When my peers ask me what I’m studying, I always find myself making a joke. Instead of saying I’m pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, I laugh and answer, “I think I’ll become a Doctor of English. The world definitely needs more of those.”
If I actually supply the serious answer, I always get the question: What can you even do with that? Read books to people?
Yet when I speak to older generations, I always receive encouragement and praise. I’m told an arts degree will open doors for me. They tell me I will learn about the world, become cultured and, most importantly, develop into a well-rounded individual.
Despite what my parents and grandparents tell me, I sometimes have a hard time sharing their optimism. Maybe BA’s were valued in the work force when they were in school, but today it seems different.
What can I do with this degree?
But now that we’re in school, reality is sinking in. We fear we’ll end up in some desk job that doesn’t relate to our degree in any way, doesn’t challenge or excite us, or measure up to the standards we set for our future when we started our degree.
My eyes were opened to this while I worked in a call centre before starting university.
At 18, I worked alongside university graduates, receiving the same pay and performing the same job. Having an arts degree did not provide my co-workers any advantage and, for a lot of them, it was the best job they could get at the time.
I discovered that in that company, the high school diploma I already had was just as good as the BA I planned to spend thousands of dollars to get.
So how do we avoid finding ourselves in the same situation?
We must do what we probably should have done all along: listen to our elders when they tell us we are making a good choice. They have experienced the stress of starting a career and realized what’s most important is what you learn along the way and the person you become.
They know life is a journey, not a race.
When we wonder why on earth we’re paying so much money to obtain something that seems to hold no value in the work force and consider dropping out during a mid-term crisis to go backpacking in Peru, we have to remember that we’re here to learn.
We need to stop looking at what our degrees will gain us and instead look at how they will enhance us. Maybe they won’t give us a golden ticket into the career of our dreams, but they will expand our minds and give us credibility.
Our educations will help mold us into an informed, enlightened and knowledgeable generation.
As long as we look at an arts degree as an end in itself, we will be disappointed. To realize its value, we have to look at the bigger picture and think of a degree as an essential turn in the path we want our lives to follow.
If we want our arts degrees to be valued like they were in our parents’ day, we need to start valuing them ourselves.