My big fat worthless degree

I saw that Captain Capitalism is having another worthless degree awareness month.

I have been thinking for a while that it was time to illustrate more failures in my life.  This is a brutal exercise I picked up from Scott Adams, that is a good learning experience.

So it’s time to talk about my worthless environmental studies MSc.

My degree is not actually called environmental studies…

It is a long-winded title that even I, the owner of a £4500 printout can’t remember it’s actually title.

It’s so complex that for several job interviews I have had to explain what my degree entails.  I have developed a talent of answering this question without making my degree sound completely worthless.

I acknowledge that degrees are mostly worthless, however with employers making candidates jump through hoops, they have a number of jobs where any degree is required, even if it is not related to the position or there is a need to be at degree level.

As a result there are many people like myself who are parting with our hard-earned money or getting into debt because we have some ambition of a career.

The stupid thing was I did a BA in Sport Management, so I actually have two worthless degrees, but I did actually feel like I learnt something useful and practical that I could apply to a job by going down the business field.

I also had the best social life in my time on this planet.  A part of me wanted this to continue.

As you probably are thinking that is the worst reason to continue in higher education and the benefit from hindsight – yes you are right.

To understand my stupidity I take you back to my mindset – I was temping, facing the realities of life and had come to the expensive conclusion that having an undergrad degree does not necessarily buy a better career.

I was wrapped in my nostalgia, my social life had taken a dive and to make things even more shite I was back home in the parent’s home until I sorted myself out – perhaps if I went back I would improve my career prospects.

That is where I should have stopped dreaming and just toughed out the reality.  My reasoning for continuing higher education was because:

1) Everyone seems to have a degree in the UK.  If I got a masters then I will be a step ahead of the job market.

2) I met so many awesome people on my course and went out so much.  If I do another degree I can meet more amazing people!

I choose my degree as I was volunteering at Oxfam on the side – it was the post university limbo of not having a clue what the purpose of my life was.

Due to this idealism I suddenly thought “maybe helping others is the meaning of my life” phase.

Obviously that was bullshit, if I wanted to make a difference to others I could have trained to be a nurse, fire fighter or jizz mopper.  Instead I thought that an environmental studies degree was the best path.

I know now I was an idealistic idiot. Doubling down on my education with two useless degrees is not the answer.

Higher education is like a casino, ready to feed unlikely dreams as long as you keep paying out to the house.

Career “benefit”

By throwing more money in the higher education scam, in my mind I expected to gain practical skills to help me get ahead of the crowd.

But there lies the problem when has the majority of courses offered practical skills?

Environmental students are better attending an engineering school.  The solutions to climate change are there, however equipping environmental studies students to debate political discourse will not solve it.

My course had plenty of:

Whimsical discussion with no practical application.

A module that involved travelling to Africa for research paying more money to the University in the process.

Teachers who had no real life work experience but were career academics.

A focus on environmental progress through lobbying and activism.

Talking about industry standards and CSR.

Random module that seemed out of step with rest of course.

The benefit to my career was:

1) A short, under paid internship at a University where I was got rid of as soon as I completed their project.

This left me unemployed, in debt and full of big ideas that I would soon be working for a company keen on CSR.  I was unemployed for a long time.

2) Working for a local voluntary environmental think tank, where I organised the dullest events like Fuel poverty poetry slams that no one would attend.

I worked voluntary hoping to get a paid job (the default university line for why you have not got a good job from your useless degree).  The most it offered were 7 hour a week posts, which is great if I wanted to live with my parents for the rest of my life.

To be fair, my degree would have made no difference getting the voluntary job, as more value was placed on whether volunteers knew any good vegan cupcake recipes

Social life

Never, ever choose to go to University because of the social life.  I was lucky first time around, I was at a former polytechnic, so the students didn’t think they were as clever so did not take themselves seriously and laughs were had all around.

I’m still not sure if it was due to the fact I had moved to one of the UK’s ‘proper’ Universities or the fact I was at a higher level.  But my class were some of the most miserable, closed people I have met.

When I left the poly University I kept in touch with loads of people.  Here I didn’t even socialise with anyone outside of class, not even for a quick drink.

There was a girl I was interested in and we maintained contact until I realised after graduating that she used our friendship (and my obvious attraction to her)  to help her complete job applications.


Don’t go to University for social life, just go travelling it’s a lot cheaper and more fun.

Don’t go to University thinking it will guarantee you a good job.  I estimate that 90% of graduates in work are probably doing something they could have got without going.

Don’t go unless you can afford it or you are doing a degree that has realistic career earning potential (engineer, doctor).  Having £30,000 in debt before you even start working is a major pain in the arse.

Don’t fall for idealist  propaganda such as “the problem with some people is they only see higher education from an economic perspective, what about learning for the sake of learning?” Yeah try telling that to the person doing barwork watching their student loan keep growing.

There are a lots of reasons to do a degree and even more reasons not to do one.  I really do suggest reading Aaron Clarey’s Bachelor Pad Economics before choosing whether to go to University.

It’s from an American perspective but with the rising price of education in the UK it is an essential read.

My degree will always be a big failure, but I have plenty of company as more and more people insist on paying a fortune to do a worthless degree.

<<Check out the follow-up post Is it Worth Getting a Degree?>>


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