 28, 2009 at 11:14

    At the end of the day, it makes sense to get a degree. Whether in peace studies or in medicine, a college education provides alot of expertise to an individual that may not be available elsewhere in a structured and thought out format.
    It might be better to view the time spent in college as an experience. Afterall one must aquire experience; degree or no degree.

    To the relevance of certain courses, it would seem some are more relevant than others but In my opinion, mickey mouse studies as they have been refered to are courses that have contributed significantly in the development of products, ideas and relationships in the more dynamic world of today.

    for example fortune 500 companies go to great pains to develop their products and image to appeal to a larger more diverse markets. In the process they use the expertise of those who have studied these so called mickey mouse courses to provide relevant insightful input in their development processes in order to reduce risk to their investments or even drive innovation. Good examples are mobile phone and computer companies drive to provide cheaper more affordable computers and mobile technology to 3rd world countries in sub saharan africa and asia. These companies have procured the services of phsycologists, sociologists, community development experts and the likes in the development of relevant products and development of viable business opportunnities.

    These courses indeed do contribute alot in the development of a community on diverse fronts as business, culture, politics, the arts etc. some of which may not seem very relevant but in truth we cannot imagine life without.

  13. 15 Emile Barre
    May 30, 2009 at 10:59

    Nothing wrong with doing a degree (ie exam), equally there is nothing wrong with being an automath. The idea that your knowledge is somehow more “professional” because you have passed an exam is of course ridiculous and is merely a product of not being allowed adequate time to absorb a subject and recognise its links to other subjects. Take for example a doctor. A doctor can pass an exam in medicine but still know nothing about say psychotherapy despite the fact that it is linked clearly with it. Does that mean the doctor is under qualified? Today’s values reply “no” despite the fact that psychotherapy is a “degree” subject with its own exam. Its all about time and there is not enough of it allocated to acquiring knowledge. The world is on a learning curve in this matter and walking on egg shells to the detriment of progress.

  14. 16 jo durni
    June 3, 2009 at 21:45

    The UK Govt in the 90s pushed up the Supply side (which it could control) producing 50%+ more graduates.
    Did they ask the job market (which it couldn;t control) if it would be good enough to be provide 50%+ more graduate jobs?

  15. June 4, 2009 at 00:13

    I gain a 2:1 biological sciences degree from a top 15 uni in the UK last year. However this has done nothing in terms of getting myself a career. I do not know much about other countries educational systems but I do beileve that the young people of the UK I being fed some twisted facts e.g. If you go to uni you ll earn more than your friend who doesn’t have a degree. This is a very generalised view on uni that many 17 and 18 year olds get fed up and down the country. Yes, with the right degree, knowing want you want out of a career, a degree can help alot. However there are too many people in this country who are going to universities just for the sole reason that they thing that they can tread water for three years and have a job handed to them afterwards. This is all rubbish. My advice to anyone who thinks doing a degree the best thing you can do to think again. What do you really want to do, and I mean what is you passion that you could do day in day out? Once you have that answer research hard on what you need to do to get a career in your chosen field.

  16. 18 Sylwia
    September 5, 2009 at 22:16

    I am 31, have a degree in economics, and believe it is better to have higher education from a personal point of view. I have friends who went straight to work and claimed they didn’t need more then a highschool, but now you can tell they have a chip on their shoulders about this choice.

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