If you had to list 5 worthless degrees . . .

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

  1. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    There's an overabundance of psychology degrees just like there's an overabundance of business administration degrees, but the undergraduate degree is not useless. It's interesting how few people know that business administration has a very high underemployment rate because hundreds of thousands of people get this degree every year, and it's the liberal arts degree of the business world.

    1. In some states, one only needs an associate's or bachelor's degree to become a substance abuse counselor. I worked as a chemical dependency counselor with a bachelor's degree.

    2. Parole and probation officer positions usually require a bachelor's degree, and they prefer degrees in psychology, CJ, social work, sociology, etc. Although, they can be so desperate for people at times that they'll accept any degree.

    3. CPS and APS positions usually require a degree, and they prefer the same degrees as probation and parole departments.

    4. There are non-licensed counseling positions (I had one) that require a human services-related degree.

    5. There are other social services positions that look for psychology degrees. The federal government has certain positions that require a bachelor's degree in a behavioral science, and psychology is a behavioral science.

    Almost all the positions I obtained with my BA in Social Science were because I had a large number of psychology credits. My coworkers often had undergraduate degrees in psychology, criminal justice, social work, sociology, and counseling.

    Where people go wrong is that they believe there's an abundance of psychology research assistant positions or that they'll have a good chance of becoming a criminal profiler. Criminal justice has the same issue. People think they need the degree to become a city cop when they usually don't, they think it will give them a good chance of getting hired by the FBI when it won't, and they think the degree qualifies them to become CSI right after graduation.
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  2. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    You only need a high school diploma or GED in some:


    I haven't been seeing as many as I used to, and I'm saying that based on watching them even before the covid situation, but I did see one pop up about a month ago that was paying $30/hr and full-time (not one of those part-time ones that pay $30 but only have you work 10 hours a week) which was very surprising since they have to be closely supervised and the supervised roles usually pay way less. Must be a shortage going on.
  3. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    When I see these positions, they're typically in academic and career counseling, which are unregulated fields. I just came across a pet counselor position that pays up to $50 per hour. LOL.

    You can also become a certified assistant behavior analyst with just a bachelor's degree, but there are strict curriculum requirements. You can make $50k to $65k per year.
  4. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    I had to take another look to make sure I wasn't imagining things about the one I was mentioning. Turns out, it's for an Addictions Counselor position with Catholic Health and it does of course require a license so I was slightly off in making reference to it. Pay range is $28-$34/hr. Requirements: Associate degree and 4 years experience with a CASAC or other QHP status.

    Has to be a shortage going on.

    I did see a non-licensed counseling position with a different organization for some sort of crisis intervention for a residence house in WNY. The pay was $24/hr, definitely supervised.

    My brother's cat could use one. Sweetest cat ever, very affectionate, but very bad at the same time. She destroys everything and needs constant attention. I feel really sorry for her, she was a rescue cat and it looks like she suffers dealing with that trauma.
  5. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    There are countless examples of people having degrees that they do not directly use what they majored in but, their degrees got them hired or a promotion. It seems strange to me to consider those type of degrees useless.
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  6. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    There was a woman who worked for me in four different situations. She was a professional coach and a leadership developer. (I am both, too.) She had a PhD in Economics, but worked only briefly in that field before moving into learning and development, where she built a career. Was her PhD a waste or useless? Hardly. I hired her as a GS-14 and soon after saw her selected to a GS-15 position. None of that, nor the positions she's held since, had anything to do with economics. But having a PhD was, and continues to be, a very big deal.
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  7. Acolyte

    Acolyte Active Member

    I have a degree in Communications. I make 6 figures. It's true that my corporate salary isn't 6 figures, but combined with my small side business, it does. My corporate salary is significant though.
    I've said before that every degree is worthless if you don't use it to pursue your goals, and every degree is priceless if you do. The key difference is you. What I see is that people are lazy, they have very little work ethic outside of what makes them comfortable, they aren't willing to take work that they feel is "beneath them" even temporarily, and they lack the ability to contextualize what they have learned in their degree program (whatever it is) and apply it to other situations.

    I was told Communications was a "worthless degree" lots of times as well, but I think it's because people don't understand the degree itself and don't understand "how that is going to get you a job".

    Let's look at just some of what was covered in my degree program at The Ohio State University:
    • Interpersonal communication and conflict resolution
    • Persuasion theory
    • Message design
    • Marketing
    • Public Relations
    • Strategic communication and organizational structure
    • Mass media and the role it plays in mainstream culture
    • Digital design and visual communication strategies (some electives)
    • Professional writing (copywriting, technical writing, writing press releases, business correspondence, etc.)

    These are just SOME of the things that were covered during the course of my program. There are a lot of marketable skills there. Communications often falls into that "related field" option that some employers look for - for example they might ask for "A bachelor's degree in business or related field".

    Some jobs you would be qualified to interview for with a B.A. in Communications (at least at the entry level...sometimes beyond that depending on YOUR individual strengths and portfolio), or that would provide a strong entry level platform for specific industry certifications (like Human Resource certs):

    Sales professional
    Pharmaceutical rep
    Commercial sales (office equipment, construction materials, software and technical solutions sales, medical devices, educational products and technologies, specific industry sales)
    Real Estate (with additional licensure)
    Human resources team member
    Workforce development and training development
    Coordinator and facilitator positions
    Public relations professional
    Corporate media contact / Press contact
    Crisis communications team
    Technical writer
    Marketing professional
    Event coordinator

    Media / content producer

    Social media content developer
    Educational or training program developer
    Just about any assistant, facilitator, and coordinator positions that require a bachelor's degree

    The key is to be able to identify the actual skills you have developed during your degree program and be able to talk about them in a way that would provide benefit to the potential employer. For example, I had an actual portfolio of writing pieces I could show to an employer when I graduated. Press releases, brochures, business correspondence, etc. I also had a (group project) marketing plan I could show as an example demonstrating that I understood how to put together a marketing plan - and a website I built, and other things (plus I graduated with my B.A. at age 35, so I had lots of experience outside of school). These might not seem like much, but if you are fresh out of school with little outside experience, concrete examples demonstrating what you have learned can be key differentiators in the interview process. I wouldn't say any degrees are "worthless" - some are harder to leverage depending on the market conditions, but that's the real challenge - takin g a personal skill inventory and learning to leverage it in the interview process. .02 as always YMMV.

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  8. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    This great quote reminds me of a particular example. I was a manager of a software engineering group. One fellow that worked for me had a degree in computer science. You would think that he would be completely prepared for his job because of his degree. His degree was almost "useless" to helping him perform his job. He had an excellent memory and in school he would memorize the material from his reading and then expertly regurgitate that information on tests. In school he would struggle on his programming assignments, but he got excellent grades. He just had great difficulty in the job because he couldn't contextualize what he learned in his degree program to his work assignments in his job. His programming assignments could never be defined specifically enough for his comfort on the job. It could be argued that his degree was useless even though he had a Computer Science degree and was supposed to write computer programs for his job.

    To finish the story about this fellow, he eventually quit programming and became a successful real estate agent.
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  9. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I would have worried about a reading disability like dyslexia.

    More commonly, however, the actual skills a CS graduate has aren't that robust. Having that degree demonstrates a basic understanding and indicates (but does not ensure) an aptitude and proclivity towards the field.

    Having that degree certainly didn't hurt his future prospects, even if they lied in another field.
    Bill Huffman likes this.
  10. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I've heard from many that CS graduates are often not good at programming right after graduation, but the CS degree is not really intended to train someone to only be a programmer. There's a reason why some schools consider computer science to be a liberal art. It's really a science or applied math; it's not vocational or intended to train someone for a specific career. Like other liberal arts subjects, it's mostly theory. If someone wants better preparation for software engineering, they should major in software engineering.
  11. sube

    sube Member

    I have a BA in psychology. It is the only degree I have and I wouldn't say it's worthless. I might say it's impractical because you can't do much in the psych field unless you have at least a master's, but I ended up getting into marketing, which uses a lot of psychology. So not worthless at all. I have toyed with the idea of getting a master's in marketing, but when I look at the classes I'd have to take, I realize I could teach them myself, so there's really no need. I would only do that if I could find a real cheap and quick master's, but I haven't found that yet.
  12. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    "Useless" is such a broad and condemning term.

    I prefer to look at ROE--Return on Expectations. This can include ROI, if you wish, but it doesn't have to. It is the answer to this question: did your degree live up to your expectations? Understand, however, that your expectations change over time. Otherwise, my bachelor's in business was utterly useless because I did not end up managing a bowling center, as I had planned setting out.
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  13. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    There are marketing research positions that ask for degrees in psychology and sociology. There are user experience positions that ask for degrees in cognitive psychology. Of course, I/O psych degrees (mostly graduate but no license required) are valuable in the HR field. People tend to think psychology only applies to mental health treatment, but it applies any place where understanding human behavior is part of the job.
  14. smartdegree

    smartdegree Active Member

    Yes, perhaps it should be "majors that pay the lowest average salaries". The person can then decide whether having a low-paying degree fits with their needs/preferences.

    Some thoughts though:

    1) A lot of academics / educators always use average salaries as a way to convince people to get a bachelors degree. They always say "a bachelors will results in an X boost in salary compared to a high school diploma". So it seems fair that if we are talking about the value of a degree major that average salaries should be part of the conversation.

    2) I prefer a scientific / data-driven approach when looking at average salaries and major ROI (dollar ROI not "personal development ROI"). Rather than say "my friends daughter's cousin is earning six figures with a degree in underwater basketweaving", I think it is best to look at what the average salary is for underwater basketweaving majors. That is a lot more meaningful because like everything in life, there will be exceptions. For example, someone in High School can say "well I don't need a bachelors degree at all - look at Bill Gates / Steve Jobs / etc." - the exceptions rather than the rule. The same can be said of an "Fine Arts" degree. I am pretty sure some Fine Arts major somewhere out there is earning millions and running a conglomerate - but is he/she the exception or the rule? Only averages and median statistics can show that.

    3) There are tons of official academic papers written by both the Department of Education and educators on the differences in career outcomes depending on both degree level (HS diploma vs bachelor vs master vs Phd) and choice of major (STEM vs business vs humanities vs arts vs etc). This is a topic discussed extensively and I don't think providing an example of someone's friend, daughter or cousin will change any argument. We need to take a scientific approach - otherwise people will just believe what they want to believe. If someone wants to refute the idea that choice of major affects your odds (odds, not guarantee) of earning a higher salary, then they can write a paper justified with facts, not hearsay evidence.

    4) Lastly, I agree the word "worthless" or "useless" really hurts. Again, I would adjust that statement to "lower salary or employment outcomes compared to XXX major". If I was an underwater basket weaving major, I will not want to hear that my major was "useless" - that would hurt my feelings and the core of who I am. But I can probably accept that it is more difficult to achieve a higher salary with an underwater basketweaving major. And even if I were an underwater basket weaving major, I would recommend to my loved ones (kids) to make sure they know the consequences of taking a humanities degree vs computer science. Make an informed choice. For undergrads doing their first degree, I don't really recommend choosing a major solely based on your love for a subject. Heck, I minored in Philosophy and absolutely loved reading Plato, but my wallet thanks god that my major was in a STEM field.
  15. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    When I read the OP, I was thinking of majors with high underemployment rates. In other words, majors that most often result in people working jobs that don't require a degree. From that perspective, criminal justice and business administration rank pretty high on the underemployment list along with majors like theater arts and English.

    I think return on expectations is relevant. A lot of people know they are not going to make six figures with a bachelor's degree in CJ or psychology. Many of these people want to be police officers or do social work-related stuff. For them, the question is not did you end up making $80k+ like you thought you were? It's more, did you land the job that you wanted to get, and did you need your degree to get it? In my opinion, what would be more useful to those pursuing passions in lower-paying fields is educating them on the number of jobs available and the amount of competition for those jobs, the possibility of having to move to obtain those jobs, and choosing to attend cheaper schools or schools that are generous with financial aid so you can keep debt low.

    Child Protective Services in my state pays about $55k after you finish your training year; it might be higher now. For many people, that is a big increase in pay compared to what they would typically make without a degree. Black and Hispanic women tend to choose the lowest paying majors, but even we have greater earning potential after completing a bachelor's degree.

    Indicator 30: Earnings and Employment (ed.gov)
  16. SpoonyNix

    SpoonyNix Active Member

    Religious Studies?
  17. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    A degree is one component of a person's career, but it's hardly the whole picture. Too many of these arguments are overgeneralizations.
  18. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    This idea of a worthless degree just kind of rubs me the wrong way. It definitely needs to be better defined, as what is meant by the statement, as has been mentioned already. I believe that education itself has value. If nothing else a degree should help instill confidence, a work ethic, and sense of accomplishment.

    I'm retired and I have a life long friend with one of the degrees labeled in the opening post as a worthless degree. He earned a Bachelors degree in philosophy. He worked his whole career in construction. I decided to contact him and ask his opinion on the subject. Here is his response that he texted me.

    "Philosophy is a lifestyle. It gives me strength. Mental acuity. I still study philosophy."

    I asked, you still read books?

    "Yes, I just finishd Wang Yangming's instructions for practical living. (a very influential neoconfuciacist died around 1528).Now I am starting G.E. Moore's principa ethica."

    Worthless degree?
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  19. SpoonyNix

    SpoonyNix Active Member

    fwiw, I'm not saying I think a religious studies degree is worthless. I'm saying it is probably something a lot of folks would put on a "worthless degree list". Was just throwing it out there as a consideration.
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  20. tadj

    tadj Active Member

    An acquintance holds a Bachelor's degree with a major in Religion from the University of Toronto. He also completed a Graduate Certificate in Accounting at one of the public colleges in Ontario. He's doing quite well in a large corporate accounting setting. Was his Bachelor's degree worthless?

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