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What do you get from a degree?

  1. May 31, 2010 #1
    About to finish the last of my three years in uni, and I'm not really sure what I've gained from it. Yay crisis.

    Probably a lot of discussion about this already, I guess I'll scroll down the page a little.

    Any general thoughts about what one gains from a degree? Except...debt, some useless knowledge, and a fair bit of fun (well, not that fun isn't a good measure of worth, but anyway).
    Does it really prove that much? Everyone in the UK has a degree now. Seems like...stamp collecting or something.

    (if this is in the wrong section, please and thank yous with respect to moving it)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2010 #2


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    Gold Member

    Not everyone has a degree in maths or physics.

    Degrees aren't a guarantee for potential work place, unless you have some work experience.

    Do you want to pocceed to research in academia or industry?
  4. Jun 1, 2010 #3
    You might be able to attain the same knowledge by self study but how would you be able to show an employer that you know what you say you know. The degree is the way the university certifies that you have the knowledge that your degree requires.

    Beyond that, a degree shows that you have the persistence to pursue a goal to completion. It shows you know how to research subjects and find answers to issues, something that is quite valuable in professional careers.
  5. Jun 1, 2010 #4
    I'm not trying to be glib, but I think the best way to answer this question is to turn it back around.

    What did you get from your time spent earning a degree?

    As you've suggested the degree itself isn't a meal ticket or a guarantee of a job. Unfortunately, many people going to college don't seem to realize this. In the U.S., at least, there seems to be a popular inclination to view college as though it were an occupational school. That is, go to college, get a degree in field x so that you can get a job in field y. Certainly there are some degrees that support this notion. Many others do not.

    It's an easy mistake to make. Students are told from a young age to get good grades so that they can get into a good college, as though getting into a good school is the end itself. So they do that, and then when they get to college many of them look around for a bit wondering, "Now what?" Someone often comes along and says, "Get good grades here, get a good job." This sounds an awful lot like what they've been told all their life, so once again they put nose to the grindstone (intermingled with, perhaps, excessive recreational jubilance) for another four years. Graduation day comes, they get the degree, and once again find themselves faced with the question of, "Now what?" Sadly, this time, the answer is less than helpful. "Get a job," or "Get a job?" with a shrug.

    If you pursued one of the aforementioned degrees that lends itself well to this occupational training mentality then you're in a good position. If you did not, then you're in a less enviable spot. That nose-to-the-grindstone approach is all well and good when it comes to grades, but it misses out on a great deal of what college is supposed to be. I'm not talking about binge-drinking and all-night cram sessions. I mean exploration, both personal and intellectual; taking classes that sound interesting even if they're not in your major, or taking classes that don't sound interesting because the professor has a reputation for excellence. It's about cultivating opportunities and interests that you may not even have realized were there. In metaphor, it's the tilling of your intellectual soil, and the sowing of seeds that may sprout into genuine interest.

    Sorry, I'm not trying to be romantic. I meant the above literally, not in a touchy-feely "find yourself!" way. If you're feeling less than enthusiastic about the degree you'll be receiving then I'd suggest that perhaps it's not the right degree for you, or perhaps you didn't really approach it the right way. The good news is that it's not too late, strictly speaking, though I suppose you'd have to modify the original question. Rather than "what do you get from a degree?" or even the rephrased version above, how about this: What do you want to have gotten from your time at university? Did you get it? If not, why (and what can you do now to change that)?

    In short, what do you want and what can you do to get it?
  6. Jun 1, 2010 #5

    D H

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    Hopefully your education has taught you a bit about how to think analytically. Bits of knowledge come and go, mostly go. You can always look those bits of information up again -- if you know how to look. College should have taught you a bit about how to look. That said, your education should have drilled some key bits of knowledge into you. You don't want to have to look up everything.

    Your education has partially opened some occupational doors for you and perhaps closed some others. Those newly closed doors are doors you don't want to walk through. They are the ones that require asking customers whether they want fries with their order. The partially opened doors are the ones you want. That said, getting a job or going on to grad school is not guaranteed. Your education has opened those doors part of the way for you. You still have to work to obtain a job offer / get that grad school notice. Employers are not going to come knock on your door and offer you a job. You still need to knock on their door and show that you are worthy.
  7. Jun 1, 2010 #6


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    The knowledge will only be useless if you don't use it. A degree gives you a valuable set of skills, not a license to earn a certain amount of money. Find a way to use those skills, and ensure that the knowledge you've gained while in school is actually very useful.

    By the way, the skills you've learned will benefit all aspects of your life, not just a career.
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