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Work & Life

It’s Okay If You Never Use Your Degree

Country of Origin: United States of America

(Audio recording by Jordan Luz)

Students are told they need to go to college or will never succeed. 

I was also told this when I was in high school. 

I wanted to go to college, but this mindset scared me. 

I did end up getting a bachelor’s degree. In 2019, I graduated from Boise State University. I majored in media arts with a journalism emphasis, excited to be a journalist. After graduation, I applied to dozens of jobs in journalism. But I got slapped with rejections instead of landing a picture-perfect post-graduation position. Plus, journalism itself stressed me out. I realized I didn’t want to do it full-time. But journalism was a big part of my major and coursework, so I felt obliged to continue pursuing it.   

I felt pressured to appease society and family by using my degree. Maybe one day, I’ll have a job in journalism. But I’m not actively pursuing one. Now I enjoy my job that doesn’t even require a degree. I’m no longer giving into the pressure.

The pressure to pursue

I believe a degree is absolutely worth it for those who want one. But at 18, we are told to either choose the right subject to study or be ready not to make much money. The journey from college to career is portrayed as a linear one. There’s a perception that one’s career path is determined solely by what their degree is in. 

But from my experience, I’ve found that the value of a degree is a spectrum. Even though my job isn’t related to my degree, I still find plenty of worth in my studies. It may not be the worth people typically expect, but that’s nothing a change in perspective can’t solve.

Through introspection, I found happiness outside of the confines of my degree’s subject matter. Plus, it’s not the piece of paper that matters most. It’s what we learn while working toward it.

The hidden value of a degree

Attending classes, reading textbooks, and completing assignments are valuable. The diploma itself won’t display the years of our late nights and the best and worst memories. The degree is about more than what we studied.

Working toward that degree built lifelong skills. These include teamwork, critical thinking, communication, adaptability, problem-solving, and more—skills needed in the workforce. Using them means that the degree is being used, regardless of whether or not the name of the degree fits the job description.

Road map sign with the sky in the background
(Photo courtesy of Javier Allegue Barros Photography via Unsplash)

So, even without a career related to the degree, those interdisciplinary skills are being implemented in that career or job search every day.

Finding joy in life is important, and a dreadful job won’t help that. I followed the path of passion, not the narrow one society expects everyone to go down. Getting a degree is an accomplishment in itself. It’s not a stepping stone to a potential accomplishment. As students, we learn life skills we can bring to every facet of our lives. 

And more importantly, during the short lives we have here, we learn more about the world and ourselves.

Thank you to Yosef Baskin for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Work & Life team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Brooklyn Riepma is a writer based in Idaho in the United States. In 2019, they graduated from Boise State University with a BA in Media Arts. They enjoy writing about all topics, from relationships to current events to film. Brooklyn aims to publish books, including poetry and children’s novels.

One Comment

  • Laura Rodríguez-Davis

    I 100% agree! There is often such a discrepancy between the degree we attain and the experience of being in our field of study. The world is far more varied than the limited degree options at university. As a self-proclaimed nerd, I love learning and even if I never use my degree, I am content just having the knowledge. I feel richer for it. Thus, I feel released to pursue the career that most fulfills me, rather than what aligns with my area of study. Thanks for sharing your perspepctive.

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