What is a degree worth?

I’ll begin this post by explaining that I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and History…and I will hopefully never have to use it. Growing up I always knew that I wanted to go to a University (though my actual goal was a Master’s degree, oh well), but I was never quite sure what I wanted to go to school for. In my early years I wanted to be a veterinarian, then it turned to marine biologist, then it turned to private investigator (don’t know where I got that one), then it turned to an environmental lawyer, then it turned back to biology, and somehow I ended up with English. I changed my major four times during school, and ended up graduating with around 200 credit hours.

It all seems silly looking back. My final degree change happened when I knew that I was going to try making a career out of writing…even though I didn’t need a degree to do so. Still, the symbol of a college degree has always meant something to me. It doesn’t mean, hey, give me a job. It doesn’t mean, hey, I took classes so I’m smart now. It might have made my writing better, but it doesn’t somehow qualify me to write books. I suppose what it really means is simply that I accomplished something. I know a Bachelor’s degree isn’t the most impressive thing in the world, but I’m ridiculously proud of that little piece of paper.

I started writing books for the same reason. I never hoped to make any money, and I doubted many people would read my books. Still, I needed to write them. When I put outΒ Xoe, I was just as proud as I am of my degree. Publishing a book didn’t mean anything, and I didn’t think I’d gain anything in doing so, but seeing my book in paperback form was just as, if not more rewarding than receiving my degree. This is all my roundabout way of saying that I’m considering getting my Master’s degree, even if it means more loan debt and the stress of being back in school. I feel like I’ll regret it if I don’t get it. I want to die knowing that I wrote a bunch of books, and got a Master’s degree. I don’t wan’t the marriage, 2.5 kids, white picket fence thing, and I don’t want the mansion and fancy car thing.

My goals in life are pieces of paper. The end.

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46 thoughts on “What is a degree worth?

  1. For most employers I believe degrees are more about showing commitment to work rather than having skills. You should be very proud of your degree, this is coming from a college dropout slacker. πŸ™‚

  2. The best thing about going back to university is the access to all the literature and journals in the libraries – and online! It’s super hard work the second time around though (I’ve just done my Masters!) But it’s worth it in the end. x

  3. I think the value of the degree, beyond any financial or career considerations, is intrinsic to you, to your goals and desires. I finally finished my Ph.D. in English, but I did it not to put myself on the academic job market, but because it was something I needed to finish–for myself. If you need to do the M.A, just like you need to write, then it is worth doing.

  4. Depends what country in as to how useful a degree actually works out to be. My degree area you need to have either 2yrs experience or a masters to specialist before employers will even look it over. Hench, I’m stuck in vocational level jobs with a BA. You’re right in saying that you don’t need a degree to write. It is, however, very, very useful. We write what we know and what we learn through gaining degrees expands our knowledge exponentially. πŸ™‚

  5. I like hearing about how you changed your major 4 times. I didn’t change my major, which was Psychology, but I did change my minor from Anthropology to Women’s Studies. I like that your final choice contributed to your career, even though like you said – a degree isn’t necessary to write a book. I think once I finally get my career started I’ll be able to reflect and be as proud of my degree as you are. Only time will tell!

    Love the post! Thanks for sharing!! πŸ™‚

  6. I felt the same way as I was finishing up my Philosophy degree. You should be proud of your degree. It represents a part of your life invested into accomplishing something. Maybe my priorities are mixed up, but I respect an English and History major more than I do a Business major.

  7. I wish you the best of luck with your pursuit of a Masters degree. I think you are doing it for all the right reasons. I went back so that I could earn more money in my field and it was not an enjoyable experience. Now, it did give me a best friend and the background for my two novels-in-progress, which I am very happy about! Good luck and keep us updated!

  8. Right now, I’m studying for my GRE test, and this post was a great motivator. πŸ™‚ I want to go to grad school too!

  9. The purpose of education is for your own growth, I believe. You are choosing to do it for all the right reasons. I also think education expands your view, helps you be aware of options. Go for it and enjoy! Make use of the resources.

  10. Excellent blog post. For me my undergrad studies were about learning to think critically, being able to examine possibilities rather try and find definitive answers, and no none of that led to a specific job. πŸ™‚
    Best of luck on your masters. I love your writing style, Deb

  11. “My goals in life are pieces of paper. The end.”
    Ha! I like that. I think mine was too. I don’t use my PhD now, but I do use a lot of the skills I learned whilst doing it… and I still have the friends I made during my undergrad. So neither was a total waste.

    When I was growing up I wanted to be (at various times) a writer, a scientist and an astronaut.
    Good luck with your masters degree. I hope you find going back to uni even more rewarding than it was the first time around.

  12. I was a late bloomer when it came to going to university. I am now deeply indulged in the experience, having studied history, political science and now economic. The most interesting thing about going to university later in my life is that I don’t even research most papers because I have already read far more about so many subjects of life, I simply let my mind free and write the papers. Where citations are required, I simply look up things on the Internet that supports my argument and place them within the already completed paper.

    In a sense, I find going to college a joke in many ways. I watch the young people struggle to express themselves, even coming to me to help them with their papers and, of all things, wanting me to teach them how to write papers as good as mine. I can only smile and think, first you have to be a natural writer and second you will need to have the curiosity of life that I have which has caused me to read many, many books on my own before ever thinking of going to college. But I have a degree and I am proud of it in a way, though it still remains in the envelope that it came in, somewhere beneath a pile of papers in my closet. Now I continue to indulge in order to attain another degree and will probably go on for a higher degree just because it is there. Nothing but a mountain to climb for the sake of climbing a mountain and nothing more.

  13. Recently back in school myself and trying to finish up my BA in English while considering the big “what comes next”. Keeping in mind, I just turned 39 and I have four kids so…yeah. This week my goal is to become a librarian (ok, maybe longer than this week…maybe this month), so “what comes next” = a minimum of two Masters, one in MLIS and the other of my choosing. And I’m thinking History, preferably European History. When I’m done with all of that, I’m going to owe a LOT of money. And I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get a job where I live. And I don’t even care because it’s what I NEED to do. Going back to school is totally scary and totally worth it. You will have days where you wonder what the hell you got yourself into, but at the end of the journey, you will be so glad you did it. I don’t care what anyone says. Education is never a waste of time or money. Good on you!

  14. Your ambition to get a degree echoed mine. I walked on clouds when I attended my graduation ceremony and couldn’t help being mystified that some fellow students actually contemplated whether they would attend or not. It joins the list of memorable moments in my life – my citizenship ceremony, my wedding and the birth of each of my three children. Warm congratulations on attaining your degree and my best to you for your Masters (plan on getting that sometime soon myself). Way to go Sara!

  15. Thank you for stopping by my blog post and liking it. My degrees have not brought me the money I thought they would when I invested in them. But I think they have allowed me to be a critical thinker while at the same time being open to other worldviews. I have also learned to think in concepts and develop them. I wish you the best in your goals. You are already a good writer.

  16. “Bachelor’s degree isn’t the most impressive thing in the world, but I’m ridiculously proud of that little piece of paper.”

    I am ridiculously proud of my education too. It was difficult, took daily concientous effort, self-discipline, time-managment skills and a hell of a lot of hard work. I worked two, sometimes three jobs to support myself and my schooling.

    I think too often we are focused on the end-result (graduation, the degree, the job-slash- “career”), but what I am most truly grateful for is the process. Never mind what I learned in class, I learned a lot about MYSELF and what I could accomplish if I set my mind to it.

    That, to me, is the true value of education.

    If it seems important to you, then go for it!
    Or, find another challenge to be ridiculously proud of. ; )

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