If you had to list 5 worthless degrees . . .

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by NorCal, Aug 23, 2021.

  1. NorCal

    NorCal Active Member

    If I had to list five worthless degree fields, back in the day we called these "underwater basket weaving" majors, what would be in your top five? Here are mine:

    1. Communications
    2. Criminal Justice
    3. Liberal Arts (Enter focus here)
    4. Psychology (unless you go all the way and get a doctorate)
    5. Culinary Arts

    Now I know some will argue that if you learn something nothing is wasted. Which might ring true for some, but by in large, that is not the case.

    This topic is a byproduct of a conversation I recently had with my little brother, who was a Kinnesology major but he partied too much and ended up getting booted from his program, being forced to earn his bachelors degree in "Movement Science." Now he is $60K in debt and cannot find a job :(
    Futuredegree likes this.
  2. smartdegree

    smartdegree Active Member

    You are on the right track. A lot of what you listed have the lowest salaries among those who attended the same school.

    Check this out - it's a summary of salaries for each University of California school by major. It's based on actual tax filings so the salary data is accurate.


    You are more than twice better off at UC riverside with a CS major than a UC Berkeley grad with a humanities major.

    In other words, when selecting a program, the major is more important than the school.
    NorCal likes this.
  3. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    "Worthless" in what sense? ROI? Employment opportunities? Some other criteria(on)?

    I'm currently coaching a communications major. She's making well into six figures in real estate sales. Perhaps her degree is worthless.
    Rachel83az, Maniac Craniac and Dustin like this.
  4. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    I find it hard to find a justification of ROI. Plenty of burned out bankers and BigLaw lawyers who are making a good salary relative to their education, but who hate their jobs. Lots of lower paying jobs in education or social services where people feel a strong sense of enjoyment in their work. A few of those even get paid a living wage.
    Suss and Rachel83az like this.
  5. NorCal

    NorCal Active Member

    Yes, her degree would be worthless. As it appears she is making six figures in Real Estate. Thanks for making my point.
  6. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    If you're assuming that only earnings related directly to the job of one's major are counted, then almost everyone's degree is worthless (3 quarters of people work in a different field than they studied: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/05/20/only-27-percent-of-college-grads-have-a-job-related-to-their-major/). But that ignores all of the intangibles of college and the training and retraining that happens on the job market. A real estate agent's success absolutely depends on their communication skills.
  7. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    You're assuming that her studies in communications had no bearing on her success, which is pretty audacious considering that she's a stranger and that communications is an important part of the personal networking and sales aspects of real estate.
    recruiting and Rachel83az like this.
  8. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    While I think people have unrealistic expectations for criminal justice and psychology degrees, I don't think they're worthless. I would say that what's learned in an undergraduate criminal justice program is borderline useless, but the degree has some worth in obtaining employment. I have business, STEM, and social science degrees. The degree that I used the most in obtaining employment is my BA in Social Science. I wasn't making six figures working in social services and the criminal justice field, but I was making a lot more than I did before graduating from college.

    Psychology is definitely not an underwater basket weaving subject. It's a long-established science that's at the core of mental health care.

    If you really want to become a chef, it's kind of hard to break into the field without culinary training.

    I think the problem with communications degrees is that too many people have them, but many public relations jobs are looking for communications, English, journalism, and marketing degrees.

    Degrees that are hardest to use to obtain employment are multidisciplinary studies, interdisciplinary studies, liberal arts (the major, not the categorization of academic subjects), liberal studies, and general studies without a focus. If you're applying to a job that just wants a degree in anything, then these degrees check the box.
  9. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Well, that was nice.

    She wouldn't have the job without a degree, so your point remains unsupported.

    I would suggest the best measure is ROE--Return on Expectations. For those who see a university as a big trade school, that would be a difficult concept to grasp.
    Acolyte likes this.
  10. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I had a colleague in the Air Force--another airman like myself. She earned a Regents degree in liberal arts. She retired as a lieutenant colonel. I guess it was worthless, too.
  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    NB: I didn't say she was a real estate agent. I said she was in real estate sales. Her position with her company required a bachelor's degree. Just wanted to clarify.
    JoshD and Dustin like this.
  12. Rachel83az

    Rachel83az Well-Known Member

    I don't think that there are any worthless degrees. As long as the degree is valid (not from a diploma mill) then it has some value. Granted, some are worth less than others. But that doesn't make them actually worthless. Different meanings there.

    The most worthless degree is one where you spend a lot of money/go deeply into debt in a field that you hate. Then you ditch the degree and go become a surf instructor or something like that. That would be a worthless degree. Under those criteria, a comp sci degree could be just as worthless as a liberal studies degree or a drama/theater degree.
    newsongs likes this.
  13. nyvrem

    nyvrem Active Member

    No such thing as worthless degree, only worthless people
    Rachel83az and chrisjm18 like this.
  14. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    Criminal justice has been included in almost every article that talks about worthless degrees. Most of these writers tend to focus on is the fact that being an LEO in most departments does not require a college degree. However, criminal justice career opportunities extend beyond law enforcement. I think the term worthless is relative. In terms of earnings and job satisfaction in various CJ capacities, my criminal justice degrees did not disappoint. So, if I had to do it all over, I would choose criminal justice again.
    JoshD, Suss, sideman and 2 others like this.
  15. Asymptote

    Asymptote Active Member

    Communications is worthless?

    In Ancient Greece, Sophistry was pretty much the ticket to success. The ability to communicate and persuade were fundamental skills in a democracy, and profitable in business.

    Sure, Socrates and Plato had some problems with them, but maybe we got only one side of the story?
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I did a PhD specializing in nontraditional higher education. I thought I wanted to work in that field and continue my research in that area. I was wrong. Instead, I tripled my salary when I became a consultant about a year after graduating, continuing to work in my original field of talent development. I guess that PhD was a waste?

    I did a second doctorate, focused on human resource development. In doing so, I created a grounded theory (you can look that up) on the phenomenon of the chief learning officer, one that can be applied to any executive leadership position. But I've never "used" the degree, and isn't a second doctorate kinda useless by default? I guess that was a waste, too.

    I hope I get it right someday.
  17. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    I'm assuming this list is tied only to earnings because Psychology is a very necessary field. Mental health is essential and that's the case more now than ever.

    You don't have to earn a Doctorate in Psychology to have a good-paying career. In some parts of New York State for instance, a licensed Master's level Mental Health Counselor can earn 70K and well over depending on experience, and many of these areas have low costs of living.
    JoshD and Rachel83az like this.
  18. Futuredegree

    Futuredegree Active Member

    For the amount of schooling and ROI from becoming a licensed Master's level Mental Health Counselors in NYS is not worth it. The cost of living is high compared to other states. 70k to even 90k is not a lot you will barely be making it and if you have school loans, kids, a mortgage, car payments, and other various bills it will be very hard to make it by. A psychology degree for undergraduate is completely useless unless you plan on investing more years in school.
  19. Vonnegut

    Vonnegut Well-Known Member

    Of all the business and governmental consultants that I've met with over the years who held a Doctorate... the actual subject matter of their doctorate was somewhat of a trivial matter... That doesn't take away from the doctorate, and many people build careers off of their doctoral research. I really wish more people understood that graduate or terminal degrees, regardless of the discipline, provide some universal skills that are highly applicable to a variety of fields and ventures. Last Spring I was dealing with a friend who's a Department Chair and was in despair, completely burned out but feeling trapped as their specialty didn't tend to pay well in the private sector. Had many long talks trying to convince her field wasn't the only place that she had subject matter expertise. Introduced her to Corporate Training/Learning/ID concepts, and that the skill sets and expertise of how she builds classes and instructs IS a highly valuable skill set, independent of the subject matter. Emphasized building a personal brand and networking. She's now highly active in ATD, has been offered the a state VP position, and has received multiple full-time offers from multiple Fortune companies with offers far beyond she ever thought possible. Degrees open doors... there's a wealth of skills earned in graduate school that are universal, I loath the continuous argument that many degrees are worthless. If earning money is what's important, it doesn't even matter what your bachelors is in, have a decent personality and decent credit and open up a local Farmers, State Farm, XYX Insurance agency in a middle/upper middle class area...
  20. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    The cost of living numbers are skewed heavily by New York City and several cities and counties where the very rich live. Those numbers change a lot when you go outside those areas. In Western New York for instance, with 70-90K a person can live like a king. Heck, they can live like one for less there as I have several family members doing it.

    With bridge programs starting to surface more, the cost of obtaining a license in Mental Health Counseling is something that can be greatly reduced. I had a conversation about it with a department head at Niagara University recently, and I was told that they accept Master's degrees in any mental health discipline and then have you take courses that fill-in any gaps that your incoming degree lacked which would usually include in-person practicum hours. One could start by getting an inexpensive Master's in the field from a place online (a CBE program or something of that nature) and transfer to a bridge and spend $25K or less, or $20K or less depending on the program you choose to start with. Admittedly, I have seen bridge programs as high as $51,000, but I've also seen some as low as $5,300. It all varies.

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