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Fonkou Djoendia

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Is your college degree worthless?

Hello Ted World! I will never stop asking you guys questions! It's out of respect though, I respect you guys so much!
My question is, is there such a thing as a useless degree? Okay. my interests in a nutshell. I love talking. I love debating. I love making films. I love directing. I love public speaking. I love planning events. I am currently a junior, 17 years old, and recently I held my very first event at school. I had speakers, performers, videos, presentations, and the purpose of the event was to inspire people to be themselves and love who they are. My ultimate dream is to be a talk show host. The best major that I think suits me is communications. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard that it was a useless major. That I would never be able to find a job. And live my whole life working at Burger king.
Is there such a thing as a WORTHLESS degree? And if you don't mind sharing, what did you major in? How did that turn out?
Thank you:)
I'll make sure to answer my own question after I've read everybody's response.

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  • Apr 5 2013: Hi, Fonku,

    Probably there is not such thing as a worthless degree, as there is no worthless key. The only thing you might need to evaluate is that each key will open different doors. Some of them, are like master keys to some fields and open many doors, and others are very specific and serve only for a special door. The trap is that there is not a worthless degree, but there are many wothless teachers, and even worse, worthless universities. Good educators are good experience transferrers, who will give most of their students the keys to open those doors they desire to open, and you will probably not find them exclusively at the university. I am 40, and have a degree in Electronics Engineering. My technical education allowed me to speak the specific language of telecommunications, for example, or design a circuit, but when the moment when I wanted to startup my company arrived, I've discovered that other intangible things as languages, communication, sales or strategic thinking skills i had with much effort pursued, were probably more important. And i didn't got those keys just in the university. And i've discovered i was lacking many other keys, which now I'm looking for. So, to sum up, there are no false doors. There are small rooms and false keys for those doors, and plenty of key sellers, some of whom are in fact gatekeepers, and just a few generous people who will help you get where you want. Just beware of the keysellers.
  • J Brine

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    Apr 5 2013: I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in mathematics. I have also been teaching myself how to do basic web design. I feel like I would fit really well in a product development type of setting or something that hones in on all of my skills... (Maybe I need to create my own position). I love inspiring and meeting new people, I love climbing, innovation, I love traveling, I enjoy business, and I think I have the ability to visualize company structures in a way most people don't.
    I know what I want out of life and I have been spending time going after it but I am extremely limited by my monthly amount of student loans. I would love to spend some time volunteering in 3rd world countries, and taking internships with companies I really want to be part especially in product development of outdoor equipment... Right now these things are not an option due to the extreme level of debt I have from college. If I don't pay my loans they will go after my parents (the cosigners) and they are not in a position to deal with that.
    I was filmed for a test piece for a documentary recently and hopefully the producers will be able to get the funding and tell some really great stories about how the American dream is changing due to student loans. Strapping people with absurd amounts of debt and high interest rates holds really talented people back from realizing and following their dreams and no one is going to benefit.
    College is a great experience to grow and learn who you are but what you want at 18/19/21 might change when you actually get into the industry. If you will be paying for it yourself avoid private loans at all costs or minimize them. it's important to have more freedom to move where you need to in order to find what suites you best after school. College is perfect for some people- just gather as much knowledge as you can going into it which it and if you have a passion which it sounds like you do follow it!!!! No matter what anyone says.
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      Apr 5 2013: Thank you so much! that really helped me!
      I have question! I originally wanted to start with a community college before transferring. But when I ask around, people keep telling me about the "college experience" that I am going to miss. In your opinion, is the college experience that one has worth the debt?
      • J Brine

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        Apr 6 2013: That is a very tough question. It very much depends on the person and your background. For me personally the "college experience" shaped who I am today. I realized the many possibilities of the world, met people from backgrounds I didn't know actually existed, and grew into myself in what felt lik a more healthy and judgment free zone then I had previously been in. That being said the lesson I learned is that any experience is only what you are willing to take from it. I think the "experience" if your ready for it helps you grow, and learn a lot. But your entire life will be a wonderful learning experience if you let it!
  • Apr 5 2013: No knowledge is lost; so they say. One important question is: what is a fellow's purpose of getting a degree? To learn because one is driven by curiousity and passion? To get a certificate because its in vogue? Because daddy and mummy wants it that way?
    When it comes to education, only the individual would determine whether it counts or not.
  • Deb Mac

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    Apr 10 2013: My daughter is graduating in June with a degree in English. She was pretty much told the same thing. People often ask her if she wants to be a teacher, as if that is her only option. Her dream job is to be an editor; she wants to get paid for reading all day. :-) I think you should choose a major which interests you. No degree is worthless. I have a chemical engineering degree and for the most part was a stay home mom. I later went into teaching. Although I never used my chemical engineering degree it has helped me to see the world in a different way and to process difficult concepts. I wouldn't choose communications, because you think it is the best major for the job. Choose a major which interests you; a subject you want to delve into deeper. It will help you in ways you could never imagine.
  • Apr 10 2013: Fonkou, I think education is worth a fantastic amount, and agree with the other comments in that the experience and the exposure to intelligent people from all backgrounds is very worthwhile. However, I get the impression that in the US you may have to take on significant debt for the experience. So my suggestion is to think carefully about whether the degree is necessary of desirous for your future career. Try to think of the added value that a degree would get you, and weigh off the average returns (probably relatively low with a communications degree) against the potential high-end returns that the successful and hard working graduates in that field can achieve.

    Perhaps a more general degree might have more value in terms of keeping your options open. Whatever you do, I would recommend working hard to get to the most prestigious school (for your academic field) that you can, and when there do extra-curricula activities that would shout your interest and aptitude to potential employers. A good degree is the bare minimum for getting an interview- a personality and relevant interests will be what gets you the job.
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    Apr 6 2013: i think a degree is what you make of it.
    Stay creative and do have still the willingness to learn.
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    Apr 6 2013: I will say, Fonkue, that in order to work in media, you might have to move from Richmond to a media center, such as Los Angeles, or New York. Are you willing to leave your family and friends behind to follow this career?

    I would imagine that media jobs in Richmond are a little more scarce, so try to think ahead about this factor.
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    Apr 6 2013: Well, Fonkue, have you ever heard that nature never wastes anything, it puts everything to use. I think life is kind of like that, nothing is wasted, everything gets used. Thus there are no useless degrees.

    I have a degree in English from Stanford University. I'm glad I got it, because I learned how to think better. As I lived, I found my interests slowly going towards agriculture, specifically dairy farming.

    Gee, I wouldn't worry that you'd end up at Burger King. Plenty of jobs in media, filmmaking, etc. Don't forget, there are many jobs working in radio, too. My second cousin, Amy Van Dyken, is a fulltime radio host on an evening national radio sports program. She first became famous by winning six gold medals at two Olympics.
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    Apr 5 2013: Fonkou, I am going to take a liberty and change .. Is your college degree worthless ... to read ... are you working in the field you majored in. In the first case you are saying that there is no benefit to a college education. In the second I am saying that your major may limit your options to work in the field you majored in.

    Jobs and hiring have become more specialized in the last few years. However that does not mean that as a music major you could not work elsewhere. One of the best F-111 instructor pilots was a music major. On of the best KC-135 pilots I met was a Animal Husbandry major.

    Communications is really not limiting ... It is in demand in media, politics, education, industry, etc ... There are many applications. People who say you will end up at BK are saying don't limit yourself to being a broadcaster.

    Prior to selecting a major a thinking person would investigate the demand and not limit their options. Other options would include military service prior to college and use the college payment program offered .... perhaps a mission for your church .... maybe a summer in the field you wish to enter for job experience .... Here is the 411. Your 17 don't think that this is the final chance to chose. You have three school years prior to choosing a major. Go to your advisor and take a job selection test to see where you test the best for.

    Being a college graduate is a advantage .... not four wasted years as you imply.

    I wish you well. Bob.
  • J Brine

    • +1
    Apr 5 2013: My college degree wasn't worth what I am sacrificing to pay for it... My life resonates with the little girl who was supposed to be the dancer but i'm not dancing... I have an incredible background and technical degree but I am creative, I am innovative, and I have a passion, I don't belong in a cubical. The burden of paying over half my salary in debt is really limiting what I am able to do and I'm struggling to figure out how I can realize my dreams. Being a little older and a little wiser I realized college isn't for everyone nor is it necessary to be successful. Mr. Robinsons talks are really inspiring and I love his perspective!
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      Apr 5 2013: IF you don't mind me asking, what did you major in? what degree do you have?
  • Apr 5 2013: Hey Fonkou. Unfortunately I'm not in the best position to give you advice, since I'm in a very similar situation to you. I'm 18 years old and currently in the first year of my advanced science degree, majoring in physics, and I have practically no idea what I want to do once I finish college. So most of my friends/colleagues chose majors that are clearly vocationally-oriented, and they made their decisions with their future careers in mind... they opted for practical degrees like law, medicine, engineering, accounting, commerce etc. I think I'm one of the very few hedonistic ones who just followed their curiosity, chose something "interesting" and hoped for the best. I'm aware that it was possibly not the wisest decision... Personally, I would rather study something "useless" or "esoteric" but interesting than end up in an unfulfilling job, constantly regretting not taking the chance to follow my passion. Who knows, maybe in 10 years time I'll be on the streets with a sign that reads something like "physicist for hire, will solve complex mathematical equations for food". :) :)
    The only solid advice I can offer (besides the usual fluff about following your dreams etc) is this: have you considered doing a double degree, or a double major? I know at my college this is quite feasible, and it only takes one or two years longer. You could pursue your interests and also have some more "practical" qualifications to fall back on just in case. For example, I know a couple of advanced science kids who are also doing a degree in computer science or engineering or commerce as a "back up" plan. If I had a little more time to reflect on my choices I would have considered this option.
    Anyway good luck. The choice is yours, at the end of the day.
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      Apr 5 2013: Sylvia, physics is not at all a useless degree! In fact, the study of physics builds analytical thinking and problem solving ability and both concrete and abstract reasoning.

      The field embraces some of the most fundamental questions about where things come from and how things work.

      On an entirely practical level, if you choose ultimately to go into physics as a profession or into any other science or engineering, medicine, law, or even ecnomics, people looking for prospects in those fields will tend to know what a physics degree has given you and value it.
      • Apr 6 2013: Thanks for replying. Of course, it would be ideal if I could go into research. However it is good to know what other options there are, just in case I change my mind for whatever reason. Right now I am trying to find some actual examples of former physics majors who have pursued careers in other disciplines after graduating. If anyone here could point out an example that would be most helpful.
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          Apr 6 2013: George Lockwood on this site started grad school in physics and then changed course to become an attorney.

          My daughter's best friend during college majored in physics with a math minor and is now an economics graduate student in the business school at Harvard.

          My daughter's roommate from freshman year majored in physics and is now an MD-PhD student at Columbia.

          Those are some examples that come to mind.
      • Apr 6 2013: Thanks Fritzie. :)
        I don't know anything about economics, but I'll keep an open mind. You have been really helpful.
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      Apr 5 2013: My heart smiled when I read that! Thank you so much Kate! I really do appreciate it.
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    Apr 4 2013: When you study for anything you do it with the intention of learning. The mere fact that you learn something that you didn't know make the knowledge you gained useful.

    What I feel that can be thought of being worthless is not having the ambition to learn and putting in the effort to make yourself worthwhile. Knowledge doesn't make a person worthless,but rather lack of appreciation of knowledge does.
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    Apr 4 2013: (continued) Perhaps you will be a talk show host as well, but it makes sense to prepare yourself to have a range of things you can do that you enjoy doing rather than to put all your effort in one place. Interests do change, and you should seek to give yourself the flexibility to have variety in your career and outside activities.
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      Apr 5 2013: Wow, thank you so much for taking your time to give such a thoughtful answer! You gave me a whole new perspective on things! And I have to say, I love the way you write! It just flows, I wanted your answer to be longer! Thank you so much!
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    Apr 4 2013: The degree itself is only the proof to others that you have demonstrated to those who do know their fields that you understand and are able to use the material to which you have been exposed- both in your field of specialty and in the schools general education requirements (which usually include writing, critical reasoning, thinking about ethical questions, data analysis..). It is valuable to employers because just reading lots of stuff in an area doesn't mean you understand or can use it competently.

    It is the education itself, the learning and understanding, that actually has value.

    A close relative of mine got her degree in a major many would find questionable- medieval languages and literature. Her aspiration was to become a fiction writer. Needless to say, no one was looking to hire a person with a bachelors in medieval studies, but her humanities degree from a major university suggested she could write. Indeed she can and she made an interesting career as a technical writer in the software industry, writes on a voluntary basis for an animal rescue and a theater, and works on her novel on the side.

    It was her writing skill that did this for her rather than the degree per se.

    I don't know what a communications degree entails. Communication orally and in writing are valuable skills for anyone to acquire and a baseline goal, I think, for any university. So the question for you might be what it will mean you know how to do that others in other majors don't also know how to do.

    You might also look at what sorts of degrees are most common for event planners. While there are many more people who may be interested in being talk show hosts than there is room for them on television, and many more film-makers than might be able to make a career of it, event planning is a big industry, I think, and also seems to interest you. Nothing would stop you and your film camera from making and showing films in some venues, from talking and debating with people, and so forth.