‘Major versus major’ debate a waste of time


We here at The Cord are well aware that the first (and in some cases only) thing a large portion of our readers flip to on Wednesday mornings is the Dear Life section. But I must say, even the most loyal readers must be getting bored with its content of late.

The hilarious quips about everyday life that used to range from tripping on the Fred Nichols Campus Centre stairs to being hungover in class have been replaced by a menial, useless fight between students of different faculties. In the past few weeks all we’ve seen is pointless submissions like “hey arts students get a real degree” or “business students need to get laid.”

While I realize this debate is no way new, it’s something that needs to end.

First, I feel as though I need to address my fellow arts students. As someone who is working towards a degree in English and Communication Studies, I’ve spent a great deal of time justifying it — whether that be to my parents or to friends in different faculties. But after three and a half years of trying to stretch arguments of how my degree will lead to a job, I’ve realized something: It won’t.

Let’s face it guys, we made our bed, now it’s time to lie in it. While I know there are exceptions, a large portion of students who enrol in programs within the faculty of arts do so because they don’t quite know what direction they want to take their life, something that is perfectly natural at 17- or 18-years-old. But hiding behind flimsy arguments of how the critical thinking skills gained from writing essays will somehow lead to a job in marketing or advertising is not only a tad ridiculous, it’s also contradictory.

I can say that my liberal arts education won’t lead directly to employment comfortably because that was never its purpose. An arts degree is meant to encourage debate about global issues and foster that critical thinking we speak proudly of, but using those skills to simply join the capitalist workforce in a 9-5 job writing advertising copy (which is as I mentioned unlikely) contradicts the entire argument that your arts degree has taught you to critically engage and challenge the status quo (forgive me, three years of communication studies coming through there.)

While this applies mainly to my fellow arts students, it can be applied to all faculties. We need to stop defining the value of our university degree in terms of how much work they are and what kind of job they can lead to.

I’m tired of hearing about the business student spending a week memorizing formulas for a midterm, or the arts student writing five ten-page papers in a week, or the science student that has four lab reports due on the same day, or the music student who somehow has to find time to practice on top of their overwhelming class schedule. It’s university, there’s going to be some work involved. Who’s to say what kind of work is more challenging or worthy of recognition?

The biggest issue I see is that far too often my Facebook and Twitter feeds are dominated by posts such as “studying all week,” “essaying all day,” or “midterms are killing me.” Yes, it’s important to do well in university, but too many people I know spend a week before a midterm memorizing information, or writing an essay the night before it’s due by pulling in enough research to form a somewhat coherent argument and fill eight pages. No matter what your degree is, are you really taking anything away in doing that?

As for the whole “my degree will lead to a job, yours won’t” argument, let me say quite frankly, no degree can guarantee a job after graduation. While degrees like business, science and music may be slightly more likely to lead to employment, in today’s world, an undergraduate degree just isn’t enough.

Anyone who’s even slightly aware of world events knows that we’re facing almost dire economic times. With financial crises in the United States and Europe, things are looking bleak for the next few years. And, while we like to think we’re immune in Canada, a recent report revealed that we lost 54,000 jobs last year, when the expectation was that we would gain 15,000.

What makes this even scarier for those of us working towards undergraduate degrees? There are now more people with bachelor’s degrees out there looking for jobs than ever before and that number’s only going to get higher.

Furthermore, a university education has become a base requirement for even the most seemingly rudimentary job positions, so unlike in previous generations your degree, no matter what it specializes in, will not garner an immediate job opportunity.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. A university degree alone may not lead to employment, but as I mentioned, it is a pre-requisite for almost any job. The key is differentiating yourself.

If at the end of your university career all you can say is that you have this piece of paper and 10.0 grade point average, you’ll probably have a tough time finding employment. But if you have a degree plus an extensive list of extracurricular activities, experience outside the classroom and references from professors and university personnel, you suddenly just became a whole lot more marketable and your degree is no longer the be all, end all of you as a person.

At the end of the day, once we leave this campus the degree we have will not be of the utmost importance. Many arts students now have MBAs and many business students now teach high school.

What it says on that piece of paper you get when you graduate is a small part of what university is all about, so please, students of all faculties, get a little perspective.

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Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.