#2180 Should I Do An Arts Degree?

Take Ivy

John Lemmon asks: I’m considering the idea of studying sociology because on paper it interests me, but how useful is it once I’ve left uni?

That old chestnut… Will my arts degree get me a job? Here’s the thing – If I had a dollar for every commerce or science graduate who’s ever made fun of me for doing a BA, I’d be about a hundred bucks richer than I am now. If I had a dollar for every arts graduate I know who can destroy a commerce or science graduate in any argument that requires critical thinking, I’d be a billionaire. Zingggg. I guess the more pertinent question is: If you’re not going to university to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect, teacher, accountant, dentist or academic (etc etc), how useful is any course of study? Answer: Very useful.

An arts degree opens your mind. It teaches you to look at the world from a different perspective than the one given to you by your parents. It gives you the opportunity to study a particular field in depth, assisted by the collective findings of the greatest minds to ever have lived. And most importantly – for me at least – it teaches you how to write.

Will a few sociology papers get you a job? Probably not. Same goes for art history, the classics, or literature. But they will all expand your horizons in the best possible way. And let’s not forget what New Zealand property tycoon Bob Jones once said (and I paraphrase): I’d hire an arts graduate over a commerce graduate any day of the week – the arts graduate will, at least, know how to think for themselves.

You really wanna learn? Then study what interests you, study what you love, study what you enjoy. Do that, and you’ll walk away from your degree with something more than massive debt and a three-year-long hangover.


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  1. leilanigl says

    This this this this this!! Thanks Isaac. And as a new arts grad who just got a job today, there’s hope out there. Especially when you do what interests you in university no matter the field of study — build up extracuricular work you’re interested in, too. I basically got this job because I’d been doing web work for the student paper, and it gave me skills I’d never have developed without working my butt off outside of classes as well in class.

  2. Jenny says

    Really good answer, Ise. Hopefully one of the more exciting things that will happen when someone goes to Uni is that they will find themselves in the company of some challenging and interesting people who will extend their thinking on a whole range of topics. That certainly happened to me. And if you’re lucky enough to have some inspirational teachers, as well, then it’s light upon light. I totally agree that, unless you have to do a degree to qualify for a specific job, such as dentistry, for example, then you should study what you love and enrich your life. If you don’t love what you’re studying, what’s the point??

  3. Madicattt says

    We had this discussion in my English critical theory class last week. I study health science and arts, and so don’t get quite the flack for studying arts but people assume that my English papers are easy. They’re not compared to health science. I think the great things about arts degrees is that they equip you with tools that you can use across any field. It’s not about the subject, it’s about stretching and deepening your thought processes.
    And hey, according to one business analyst in the paper the other day – something like 70% of jobs (in NZ) are filled by word of mouth and who you know anyway. The degree just shows you can work hard at something for 3 odd years.

  4. isaaclikes says

     To be fair, I’ve never been asked if I even have a degree in a job interview.

    Also, I have a friend who did two years at a university in Australia, moved to London, applied for something like 50 jobs, wrote on his CV that he graduated with first class honours, and got a job without any of his employers even checking his credentials.

    Catch Me If You Can.

  5. Cory Hodges says

    I’m going to link this article to all the people who study BA and recieved shit for doing it from commerce, design and science. If anyone should be worried about future job prospects it should be the design students

  6. says

    I can vouch for the Word of Mouth – got my job through doing boxing with a bunch of stay at home mums… one of their husbands had a job opened up in their firm, she got me an interview, I got the job the next day. Executive assistant without even being an assistant before/right out of uni doing a Psych/HR degree? Booyah. 

  7. Another says

    I think this pretty much comes down to doing something that you really have an interest in and that you will love, rather than a degree / papers just because you think they will get you somewhere. I spent 6 years at uni studying something because of how apparently useful it would be. It was in terms of getting a job, but after a year of working I quit to follow my dreams…which doesn’t involve either of the things I studied

  8. sand says

    i know you said you paraphased, but i think Big Bob also said he was quite particular about what arts subjects people took. yes to trad subjects like Philosophy and Classics, no to ‘new’ subjects such as Sociology. i have actually studied Sociology too and am not quite sure on his rational there…. but there you go.

  9. Emmy says

    shared this with all my friends as we are all doing BA’s majoring in subjects we enjoy – they all loved it! :)

  10. isaaclikes says

    I think because there are so many design graduates and so few design jobs.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  11. Nick says

    Many thanks Issac could not agree more – trying to enlighten my accounting students that they need to open their minds and start to think critically, in a non-financial way or run the risk of loosing their role to another profession.

  12. Mary says

     Most people who do LLBs do a conjoint with Arts or another degree anyway. Most also do not end up practising law, whether it be out of volition, or lack of job opportunities. But LLB is the ultimate degree which teaches you critical thinking, and it’s even more practical than the critical thinking of Arts degrees. So it is rather easy for them to get a job… just not necessarily in law (although their pride might hinder them from going for those non-law jobs though).

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