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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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Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Published on November 20, 2020

13 Practical Pieces of Advice for New Parents

13 Practical Pieces of Advice for New Parents

I have given birth to four babies (in the span of five years, all full term babies too). I have been a foster parent to several babies as well. Our first born only lived 8 weeks. He was diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder several weeks after birth. Our second baby was actually a foster baby we had for 15 months. She was placed with us when she was seven weeks old. When she was eight months old, I gave birth to a baby girl. It was like having twins.

    And then we actually had twins. I learned quickly that twins are hard. Really hard. But they are fun too. Our twins are no longer babies. They are six years old. I do remember that first year clearly, even though much of it felt like a sleep deprived hazy existence.

    The first six months with my twins was sheer survival mode. They would both sleep for two hours and then wake for feeding. I would bottle feed them, while pumping milk (they were not good at nursing). After I fed them in the wee morning hours and middle of the night, I then changed them, swaddled both, and placed them in their bassinets close to my bed. Then it would start all over again. They would sleep for two hours and then wake to be fed once again. This routine went on for six months.

    Sleeping in two hour increments is not easy. I learned to go to bed at 8:00 pm, so that the two hour increments would add up to enough sleep to function by 7:00 am when our two year old daughter would wake and be ready to start the day.

    It was not easy to have three little ones at the same time, especially with twins who had reflux and colic to top things off. The non-stop crying every evening for hours is something I don’t wish on any parent. It is possible to survive this, in fact, I have friends who have quadruplets. They survived too.

    Our twin boys as newborns was a completely opposite experience than we had with both our foster daughter and our biological daughter when they were babies. The girls were easy babies. They required no “sleep training”, as both were sleeping through the night by three or four months of age on their own. They were happy, easily contented babies. I could take them to lunch with my girlfriends and they cooed happily and entertained nearby strangers with their smiles and baby talk. When I was caring for both baby girls, it made me wonder why so many mothers complained about lack of sleep, fussy babies, and the hardships involved in caring for a newborn. Having very difficult twin baby boys showed me that not all babies are alike.

    What I learned from all these babies I have cared for is that each baby is different. There is no one set formula that works for all babies. Each situation is unique, because every baby is unique. You can have an easy-going baby and it may make you think that all babies are that easy. They are not.

    If you are like most of us who have been blessed to become parents, you will experience ups and downs on a daily basis when you bring a newborn into your home. It will not be sheer bliss to have a baby. They are a great deal of work and take tremendous energy out of moms and dads. However, they can provide you with an overflowing heart filled with love and joy you didn’t know was possible.

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    Even though not all babies are alike, I can provide some tips to help you navigate the world of parenthood. Below are 13 practical tips I have for all new parents.

    1. Recognize That the First Year Is Usually Challenging

    I have heard people say that when they have kids it won’t change their life. They will simply take the baby along with them wherever they go. It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t work out that way in reality.

    If you want to attend a concert, a newborn baby will likely not be able to be brought along. They will cry and interrupt others at the concert. Babies can’t go everywhere we go and do everything we are doing. They cry a great deal during that first year. They also require feeding every few hours. It puts a crimp in any lifestyle.

    The first year is challenging because having a baby will turn anyone’s world upside down. If you are the primary caregiver for a newborn, your life and schedule are no longer your own. You have a tiny human counting on you for feedings, changings, comforting, holding, rocking, swinging, being sung to, and whatever else it is that your baby will need from you.

    We like to think that our own baby will be an easy baby, especially if that is our own personality. The reality is that most babies are high maintenance. They require round the clock care and that it itself makes that first year challenging.

    2. Sleep When Baby Sleeps

    Because babies are so much work while they are awake, take the opportunity to sleep when they sleep. You can’t take a nap while they are awake. Therefore, don’t miss the opportunity to catch up on sleep while they are sleeping.

    It can be tempting to stay up late to binge watch your favorite show. However, the reality of struggling to care for a baby during the day when you are sleep deprived because you stayed up late and then they woke you up four times in six hours will make your day quite miserable. Avoid the misery and try to get enough sleep.

    Often, the only way this is feasible is to sleep when your baby is sleeping. It is exactly why I started going to bed at 8pm when my twins would go to bed. I knew that I would be woken up every two to three hours, so going to bed early was the only way I was able to get enough hours of sleep.

    3. Allow for Normal Household Noise

    My brother and his wife came to visit us a few years ago. Actually it was a 10-day extended stay because they had a hurricane in their area. They had a newborn baby who was two months old. I also had three small kids who were very loud and energetic all day long. We tried to keep the kids quiet so the baby could nap. Like most babies, their son was napping once in the morning and again in the afternoon.

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    At first their son would wake up with every tiny noise we made in the home. There was only so much that I could do. I wasn’t go to vacate our house for the majority of the day, just so their newborn could sleep. I knew one thing about babies that my brother and sister-in-law hadn’t learned yet. They learned this after a few days in our noisy home. I told them that if they didn’t rush to get him every time he wakes because of a small noise he will learn to sleep through the noise. By the end of the week, he was napping just fine through our chaos filled noisy household activities.

    I have done the same with my own children. We allow for normal household noise, including talking, cooking, and everyday activities to commence. The baby is often asleep in a nearby bedroom, but they certainly aren’t cut off from the noise.

    When you whisper while baby sleeps and insist on silence in your home for your sleeping baby, then your baby becomes a sleeper who is easily woken by any sound. If you condition your baby to sleep through normal household noises they will learn to be good sleepers in spite of the noise.

    4. Don’t Get Hung Up on Advice From Others

    New parents get a lot of unsolicited advice, especially from family and friends. Keep in mind that they are giving advice because they love you and they are trying to help. However, you don’t have to follow the advice of others just because they offer it. You do what is best for your own baby.

    Just because your sister tells you that you must use organic cloth diapers because it worked well for her children doesn’t mean that you have to take the advice. You can say “thank you” and then do whatever is best for your own family.

    5. Accept Help When Offered

    Babies and small children are a lot of work. I hope that if you can learn anything from me it is that no baby is really “easy”. They all require lots of time, energy, effort, and love.

    When you have trusted people in your life offer to help, then accept their help. My mother-in-law flew in to help us after the twins were born. She was going to stay a week. She offered to stay longer and ended up extending her stay twice, for a total of three weeks.

    If she would have offered to stay longer, I would have accepted the help. It was a blessing to have her there to help us, as we were in survival mode those first few months.

    6. Breastfeed or Formula: Do What Works Best for Your Situation

    The benefits of breastmilk have been proven by science to be better than formula. However, how much better? And at what cost? There are too many women who beat themselves up emotionally because they are unable to breastfeed for one reason or another.

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    If your baby is being fed, you are doing a good job. Our foster daughter only had formula as an infant. Many children only have formula because it is the only option available. Our foster daughter is now a healthy and smart girl. Formula did not negatively affect her development. What was most important was that she was fed. This is true of all babies.

    So do what is best for your own situation. If you end up giving your baby formula, remind yourself that millions, if not billions, of babies have grown up on formula and end up being healthy, intelligent, well adjusted people.

    7. Don’t Compare Your Baby to Other Babies

    All babies are different. It is not good or bad. Some babies have colic. It doesn’t mean that they will have issues later. My twins both had reflux and colic and they are healthy and happy six year old’s now.

    Babies all develop at different rates. You can have one baby who walks at nine months and another that doesn’t until 14 months and they are both healthy and happy.

    Don’t compare your baby to other babies. The range of “normal” for development is quite wide. If you legitimately have a concern about their development then ask your pediatrician.

    8. Take a Shower, It Will Make You Feel Better

    We often don’t take care of ourselves as new moms or dads. Many parents spend their life caring for their children to the extent that their own self care goes by the wayside.

    As a new parent, one way to care for yourself is by showering daily. It will help you feel refreshed. Even if it is a five minute quick shower it will help you feel better.

    9. Get Out of the House and Meet Fellow Moms/Dads

    Don’t think you have to parent alone! There are so many parent groups to join. As a new mom, I joined MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and developed some wonderful mom friendships that have lasted for years.

    Look for local mom groups in your particular area. Connection is something that is helpful to all of us; especially connections with others who are going through the same phase of life and have similar experiences.

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    10. Get Outside and Walk

    If you are the one who gave birth, then getting up and becoming active can be hard at first. Birth is really hard on our bodies. A simple way to get active that will help with your mood as well is to get outside and go on walks.

    Put the baby in the stroller and get yourself walking outside, even if it is just around the block to get started. You will find that the fresh air and blood pumping through your body will help brighten your mood and spirit.

    11. Find the Humor in Your New Life

    Don’t take your life too seriously. Be willing to laugh at the humorous things when they happen. For example, the blow out diaper that happens immediately after you have bathed and dressed your baby. Your little one is happily cooing and smiling at you when it happens, while you are literally covered in….poop.

    These things are bound to happen. Be willing to laugh and find the humor in life.

    12. Take Photos Because Time Flies

    The days may seem long but the years are short. Time goes by quicker than you will realize.

    Take photos and videos, even when nothing special is happening, because they grow up fast. You will blink and they are no longer babies, blink again and they are no longer toddlers.

    Capture life as it is happening, because tomorrow they are another day older and you can’t get that day back.

    13. Bond with Your Baby and Enjoy the Present

    Enjoy life with your baby and cherish the small moments as they happen. Take the time to breathe in the baby smell that comes from the top of their head, gaze at them as they sleep peacefully in your arms, and soak up the baby giggles. These are the precious moments and memories that will keep you fueled through the many days and nights that will be a struggle.

    They are only babies once, so be sure to take mental snapshots of those precious moments that you want to capture for a lifetime.

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    Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

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