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The Top 10 Most Useless Degrees (And Why)

The Top 10 Most Useless Degrees (And Why)

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how valuable your current degree will be for your career. Or maybe you’re a highschool senior, debating which degree to pursue.

As someone who has extensively researched the value of a degree before deciding to drop out of university, let me share my two cents on the matter. It may shift your perspective.

Before we go over the 10 most useless degrees in college, let’s go over some major gaps that apply towards pursuing a degree in the first place.

False sense of security

Growing up, we were promised the illusion of the golden ticket. We are told to earn a paper degree, and watch the opportunities roll in.

This may have been true 30–40 years ago, where only 26% of middle-class workers had a degree. Today, when almost everyone has a college degree (if not a Master’s), its value is increasingly becoming a commodity rather than an asset.

As a result, the golden ticket we were promised rarely leads to our desired job upon graduation, if at all. According to the U.S Department of Labor, 53.6% of college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed.

Misalignment of goals

This may be harsh to hear for some people, but most college professors don’t have your best interest as their priority. There’s two reasons for that.

The first is the increasing number of professor to student ratio, where some lecture halls seat over 500+ students per professor. This makes it incredibly difficult to develop a genuine relationship. This also leads to receiving general and unspecific advice from professors.

The second reason is that most professors have their research and tenure as a higher priority than helping students get the best education for their career. Many professors are using the institution’s facilities and resources for their own research, and are teaching as part of their contract.

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There’s rarely a good outcome if there’s a misalignment in any relationship.

Better alternatives

The good news to all of this is: you’re in control. There’s better alternatives and more opportunities than before, from getting practical experience, to leveraging new social communities, even avoiding the degree as a whole — the list just goes on.

With each of the most useless degrees I mention below, I’ll share an alternative you could explore in lieu of your 4-year journey.

1. Advertising

Don Draper may have been “the man” back in 1960; however, with the rise of technology, the advertising industry is shifting faster than ever. The core reason for this is that we’re no longer living in the billboard/banner ad age. Consumers have all the power today. We can choose what we pay attention to and what we tune out.

Many companies question the ROI of advertising as a whole, big agencies are struggling in a world of free media, and new social networks are popping up every year.

Alternative: Stay ahead of new media trends and learn everything you can about it, from new social networks, to marketing channels, etc. Become an expert and share the actual results you’ve received with potential employers or clients. Results will be the only thing that matters.

2. Music

Music is different from advertising since its theory stands the test of time. However, that in itself is the problem: it’s only theory.

If your goal is to one day become a professional musician, learning about its history and the musical terms and instruments is not going to accelerate your success. As Malcolm Gladwell proclaims in his book, “The Outlier”, what made The Beatles become one of the greatest bands in history was the 10,000 hours of practice they had in their early stages.

Alternative: If you want to be a performer in any industry, from musician, to comedian, to keynote speaker: put in the hours. Form your own band. Find every opportunity to get on stage and become the performer you want to be, not an expert in musical theory.

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3. Computer Science

Technology is almost always ahead of traditional education. This poses a big contradiction if you’re trying to stay ahead of the latest trends that will help you be in demand of great companies upon graduation.

Be clear with your end goal. Are you looking to learn how computers work, or are you looking to be recruited by the Google’s of the world?

Alternative: Assuming most of you reading this are looking to learn how to code, it’s easier than ever to do this on your own. Check out free platforms such as Codeacademy or Treehouse, and apply it directly by building your own website.

4. Creative Writing

If you’re looking to express your creative mindset, this degree isn’t it.

The first reason is that most professors frown upon modern fiction, and would rather teach you about how it was done in the 1800s. The second is, the only compensated positions that most “creative writers” end up at is writing Top 10 lists for the Internet. There’s better ways to spend 4 years learning how to express yourself.

Alternative: One is, start your own blog. This not only helps you get real practical experience on expressing and condensing your mind, but you can also receive immediate feedback from your audience. Here’s the cherry on top of the sundae, if you manage to build a large enough audience, you can potentially make enough money to be your own boss!

5. Philosophy

Philosophy is the go-to degree when discussing the most useless degrees. This isn’t to dismiss the importance of philosophy, as many influential thinkers such as Tim Ferriss use Stoic Philosophy as a framework for making better decisions. The problem is the way it’s being taught. Professors choose theoretical topics of philosophy that will stir debate and discussion, which rarely applies to our real day-to-day lives.

Alternative: There’s books available, such as “The Obstacle is the Way,” on practical philosophy that will help you make better decisions in life. If you want to learn about the history of Philosophy, there are hundreds of books available on that as well.

6. Communication

If you need a communication degree to prove you can communicate, then you haven’t fully experienced college.

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College is where you discover the necessary communication skills to nurture relationships, develop the ability to communicate with new people, and learn about your communication strengths and weaknesses. You’ll learn far more about communication from opening yourself up to meeting new people in your college than spending 4 years about how to talk.

Alternative: Create your own podcast. Find a topic that you’re passionate about and start interviewing people. As ironic as it may sound, the best communicators of the world are not the best speakers. Instead, the people who can ask interesting questions and know how to listen make the best communicators. On top of that, podcasting will help you connect with influential people in your industry, which is a far better strategy of landing your dream job than a degree.

7. Education

Do you want to become a great teacher, have an impact, and share your message with students? Well, you may be disappointed to hear that most teachers receive a nominal salary compared to their relative value. Why not get paid what you’re worth, while potentially impacting millions of students around the world versus a few hundred in your local city?

Alternative: Today, anyone can become a teacher. You can share a practical skill you’ve developed with others, or you can teach people how to shoot photography, how to learn a new language, and more by creating your own Youtube channel, creating your own online course, or signing up for a teaching platform. The opportunities are endless with the rise of online teaching.

8. Languages

As globalization increases at an exponential rate, learning a new language is not only a great asset to have on your resume, but it’s also quickly becoming a necessity. Despite its increasing importance, it doesn’t require an investment of $30,000 to learn the history and literature of the language from a non-native speaking professor. In fact, it’s unlikely you’ll ever use most of the theoretical knowledge you learn about languages in the real world.

Alternative: Much like computer science, you don’t need to learn a language inside and out just in order to speak it fluently. There are existing language learning platforms like Rype that are 0.1% of the investment for a college degree. This platform matches you with a native speaking language coach for one-on-one teaching, rather than learning in a lecture hall with 300 other students.

9. Criminal Justice

Most people entering this degree are looking to become a detective, police officer, or enter law. If that’s the case, earning a degree in Criminal Justice may not be the way to go. According to the BLS, police officers and detective are not necessarily required to have a degree beyond their highschool diploma. This is because most of the practical knowledge is earned upon joining the academy through sponsored on-the-job training.

Alternative: If your goal is to enter law, there are better degrees that will train you for getting into law school. In fact, law school expert Ann Levine states that Criminal Justice is not considered academically rigorous by major law schools. Instead, Levine recommends a degree like political science, that requires research, serious thought, and analysis.

10. Entrepreneurship

Learning entrepreneurship through a textbook is like watching a video on how to ride a bicycle without riding it. This bit of advice comes from personal experience. Every successful entrepreneur will tell you that entrepreneurship cannot be taught, it must be experienced. The calculated risk-taking, mental struggles, and hustle aren’t learned from a textbook, they come from being in the battlefield.

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Alternative: The easiest alternative is to start your own business. This could be a side business you start, or something as simple as selling items on Ebay. The last thing you want to do is study the works of successful entrepreneurs without living it your own.

In Conclusion

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” — Sue Grafton

Despite the points mentioned in this article, your college experience is something to be cherished. You’ll learn far more from the overall experience than inside the classroom.

The problem is not college itself, it’s our preconceived mindset of relying on some of the most useless degrees to make or break our careers. Most of us will end up working in professions that have nothing to do with our degrees.

Think about what your intention and end goals are by entering your degree of study. Where do you see yourself in 5 years upon graduation? How will this degree help you get there? Is it a degree that top employers are looking for? Or are there specific skill-sets that you want to develop to improve yourself?

Most importantly, you should use college as the time to explore yourself, take risks, and learn your strengths and weaknesses. It’s one of the first and only times you’ll have the freedom to make risky decisions with no real downsides. College can become the best experience of your life. Choosing the right degree is only one part of it.

Over to you

Which of the most useless degrees we mentioned do you agree with?

Featured photo credit: Student Hitchhiking via cdn.magdeleine.co

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Published on May 24, 2019

How to Raise a Confident Child with Grit

How to Raise a Confident Child with Grit

My husband and I facilitate a couple’s marriage and parenting group. Recently, the group discussed qualities, characteristics, and traits we wanted to see our children develop as they grow up. One term that came up that all parents seemed to upon agree as a highly valued trait was that of grit. The question from our group was:

“Can grit be taught to our children?”

The answer is, yes. Parents can help their child develop grit.

What is grit? Dr. Angela Duckworth is the top researcher on this subject and wrote the book Grit. She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long term goals”. This new buzz word is popular in the adult realm, but what about our developing children? What if we could help our children develop grit as young children.

Grit is more crucial to success than IQ. Duckworth, through her research at Harvard, found that having grit was a better predictor for an individual’s success than IQ. This means having the smartest kid in the room doesn’t ensure any level of success in their future. They can be brilliant, but if they aren’t properly intrinsically motivated, they won’t be successful.

Grit determines long term success. If a child can’t pick themselves up and try again after a failure, then how are they going to be able to do it as adult?

What a gift it would be to our children to engage them in a manner that helps them recognize their passions, talents, and develop a persevere to purse their goals. Below are some tips on how to raise a confident child with grit.

1. Encouragement is Key

When a child wants to learn how to ride a bike, do they keep going after they fall down or do they quit after the first fall?

If they aren’t encouraged to get up and try again, and instead are coddled and told they can try again some other day, then they are being taught to play it safe.

Safe and coddled don’t exactly go hand-in-hand with building up grit. The child needs to be encouraged to try again. This can be a parent saying “you can do it, I believe in you” and “I know that even if you fall again you will try again and eventually you will get the hang of it”.

Encouragement to keep trying so that they can build up perseverance is very helpful in building a child’s confidence. This confidence is what will help them strike out and try again.

If they feel that they can’t do it or shouldn’t do it, then they won’t. The mind is a powerful thing. If a child believes that they can’t be successful in doing something, then they won’t be successful. Part of building that mentality of believing in themselves comes from encouragement from their parents, care givers, and teachers.

Cheer Them On

How many times have you heard a story of success that someone had in life that all began because someone believed in that person?

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A coach, a mom, a teacher can have a huge impact by believing in the child’s ability to be successful and voicing that encouragement to them. Words are powerful. Use them to build up a child, by telling them that they can do it even if they have try again and again.

Be their support system by being their cheerleader. Cheerleaders don’t just cheer when the team is winning. They cheer words of encouragement to keep the team going.

The same goes with children. We need to cheer for their successes, but also cheer for them to keep going and fighting the fight when life gets tough!

You Can’t Force Them

Keep in mind that you can’t force a child to keep trying. They have to do it themselves.

For example, when my daughter was learning to tie her shoes, it was a real struggle. She gave up. I couldn’t make her want to try to do it again. She had to take a break from the struggle for a few months and then try again.

She was more successful the second time around, because she had matured and her fine motor skills had improved. It would have been ridiculous for me to force her to practice tying her shoes for the three or four months in between, with tears and arguing taking place.

No, instead we took a break. She tried again later. Forcing her to learn something that she wasn’t ready to learn would have pit us against one another. That would have been a poor parenting move.

There are boundaries that parents can set though in some cases. For example, if your child begins an activity and wants to quit mid-season because they are terrible at the sport, you have the opportunity to keep them in the sport through the end of the season to show them that quitting is not an option.

Although they may not win another tennis match the rest of the season or win another swimming race all year long, finishing the commitment is important. It will help with the development of grit by teaching them to persevere through the defeat. It is character building.

If your child is great at all things all the time, they will not develop grit. They need to try things that challenge them. When they aren’t the best at something, or for that matter, the worst, it creates an opportunity for them feel real struggle. Real struggle builds real character.

2. Get Them out of Their Comfort Zone

My daughter wanted to try cheerleading this past fall. She has never done this activity in the past, nor is she particularly coordinated (sorry sweetie). For that matter, she couldn’t even do a cartwheel when cheer season began.

However, we signed up because she was so excited to become a cheerleader. I signed up to coach because there was a need for more cheer coaches. We were all-in at that point.

Once the season began, I quickly realized that cheerleading was far outside my daughter’s comfort zone. The idea of cheerleading was great in her mind. The reality of memorizing cheers and learning physical skills that were hard for her made the experience a struggle. She wanted to quit. I said to her “no, you were the one who wanted to do this, so we finish what we started.” I had to say this more than once. I don’t think anyone on the squad knew this was the case, because she kept at it.

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She kept practicing those cheers every evening. It did not come naturally to her at first, so it was uncomfortable. She always seemed to be half a beat behind the other cheerleaders, which made it very awkward and uncomfortable for her. However, letting her know that quitting mid-season was not an option made her try harder. She wanted to learn the cheers so she wouldn’t stand out on the squad as the girl who didn’t know what she is doing.

By the end of the season, she became a decent cheerleader. Not the best, but she was no longer half a beat behind the rest. She learned skills that were hard for her to conquer. Now that she felt success in achieving something that was uncomfortable and hard for her. She knows she has it in her to do that in other areas of life.

That is why it’s ok for us as parents to let our kids feel the struggle and be uncomfortable. If they don’t experience it when they are young, they will as adults, but they won’t be equipped with the perseverance and inner-strength built from years of working hard through smaller struggles as they grew up.

Allowing our children to struggle helps them build that skill of perseverance, so that they have the grit to achieve hard things in life that they really desire to accomplish.

3. Allow Them To Fail

Your child will fail at things in life. Let them. Do not swoop in and rescue your child from their personal failures. If they don’t fail, then they don’t have the opportunity to pick themselves up and try again.

If I had pulled my daughter from cheerleader once I realized that it was going to be a real struggle, she wouldn’t have experienced failure and struggle. Letting her have this small failure in life taught her lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom. She learned about the power she has within herself to try harder, to practice in order to make change happen, and to push through it even when you feel like giving up because it is embarrassing.

Failure is embarrassing. Learning to handle embarrassment is taking on a fear. When kids learn to do this at a young age, it is practice for adult life. They will experience failure as an adult. They will be better equipped to handle life’s disappointments and failures if they have learned to handle the fear of embarrassment and failure when they are young.

Practice builds up the skill. Processing and handling fear, embarrassment, and failure are skills.

If I had pulled my daughter from cheer and allowed her to quit, I would have taken from her the opportunity to learn how to process and handle the embarrassment and failure she was experiencing at each practice and games. She learned to keep trying and that practicing the skills would lessen the embarrassment and feelings of failure.

Learning the value of practice and how to preserve through the fear and failure are priceless lessons. We may want to rescue our children because we want them to be successful at the things that they do, but how will they be successful in this competitive world as adults if they are provided with only opportunities in which they succeed?

Failure is needed to learn to thrive. Success in adulthood does not come easy to children who are protected from failure because they haven’t built up the ability to persevere.

Perseverance comes when they have learned time and time again how to take the fear of embarrassment and failure head on and practice to get better.

4. Teach Them to Try Again

Encourage your child to try again. Don’t let them quit on the first try.

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Life is hard. If we quit the first time we tried at things, we would never amount to anything in life. We need to teach our children that trying again is simply part of life.

Help them to give it a go by providing encouragement and support. Offer to practice with them, provide them with tutoring or coaching if necessary — whatever it takes to get them back on the proverbial horse and trying again.

Break it Down

Sometimes failure occurs because they are trying something all at one time and they haven’t mastered the smaller components.

For example, a math student isn’t going to jump into calculus as their first high school math course. No, of course not. They build on their skills. They begin with basic math, then algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus to then they get to the calculus level.

If they are thrown into the deep end by taking on calculus before the foundation of their math skills are built, they will fail.

Help your child try again by breaking down what it is they are trying to achieve.

Going back to my cheer example… my daughter was not the best at learning the cheers when we began. It then dawned on me that we needed to break down each cheer phrase by phrase. Once we learned the phrase and movements that went with it, we could then learn the next one. Once these were learned, we could combine the phrases, practice them together, and then try to move to learn the next phrase in the cheer. It was a tedious process, but it worked.

Not all skills come easy for kids. Helping them learn the skill of breaking things down into manageable tasks is another way we teach them about grit. They are learning to build skills by persisting, practicing, and building upon previous experience, knowledge, and skills.

Grit is put into practice in childhood when they learn how to break down large tasks into smaller achievable tasks in order to build toward a greater goal.

5. Let Them Find Their Passion

Your child may be a wonderful pianist. However, if they aren’t passionate about the skill, then they likely won’t be happy or fulfilled in becoming a concert pianist.

It’s great to help your child discover their talents, but also let them discover what they are passionate about in life.

True success will come because they are passionate about the activity, not because they are the best. The best usually become that way because they are passionate first. Therefore, let your child experience a variety of activities and interests so that they can discover what they love to do.

6. Praise Their Efforts, Not the Outcome

Praising their efforts keeps them motivated and trying. If you focus on outcome, then when they fail, they will become defeated and discouraged.

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Focusing on the fact that they tried hard and pointing out specific ways that they did well in terms of effort will support them in trying again. When you make a habit of focusing on outcome, then failures are avoided at all costs, including taking risks.

Risks are needed in order to become successful. Therefore, make a habit of praising their efforts, even when the outcome is not what they had hoped and tried for, because eventually, if they keep trying their efforts will result in success.

7. Be a Model of Grit

If you are a parent or a caregiver for a child, then you are a model to that child. Children naturally look up to the adults in their life that are closest to them, especially their parents. They will look at your ability to persevere and achieve. Your grit will show.

Your children are watching. They may not know the term grit, but they will learn about working hard, not giving up, trying again after failure, and all that grit entails from your actions.

How you handle life is being watched by your children. You can work on your own grit by reading Angela Duckworth’s book Grit .

Develop a Growth Mindset

Helping your child develop a growth mindset is also helpful to your child in their development of grit. Dr. Dweck, author of Growth Mindset and researcher at Stanford, developed a theory of fixed versus growth mindset.

Basically, what it means is that if you have a fixed mindset, you will fear failure and easily give up. Someone with a growth mindset believes that their talents, skills, and abilities can be improved with hard work and learning. Parents and caregivers can help with the development of a growth mindset.

    Some of the ways that a growth mindset can be developed include:

    • Teaching your child how the brain works: neuron connections, right brain versus left brain.
    • Teach them to set goals.
    • Teach them to have a “can do” attitude.
    • Teach them to develop a strategy when they want to achieve something.
    • Teach them that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.
    • Teach them that failure is a normal part of life.
    • Teach them about self talk: Self Talk Determines Your Success

    There are a great deal of activities and materials online for helping your child develop a growth mindset including these resources below (each site contains at least some free content):

    The Bottom Line

    Grit is not just for adults, it is something we can help our children develop. Grit is more critical to success than IQ, so we should be helping our children develop this quality early in life.

    As a parent, being a model of grit, is one of the first ways to help our children become “gritty”.

    Featured photo credit: Gabriela Braga via unsplash.com

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