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I get it, if you do an engineering degree you’ll end up being an engineer; if you study dentistry you’re going to be a dentist. But not all degrees are vocational, and that doesn’t necessarily make them useless.
I was always academically successful at school, which for me compensated for many areas I lacked conviction in, including social interaction, relationships and that ever elusive ‘popularity’. I learned to define myself through that success and prestige, as it was basically the source of the limited confidence I had. So, as superficial as it may sound, it was that hunger to be seen as important and valid which urged me to pursue a career in law. So, when I decided during the middle of my first year to switch to Philosophy and English, the reactions were mixed, to say the least.
Amongst the hoots of laughter and ‘working at McDonald’s jokes’, the consensus was that I was ‘throwing my life away’. With a Law degree, there was a guaranteed salary and successful career, something vocational while being sufficiently academic. Pretty much the holy grail of degrees in terms of future prospects and employability.
So, why compromise that for my ‘Mickey Mouse Degree’?
A ‘Mickey Mouse Degree’, by definition, describes a qualification that is useless in more ways than one. The Disney reference implies that it’s effectively ‘child’s play’ and not on the same academic level as something like Medicine, for example. Apparently, if you have this degree that is ‘easy’ and presumed to be a ‘doss’, then that means it’s neither intellectually challenging or useful, because it doesn’t allow you to learn skills that are applicable to the real world. So if you were to work in a call centre selling toilet seats, what you learnt in your Russian Literature degree presumably wouldn’t even come into it.
Are there degrees that are easier than others? Yes, but that depends on how you define easy. If you have a mind that is more scientifically inclined, then you’ll find STEM subjects more manageable than a degree in the History of Art, whereas someone who’s interested in that subject will find that easier than the formulas you guys have as a warm up. Essentially, it’s all about where your talents lie, and it isn’t always about if one degree is inherently easier than the other, it’s all about whether you find it easy. It’s a purely subjective concept.
In fact, I would argue that the broader degrees like mine, which are often considered the most common infestation of ‘Mickey Mice’ degrees, teach you the most. Because you’re not in a degree that is restricted to a certain profession, you get a wider range of skills. While a degree in Business Management will definitely equip you with the right skills to manage a business, a broader degree would allow you to have these skills and more, with each new module and aspect of the discipline requiring several different ways of thinking.
In my very first term of Philosophy, for example, I was expected to learn mathematical skills with symbolic equations in one module while also going to the complete other end of the spectrum with essay-writing skills in another module.
Conclusively, I would argue that the only ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees are, ironically, those with a vocational aim due to their narrow focus. However, what’s wrong with a degree with that kind of focus if you know exactly what you want to do? It’s not really about the degree, it’s about how the student chooses to use the skills they have learnt from it.