Why There’s No Such Thing as a Useless Degree

Image from tvtropes.org

Image from tvtropes.org

“Study neuroscience. Psychology and English won’t get you anywhere.”

If I had to eat a pint of ice cream for every time I’ve heard this from an adult at least 20 years older than me, I’d be at least 30 pounds heavier than I am now.

Coming from a social environment where wanting to become a doctor, businesswoman, or lawyer is the norm, I’ve always been told that pursuing a pre-professional field is the way to go. But as far as my life in the next 10 years is concerned, I’m 90% certain that most of it will consist of psychology, English, and photojournalism – fields that, despite not commonly considered as vocational or professional, I’d much rather devote the rest of my life to.

The people I’ve met with such an averse attitude towards literature, fine arts, history, philosophy, and other liberal arts subjects are guided by the belief that anything that doesn’t involve moneymaking or having “a direct impact” on other people isn’t worth 10 minutes of anyone’s life, let alone 4-6 years of education.

Hence the many times I’ve been told that nobody cares about literature and photography and, my personal favorite, that psychology isn’t a real science.

These are just some of the common arguments I’ve heard about why the majority of what matters to me and makes me who I am is, in simplest terms, completely useless.

a) There’s no real education or money involved in anything that isn’t math, science, or business-related.

In this dynamic and fast-paced world we live in, there are a multitude of fields and careers that will exist 5-10 years from now and replace those that are currently considered the most practical to pursue. At the end of my four years, I don’t just want to develop the skills related to what I choose to specialize in, but also those that will teach me how to think and solve any type of problem that’s thrown at me. Thus, a well-rounded education should consist of both STEM and arts and humanities subject areas, instead of it coming down to a choice between one over the other.

And as far as moneymaking is concerned, most people are focusing on how much money students make 5-10 years after graduating, and not so much on how they might succeed in the long run given how invested and passionate they are about their job.

b) The arts, humanities, and social sciences are too subjective to be considered as real subject areas.

Contrary to popular belief, the subjective and interdisciplinary nature of these fields is actually what makes them so engaging. Because there are rarely any precise answers, it’s so much more challenging to come up with answers that are truly constructive, valid, and well supported.

Also, I wonder if such statements imply that such subjects under the arts, humanities, and social sciences are to be considered fake in comparison to those that are supposedly “real.”

c) You’ll never make a direct impact on others by writing and taking pictures for the rest of your life.

Literary or non-literary, all written works serve a purpose. Without the ability to put our thoughts into writing, the task of communicating and relaying information to others would be impossible. Likewise, regardless of their purpose, photographs have the ability to expose us of the reality of what we overlook and choose not to see each day.

“…But isn’t it a given that people like doctors who study math and science are already good at all those arts and humanities subjects? Why spend years studying such things in the first place?”

Being a doctor is commonly considered one of the only ways to make a “direct” impact on others, but making a direct impact doesn’t necessarily mean making an entirely positive one. Most people are oblivious to the fact that several medical schools have made it a prerequisite for students to take at least one humanities course in the interest of training them to become better at dealing with and relating to their patients. Not only are they trained to become technically proficient, but also “to develop a professional identity and sense of ethics.” (Wallace.)

d) Clinical psychologists aren’t real doctors. And besides, if you’re always working with people with mental disorders, won’t you just get infected?

Mental illnesses should be taken as seriously as physiological ones, and saying that clinical psychologists aren’t real doctors implies that mental illnesses aren’t real diseases. Although a considerable amount of research has been done on the idea of psychological diseases being infectious or genetically passed down, I’d like to think that people who pursue the path of clinical psychology genuinely want to help people diagnosed with mental illnesses ranging from depression to boanthropy, regardless of what such a decision might entail.

The whole idea isn’t to get everyone to switch from STEM fields into the arts and humanities or vice versa, because at the end of the day, there’s really no such thing as a useless degree. It’s not what you study per se that determines your success, but the amount of passion you have and whether or not you’re truly invested in what you’re doing.

Generalizations are the result of a considerable lack of knowledge about a certain subject, and to brand someone’s chosen job or degree as useless is to make a strong generalization. It takes a considerable amount of time, experience, and grit to truly become good at something, and telling someone that their chosen job or degree is useless implies that all their dedication and hard work ultimately amounts to nothing.

So the next time you catch yourself making judgments about anything that people all over the world have devoted their lives to, think twice about how much you don’t know and whether or not you’re in a position to be critical about what others have spent years of their life working towards.


  1. Pevtzow, Lisa. “Humanities Courses Help Aspiring Doctors Provide Better Care.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2014. .


  1. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it,
    you might be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will often come back very soon. I
    want to encourage one to continue your great posts, have a nice weekend!

  2. Im going through the same thing. I want to study journalism but eveyone seems to be against it. I’m glad that there is someone that I can relate to and know that what I want to do isn’t a big waste of time
    Thank you for writing such an amazing piece.

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