Knowledge not riches

An undergraduate degree doesn’t guarantee financial success, according to a Sept. 26 article in the Globe and Mail.

In total, 18.5 per cent of undergraduate degree holders make less than the Canadian median income of $37,002. There is variance within the findings: a degree from the discipline of mathematics, business or engineering has a higher financial payoff than a degree in the humanities or arts.

This isn’t surprising.

Engineering and commerce degrees equip students with tangible job skills that are applicable to a specific field of work. In contrast, a Bachelor of Arts degree teaches concepts and abilities that don’t have the same practical application.

A BA isn’t a path to riches, and it’s not meant to be. The focus of a liberal arts degree is learning for learning’s sake. It shouldn’t be viewed as a financial transaction. Studying the arts prepares students for academia, not employment, and a degree should be regarded as a personal investment instead of a financial one.

It’s arrogant to assume that graduating with a BA entitles you to a job. Skills learnt from attending lectures and writing essays don’t directly translate into assets for a specific job.

This lack of specificity is the largest benefit of an arts degree. Students are given a chance to develop and pursue interests, and are exposed to new subject matter constantly.

Undergraduate arts degrees might not prepare students for the work force, but they give individuals a unique opportunity to grow.

As more people enroll in university and receive arts degrees, it inflates the pool of educated job applicants. More students are produced each year, but the job pool can’t keep up.

This will make adaptation the most necessary skill for a worker, and it’s probable that the concentration of a person’s degree will be vastly different than his career choices.

Believing a bachelor’s degree to be a ticket for employment is simple naïveté, and it’s a preconception that should be discarded. This doesn’t make a degree obsolete though.

Students should always be in the pursuit of an education, not a bigger paycheque.

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