View Full Version : My college degree has nothing to do with what I do
08-28-2002, 04:24 PM
I read that 10% of college educated people are working outside their degree. I'm one of them, I guess. I have a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering and I'm a computer geek for a living. In college, computers were barely used as simulators and I had just one programming course in (God help me) Fortran.
I was trained in digital hardware design, robotics, and other assorted things that plug in but 14 years after graduation, I can't design an simple amplifier, three phase power is a mysterious black art, and I couldn't solve a calculus problem if Newton came back and threated my family.
I came out of college, made a left turn into computer administration, and just kept on truckin'. I'm not terribly upset - I actually like what I do and I think there's a future in it. It's just I feel that I wasted all that tuition on a degree I don't use.
So, how 'bout you? Was four years of life wasted on a piece of paper that is only good as a resume entry?
08-28-2002, 04:51 PM
I graduated with a degree in Television/Radio production. Now I'm a database developer/programmer.
However, I wouldn't say that the four years I spent in college were wasted.
Firstly, while in college, I was a member of the Emergency Medical Squad on campus. It taught me a lot about personal responsibility, as well as helped train me to think under pressure and quickly.
In addition, while serving as the Personnel officer of BCEMS (Brooklyn College EMS), I computerized their personnel records (my first exposure to databases).
Secondly, the subject matter I learned (aside from my major) helped round out my education. Taking Brooklyn College's Core Curriculum (http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/corindex.htm) ( a set of 13 courses all undergrads must take ) helped give me a better view of the world. Likewise, while my minor in Creative Writing has never produced anything except A's from my teachers, it nonetheless helped me in my writing.
So, in short, while I don't work in the field relating to my college degree, I wouldn't say my college years were a waste.
08-28-2002, 05:06 PM
Sort of. My degree is in commercial art ("Graphic Communications") -- I learned all about typography, illustration, layout, design, etc. And this was in the early 80's, when computers were first being introduced for general use, so I learned how to do all that stuff manually -- using rubber cement, T-square, india ink, illustration board, and all that. I loved it. But I was always uneasy with the idea that I was being groomed to create ketchup ads and (ugh) billboards.
After graduation, I went off on a tangent and worked for a printing company in the prepress department, using my skills one step further down the production process. Then I turned myself into a freelance copyeditor, where I use a tiny part of what I learned in school, and only when I'm checking specs on page proofs while proofreading, which accounts for about 5-10% of my working time.
So my degree and the 2 years I spent being a computer science major are but amusing sidebars on my resume. I wouldn't call my time in college wasted, though -- it was a very enriching experience for little old me.
08-28-2002, 06:35 PM
C'mon, people, try a humanities degree for complete lack of real-world applicability! I have a BA in Religious Studies and a PhD in Sociology of Religion -- and I've spend the last 10 years working as a puzzle editor. Connection? None. Do I regret my education? Not a bit -- it gave me the opportunity to think about many cool things -- and also gave me skills in thinking critically and communicating clearly that are fundamental to just about any job more complex than flipping burgers.
08-28-2002, 07:03 PM
If I had any brains at all, I woulda stretched college out to 6-7 years! Most fun I ever had, and I had to go and spoil it by graduating!
What a knob! :D
I wish I knew now what I knew then!
08-28-2002, 07:36 PM
I got my undergrad in history - wrote my senior thesis on Medieval medicine (just for background, here...). I then proceeded to spend most of seven years working in internal audit. Yes, I looked a business processes, controls, financial statements...the fun stuff ( :rolleyes: ).
I stopped doing that August 2....to go back to grad school for library and information science. So now, not only am I doing something that has nothing to do with my undergrad degree...it has nothing to do with what my business experience is in.
08-28-2002, 07:38 PM
I have a B.A. in Social Sciences and an M.A. in English, but work as a computer technician. The English is vaguely relevant to my writing career, only I had already sold a novel when I went for my degree.
However, the point of a liberal arts education is to learn how to think, not to learn a subject. Lots of humanities/social science majors go into other fields simply because the skills they learn are transferrable to a wide variety of jobs.
08-28-2002, 07:38 PM
I have a Comm. Degree and currently I'm a Claims assistant. I start work as an Account level I on Tuesday...
08-28-2002, 09:53 PM
10%? I would've guessed more like 50%.
As with others, my degree is in a wholly unrelated field. When I got out of school, there was a desperate shortage of geophysicists. I'd never thought about geophysics until I started looking and got a lead. I read the Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for geophysics the night before the interview and headed off into the future.
To observe full disclosure, I must note that there were very few places you could get a degree in geophysics at that time, so most people hired by the oil industry to become geophysicists had other degrees (typically physics, math, geology, etc.). I was an honors grad from a respected school with a background that included a couple of years of physics and the attendant math and chemistry through organic, as well as a good dose of biology and physiology (all things you could successfully dodge in my major). They figured they could teach me geophysics and get me cheap ($28K in today's dollars). They were right. I spent the next several years taking evening classes at UH, mostly geology, but I never finished a second degree.
That was almost 23 years ago, and it's kind of a moot point, as we don't do much of anything the way we did back then, so everybody has had to learn new tricks, post-school. That's something I'd et all you computer folk can relate to. Still, I've never met another geophysicist with my educational background. Somebody above (I type this as I am unable to access the board) mentioned their humanities studies as an exposure to many things, and I think that is a good perspective. My roommate of several years was an English BA who's a very successful guy in advertising - he wasn't going tech; he just wanted his mind colorized.
Since I was paying for it myself, was already way behind on the age curve anyway (I decided to go to college at 22) and kept my grades up, I was able to take stuff unrelated to my degree plan (was there one?) that sounded interesting, without having to ask anybody. I took anthro, soc, government history, home ec, business, economics courses for entertainment. I took nine hours of music classes.
Ya' see what happens? When I'm unable to access the boards and you get long, rambling posts.
Still, only 10%?
08-28-2002, 10:16 PM
I got my BA from UC Berkeley in "Integrative Biology", with an emphasis in evolutionary biology/paleontology. I currently work as a database programmer for a community college district. prior to that, I worked as an office assistant for the financial aid office at one of the colleges within said district. The closest my degree has come to being relevant to my employment was when I was working for the UC Museum of Paleontology, doing grunt work, as a college work-study student -- before I even got my degree!
However, having a BA does get me an extra $100 / month or so, since we have a deal wherein we get a stipend if we hold a degree higher than that required for our position (my job class only requires an AA).
08-28-2002, 10:35 PM
B.A. In Advertising, Minors in business and Psychology.
now a computer geek.
08-28-2002, 10:42 PM
I've got a BA in Public Communications, and I'm essentially a glorified book keeper (and Chief Peanut Farmer) -- I'm the non-technical part of an IT security consultancy. Got the degree because of intense parental pressure, despite the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life (and still don't). I had several majors and ended up where I did because of the requirements -- I could take all the credits from my 2.5/3 years of messing around and still graduate in 4 years.
What I really want to do now, tho, is get a master's in Underwater Basketweaving or some such.
08-28-2002, 11:12 PM
Earned a BS in Meteorology in 1985. The field was full of trained "weather forecasters" from the Vietnam era. Rather than spend a decade doing observations in Barrow, AK, I moved into a field I had a deep interest in. I work in a technology field for libraries. I could not be happier.
08-28-2002, 11:18 PM
Double BS in Biochem/Molecular Biology. I also just finished my MBA. I am now a business manager for a biotech company, so I am actually using all of my degrees! In the next year, I will (hopefully) move into investment banking for biotechs, so I guess I would still be using my degrees.
I agree with Ringo that 10% seems low. I know lots of science majors that have moved into IS, marketing, or product management. Much more opportunity in those areas for BS level scientists, it seems.
08-28-2002, 11:29 PM
BS in Secondary Education (minor in Spanish) from Villanova. I'm now in my 3rd year of law school.
I don't know if it's wholly unrelated. My concentration was in English language & literature, so I'm carrying a lot of my linguistic skills over to law.
08-29-2002, 12:02 AM
Started as a Physics major, switched to European History (with a buttload of electives in Chinese history) in my third year.
Now an ad copywriter in Japan.
The classes were interesting, but I think I learned much more out of class when I was in college. Not sure how I'd do it if I could go back again.
BA in English (creative writing)
I'm a manager at a movie theater.
08-29-2002, 01:08 AM
I have a degree in Marketing. So what am I doing now? I do printer testing. While I feel that I may have wasted four years in college, I did learn a lot from the subjects that I took, and I have a better idea of how things work in the businsss world.
08-29-2002, 08:11 AM
BA in English literature
Photojournalist by profession, and occassionally write and copy-edit.
I never intended to go into a profession in which my degree was useful. In fact, I chose my degree not because of my love of English literature, but because when time came to play Wheel of Diplomas, it turned out credit-wise that I could only graduate on-time by majoring in English literature. (For some odd reason, I had a lot of English credits. I don't recall how this happened. I'm a hard sciences kind of guy, normally.) If I didn't graduate on-time, I would have lost my scholarship money and be in serious financial problems trying to squeak through that last trimester.
Now, of course, doing what I do, nobody even cares if I have a university diploma.
08-29-2002, 08:14 AM
I'm going hyphen mad here; I think you can strike the bulk of 'em in the last post. You say you do a little copy editing and what is that law? Gaudere or whatnot?
08-29-2002, 08:15 AM
I started college majoring in Chemistry for no better reason than it had been my favorite subject in high school; at the end of my sophomore year I changed my major to Theatre and graduated with a BFA. I was looking into getting a Master's in Library Science, with the thought of eventually working at either a public or university library, and was accepted at Catholic University in DC but couldn't afford it. I got a job as a data entry clerk (at a higher starting salary than usual simply because I had a degree) and after a year and a half got my current job as a government paper-shuffler, where I've been for 26 years.
So my degree has no bearing on what I do for a living, but without it I couldn't have gotten my job. I wouldn't consider my time spent in college a waste, since it got me out of my parent's house, gave me a sense of independence and taught me how to think for myself.
08-29-2002, 08:32 AM
While my degree (I have a Bachelor of Business Administration) is very related to my field (COBOL programmer on a mainframe), my husband has a BA in Psychology and he's a web developer. He's never held a psychology-related job. I would like to one day be a full time professional writer (novelist), but so far, all my sales have been game reviews/previews and one magazine article. But it's a start.
08-29-2002, 09:15 AM
I am always surprised how often my undergraduate degree (Civil Engineering) helps me in my business job.
1) Shitload of math - After 4 1/2 years of trying to solve diferential equations with a TI calculater, #2 pencil and green engineering paper, building cost models in Excel is a piece o cake.
2) Project management - I take it for granted that people know what a Gantt chart or 'critical path' is and how to create one in MS project. Most don't.
3) Industry knowledge - Having a CE degree means my firm can sell my services to companies in the energy, construction, real estate, or really any industry
4) Engineers are perceived as smart - There's just this perception that when someone has an engineering degree, they must be intelligent.
5) I can always fall back on my FORTRAN skills - 'nuff said.
08-29-2002, 09:37 AM
BA in Creative Writing, BA in Anthropology, most of the way through an MA in Professional Writing. Computer geek/webmaster, of course.
08-29-2002, 09:49 AM
I'm a grad student in the field I majored in as an undergrad, so I guess I'm among the few who do use their degrees on a daily basis.
However, I must take exception to the idea that college is supposed to be an entry ticket into a career. College is an end in itself (although many people do acquire thinking and writing skills that they use in their jobs). The point is to become a better-educated person, not a more productive wage-earner.
08-29-2002, 10:23 AM
Well, my grad degree is fairly relevant, but my undergraduate economics degree isn't directly connected to the research I do. But then, the people in my office are math majors and music majors and english majors and archeology majors. What you need is a good brain, not a specific degree.
I found that my econ degree comes in handy when I approach certain problems, and helps me to figure out the prediction modeling I do (even though that's mostly sheer algebra in excel). But I'm not doing anything with the economy, or supply and demand, or markets. I'd say it is a combination of the econ degree and the distribution requirements I took that made me well-prepared. I can things in more than one way, and I can write for different audiences.
08-29-2002, 10:54 AM
Another computer programmer checking in. My degree's in math, and there's no way that a waste of any kind. It gives me a very different perspective on programming from all the CS/EE people, and it also helped me tremendously to think analytically and abstractly.
Fretful Porpentine is spot-on: a liberal arts degree is not intended to teach you a trade; it's intended to teach you how to think, and that's much more valuable than any job-specific skills.
I have an MFA in painting, with a very bizarre added concentration in French Femininsm.
Yes. Currently I am unemployed.
08-29-2002, 11:33 AM
I got a BS in Industrial Engineering. Afterwards, I worked in printing and managed a printing department for a while. Then I moved on to a heavy equipment dealer service division, and I now work as a Graphic Designer and also do Research & Development.
I'm having to use a lot of grammar and math skills at my job as well. Whodathunkit?
I have a BA in History (minor in Political Science) and am currently working as a Purchasing & Inventory Manager...go figure.
08-29-2002, 12:07 PM
These threads are always interesting. I have my BAs in History and Classics, and now I work as a legal assistant. I am only two years out of college and am hardly on track for my career. I had planned on going back for my PhD in medieval literature, but I find the current academic climate disillusioning and I probably do not produce the kind of work departments are looking for.
With any luck I will be headed for a masters in International Affairs next September.
I think that my education has tremendous "real-world applicability." It's given me a pretty wide intellectual and moral base on which to lead my life. It's helped my discipline, work ethic, and intellectual precision. My academic training was spent largely working with documents, essential to my current job as a paralegal. I have been better trained to grasp case arguments and nuances of language usage than most of the younger associates who have been through law school. And I frequently correct their Latin. ;)
But yeah, I am not particularly happy in my job, and though I am probably overpaid it is not going to be my career. But I think that language training and discipline will help me with just about anything I would want to do.
08-29-2002, 01:55 PM
I have a B.A. in Theatre. I work in Engineering.
Sometimes I wonder what my co-workers would think of me if they knew what I am "really" like. I like to throw them off a little, when they ask me to do something for them, what my motivation is. "I'm not feeling it. Maybe if you asked me like this..." Someday I am going to throw a party and invite both groups over, just to see what would happen.
"Worlds colliding! Worlds colliding!"
08-29-2002, 02:10 PM
BA in Japanese History (and it was one of those "Squeezing 6 years out of a 4-year degree" programs :D ).
Don't ask me if I remember anything about Japanese History today.
Never used anything from that once. Ever.
AS in Automotive Technology.
I was a mechanic in various shops/dealerships for the past 13 years.
Now I am a housewife.
I'll probably either get a job relating to automotive somehow, when my son goes to school. But I doubt I want to fix cars anymore, it takes a toll on your body.
08-29-2002, 02:17 PM
I have a BA in Music Performance (Tuba); I have worked as a computer geek for my entire professional career. However, due to bizarre circumstances, the fact that I was a music major is responsible for my attaining everything I hold valuable in life EXCEPT for the career: marriage, kids, friends, interests, whatever. Go figure.
08-29-2002, 02:32 PM
I'm still slogging away in university (looking to achieve a B.A. in English & teach secondary education), but my dad got his B.S. in Biology & has been working in the Department of Social Services for the past 31 years.
08-29-2002, 02:38 PM
I graduated with a BLS degree. (Bachelor of Liberal Studies) I was originally a double major, Music/Theatre, (as opposed to Musical Theatre) also a Tubist Ethil. Then I dropped music, then a year later I was dropped from the acting program, so after a lot of angst and a summer of therapy I reviewed my options, realized I had almost enough random classes to qualify for the degree I have, took the remaining random classes and graduated.
I took a couple of photography classes along the way, which I loved, so I work in photography now, and computer graphics, which I've completely learned on the job. It would be fair to say my degree is good for nothing. I had fun though.
08-29-2002, 02:53 PM
I also have a music performance and theory/composition degree. Most of the work I do now is with databases.
I however was one class away from several minors but wasn't really interested by that point. Psychology, Biology, and Philosophy to be exact. I should probably go back to school for something because I liked that structure but I am too lazy at the moment. I think I would like to do a bachelors in mythology (not Greco-Roman centric if I could help it) if I can find one. May as well put one of my big interests to the knowledge test.
08-29-2002, 04:19 PM
Originally posted by Belrix
I read that 10% of college educated people are working outside their degree. I'm one of them, I guess.
Only 10%? I would have guessed much higher.
I work in my field.
08-29-2002, 04:40 PM
BA in International Relations
MA in Human Geography
Both with specialties in Chinese Studies, but loads of general cultural studies, anthro, politics, economics, history...
Work as a Technical Writer, producing online help, training materials, and user guides for custom software systems mostly in the Pharma industry.
This year, finally got the company to pursue Internationalization (of user materials, in addition to software) seriously. Finally, my degrees actually freakin apply to my job! Only took about 6 years of constant badgering.
08-29-2002, 04:55 PM
B.A. in creative writing. Now unemployed (well, temping, but that hardly counts).
BA in Archaeology. I wanted to be an archaeologist.
Been doing technical support as a career since I graduated in May '99.
Sometimes, your dreams and reality don't quite collide. But I got the degree so that someday, they might.
08-29-2002, 08:14 PM
I have a BA in History, but all of my jobs have been clerical/data-entry type things.
Looking back, I think I would have been better off going to work full time right after high school. College was all right, but I didn't get all that much out of it. I most enjoyed the library, and you didn't have to enroll to use it. :)
Sometimes I even think I should have gone the vocational route in high school and taken up a skilled trade like welding.
BS in Chemistry. I put myself through school working as a technician in an analytical laboratory. During this time, I slowly came to the realization that:
1. To do anything interesting in Chem, you have to have a Ph.D., which wasn't in the cards, and;
2. I absolutely detested working in a production laboratory, which is about all you're going to do with a BS.
But by then it was way too late to change majors.
So now, I work for a Federal land-management agency, where I'm the NEPA (environmental) coordinator for a field office, and an IT project manager.
Every so often, though, somebody will come by to ask a chemistry question related to an air quality or water quaity issue or some such. Chest swelling with pride, I go to the bookshelf, blow the dust off the old CRC Handbook (53rd Edition, 1972-3) and look up the answer. They leave obviously impressed with my knowledge of All Things Chemical. And for the rest of the day, I feel like those four years of my life were well spent, after all.
Was four years of life wasted on a piece of paper that is only good as a resume entry?
I've always felt that achieving something, anything, helps you in all other endeavors. The process of expanding your mind, learning something new, concentrating to solve difficult problems, all serve to increase your overall brain-power.
The musicians who posted above, if they were dedicated to their studies and practicing, I believe are doing better in computers because of their experiences. People who worked very hard in their theater studies but later switched to a job in accounting had an easier time of the switch because of the discipline involved.
In general, I think that all learning increases your mental agility, making you a more well-rounded person.
(Music Education/Performance major, who has worked as a band director, camera salesperson, radio announcer, and programmer.)
08-30-2002, 01:41 PM
"The musicians who posted above, if they were dedicated to their studies and practicing, I believe are doing better in computers because of their experiences. People who worked very hard in their theater studies but later switched to a job in accounting had an easier time of the switch because of the discipline involved. "
That is so true. I wouldn't be able to do what I do now with databases if I didn't have the musical background. Music, theatre, and other art jobs are very demanding of your time and put a lot of focus into what you do.
08-30-2002, 02:43 PM
Originally posted by ResIpsaLoquitor
BS in Secondary Education (minor in Spanish)
Me too, except a major in Spanish & minor in English.
My current job is still VAGUELY related to education - developing web-based training/reference materials. But not at all what I envisioned doing after graduation.
08-30-2002, 10:13 PM
Put me down as another music major who's now in computers. Although, unlike many people here, I'm not happy with the way things have worked out--I wish I'd majored in something like English or history or philosophy, and I wish I hadn't gone into IT, since it's much harder and less fun than I expected.
I also can't believe the percentage mentioned in the OP isn't closer to 50%. Fewer than 50% of my coworkers majored in computer science or information systems.
08-31-2002, 12:24 AM
Degree in music. Was a total ski bum for a few years. Still deciding what to do for my masters. Ski bum/musician does not seem to be an option. damn. I can't take processing payroll for much longer:( Must check out porn star options.
08-31-2002, 07:54 AM
I've been teaching conversational English here for 10 1/2 years on my BS in poli. sci. with a history minor.
08-31-2002, 08:50 AM
Degree: MA (Honours) Politics (with additional courses in Psychology, Moral and General Philosophy, Sociology and Social History). Specialised in International Relations and Ethics.
Career: at the moment, senior technology risk consultant for an audit and consulting firm. Generally working either on telecoms revenue assurance or general IT security and controls audit.
Not really much of a link there, I suppose.
vBulletin® v3.7.3, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.