Do You Use Your College Degree?

college shirt backwardsI was talking to a friend the other day, and he said something about college not meaning anything cuz he never got into the field he majored in.  Well, first of all that’s a pile a crap. Just HAVING a degree alone opens up your entire future!  I don’t care if you “use your degree” or not – it’s still 100% worth it.

But, that aside, it did make me wonder how many of us DO in fact use those skills we majored in? Are any of you in the exact same field you studied in back in the good ol’ days?

I sent out a tweet/facebook post to help with my curiosity, and here’s what I got back:

  • Bill Davis Never!
  • Alex Proaps Yep. I use mine every day. :) And I will use the next two degrees for sure. But it just depends on your field.
  • @MoodyGenius: nope!
  • @jerrets: Nope. Not even close. But then again, I didn’t have much of a major in college.
  • @DrDeanBurke: Yes, daily!!!
  • @BundleHQ: Anthropology? Methinks not.
  • @BostonKate: I use mine! I love it and consider myself lucky :)
  • @jhspoljunkie: I use mine every day. But my degree is in school counseling and that is what I do. Srsly thinking abt an MPA tho.
  • @Nunzio_Bruno: i totally use mine! my undergrad in econ/fin, masters in fin. planning :) now all i need is a phd and ill have the whole set
  • @Tigpan: finally using mine too -8 yrs
  • @TheLThomsen: as a mom, I use time mgmt, calendar mgmt, self-motivating & prioritizing skills learned in college. But degree? No.
  • @beatingbroke: Define “use”. Was it required for my position? yes. Is my work related? yes. Wouldn’t say I really use any the info tho
  • @ACCIDENTALChic: Yes, but thinking of venturing to another field that won’t use it. And I kinda feel guilty about it since i paid so much $
  • doctor_s: nope. neither of em
  • @Sisarina: yep. I was an Organizational Communication major – advertising, marketing, PR. Use it every day. :)

So in this super official poll I conducted, it seems that about 66% of you DO in fact use your major!  For some reason I thought it would be a lot less… like maybe 50%?  But probably because I only recently started using mine again!

For the first 7 years after graduation I never touched graphic design, nor marketing (I majored in multimedia design with a minor in advertising).  My degree most certainly helped me get the 4+ jobs I did over those years, but Photoshop & Illustrator never came out to play at all professionally – only to build my personal sites & blogs ;)

I did try once to land a print job in NYC, but man talk about competitive! Those guys were KILLER.  They breathed design like none other, it was actually quite impressive.  So much so that I just stopped trying (it really wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing – which reminds me, I still haven’t blogged about my “new york story,” did I?). So while I learned that the design field wasn’t what I wanted to do when I grew up, I was/am still incredibly happy I stuck through the 4 years to earn that diploma. I honestly wouldn’t be here right now without it!

At the end of the day, a college degree gets you MUCH closer to success than without it. If you can use those skills you majored in – and you enjoy it – great! But either way you’re positioning yourself for greatness.  And right now greatness is where it’s at ;)

(Great shirt caught by moacirpdsp)

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  1. JMK November 8, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    My current role doesn’t require my degree, but many years ago I did use it to get a job, and that job in turn let to another and another. Eventually my experience became more important on my resume and my degree just another piece of the puzzle. Hard to say where I would have wound up without it.

  2. engin33r November 8, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    Engineers have to pass a certification to become a Professional Engineer (PE). Without a college degree I believe it takes 16 years of experience to take the test (state dependent). With a degree it takes something like 4.

    That and I’ve never met an engineer who didn’t go through college.

  3. Doctor S November 8, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    I got a bachelors and a recent masters degree in Information Systems Technology. I really do not use them that much at all and I work in Information Technology. I really do wish that I did a behavioral science major as well b/c I really do believe those types of thoughts/disciplines are very helpful in whatever you do in the business world. All this techy stuff we can learn on our own. But its all good because student loan debt is cool!! riiiiiightttttttt!

  4. Jenny November 8, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    I used to get asked this quesiton a lot. I’m a history major who doesn’t teach or write about history and doesn’t intend to do either. However I think I use my college degree regularly. Studying a topic like history taught me a heck of a lot more than just what lead to the Vietnam war. I learned how to read a book and think about the causes and effects of various events that may not seem obvious. I was taught to look for patterns, to write both succinctly (not so good at this anymore) and specifically. I learned how to research and how following a tangental thought can lead to much more than you expect. These are skills I use often in my “career” as a land use planner in the wireless industry. A college degree isn’t just about the topicsyou study while in school, its about showing you have the drive to work at something that may not give you immediate results or benefits.

  5. MK November 8, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    I use my associates degree every day! And a lot of what I learned in the classroom is applied to my daily work. I’ve been working in this field ever since I graduated from highschool, but I know for sure that I should probably get my Bachelors because most of the people who I work with have at least that… But I am also one of my only friends that can say I never had a student loan!

  6. Trina November 8, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    Nope. I am a stay at home mom with a MEd Educational Leadership and my Principal Certification. I taught for 6 years pre-kids and I do plan to use my degrees as soon as the youngest is in school. But, considering that I have a 1 week old and we would like more kids, that won’t be for a while:)

  7. Christine November 8, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    Majored in digital design! Website design, video, animation, 3d! Using everything but the 3d part for 3 years so far!

  8. Briana @ GBR November 8, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    I hear that a lot, that most people DON’T use their college degree. I’m majoring in marketing, and I’m doing marketing work, but I’m wondering if I should major in something else if your major doesn’t really matter, but instead, that you have a degree in general. Maybe something of more interest. But, then again, I love marketing. I think I’m just going to do some additional classes on the side to keep things interesting, and of course, expand my knowledge :)

  9. Ariella November 8, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    I like Jenny’s comment. I agree completely.

  10. Jonathan November 8, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    I don’t use my college degree specifically anymore, but I use the problem-solving and analytical skills that were honed during those years on a regular basis. If I had majored in history or something, I’d probably have a harder time doing what I am doing now. Not impossible, just harder.

    People still like to see the degree and “good” college on the resume, though.

  11. Yana November 8, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    I’m glad you like your college degree and think that it’s worth whatever you paid for it, but how can you say that your friend’s view is a pile of crap? Having a degree might have opened up your future, but I don’t understand how you think a degree is worth it if not used.

    I think college is not for everyone. Some people who choose professions that require college, assuming they have the aptitude, need to go to college. However, my personal view is that it is foolhardy to incur debt – big debt – for an education. It is no different than using credit for any other purpose, except that it is often a huge debt, and it amounts to spending money now that you do not have. This is pledging your future income to pay a debt. It means forcing yourself to need more money, and this also affects others to whom you provide services in the future. They not only have to pay for your service, but also for your ridiculous debt. Obviously, this depends on what field you go into.

    Those who have the aptitude for college and need to go in order to fulfill their professional goals ought to do everything in their power to get grants and scholarships, and avoid educational debt like the plague that it is.

  12. Jaime November 8, 2010 at 11:23 PM

    oh my god yes I would kill for any college degree! Even an art history degree. I regret not getting a college degree immediately. I went for a like a year or so when my parents were paying for it at 18 but I was stupid and dropped out, my parents retired and I went back this year at 27, it sucks I waited this long.

    I’m paying for college on my own as I don’t qualify for financial aid and man it sucks sometimes that its so expensive but to me its worth it. I work really hard so I can attend college without debt. I chose accounting, even if I don’t end up doing it forever, I will have my education FOREVER. Accounting is one of those things that benefits you no matter what else you end up doing for a job, like it personally helps me with my own finances.

  13. J. Money November 8, 2010 at 11:28 PM

    @JMK – YUP! I firmly believe the degree gets us further whether we are “using it” or not.
    @engin33r – Ouch. 16 years?
    @FB @ – Loving your job is key!! I don’t think most of us find a job we love *just* because we have a degree, but it sure gets you closer to one than w/out ;) And I linked your links silly girl.
    @Doctor S – Really? You don’t use it much in IT field? I would have never guessed that one… then again, if it’s anything like blogging/web design it really IS all about poking around and hands on experience.
    @Jenny – “A college degree isn’t just about the topics you study while in school, its about showing you have the drive to work at something that may not give you immediate results or benefits.” – I like that!!! Well said :)
    @MK – Haha, that’s def. something :) Student loans blow for sure, but maybe you can find a way to do it slowly over time since you’re not in a rush? Ooooh or better yet get your job to subsidize it! (some places have killer benefits)
    @Trina – It’s a great backup plan though! And now you’re probably even better w/ kids having taught them so long ;)
    @Christine – Well done! You beat me by 2 years and 364 days! ;)
    @Briana @ GBR – Yeah by all means if you enjoy it keep it up! I def. think it matters what you study, all I’m saying is that it’s important to GET a degree – whatever it’s in. And Marketing is bad ass, so work it girl ;)
    @Ariella – It was a pretty good one.
    @Jonathan – And also a good money blog on the resume too ;) Although I’m hoping to never have to update it again! Haha…

    @Yana – I don’t think a degree CAN’T be used is what I’m saying. You may not be using your exact skills you majored in during school, but just the fact you have a diploma gets you soooooo much farther in life. If you look at those “high school vs college vs grad school” stats that are always coming out, the difference in salary is HUGE between the three. Esp between high school and college. So while my friend *thinks* he’s not using his degree at his job right now, he already has. No way he’d have gotten that gig w/out a degree.

    @Jamie – GOOD FOR YOU!!! That makes me so happy that you went back :) And I can’t agree more – you will def “have your education forever.” I hope this inspires others who are thinking of dropping out to stay in! Keep workin’ it my friend!

  14. D*Rockafeller November 9, 2010 at 12:45 AM

    I was a history and political science major in college and served a term as the student body president. To date I haven”t really used my degree per say, but I’ve certainly used the skills I learned as an involved student leader.

    I’m actually up for a job in Washington, DC as a junior lobbyist, which would mean I’d finally use my degree. Wish me luck!

  15. Nicole November 9, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    I majored in math and economics, PhD in economics. I use it ALL the time.

    But even if I hadn’t been a college professor, I want to second what Jenny says. As a math major I was trained to think in a certain way that is valued by employers. As an economist I was taught to think in a related but different way, also valued by employers. I can see how even if I never did a proof or never graphed out a general equilibrium in a job those skills would still allow me to approach problems in a systematic and logical way.

    And all you folks thinking about MPAs– go for it! Even if you don’t work in government or public service, the critical thinking skills you will pick up are invaluable.

  16. Nicole November 9, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    Also my math degree allows me to get obscure xkcd references, which itself is invaluable.

  17. Jimmy Juber November 9, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    Interesting that you should pose this question to your readers. Earlier this year, the government used mass advertising to pump up this years Census. For those who actually filled it out, there was a question relating to education level. Just two weeks ago, I received a follow up survey from the Census Bureau asking for more information about my college degree. Specifically, the survey asked if I was currently using my degree and to what extent it plays in my daily work duties. I asked a few coworkers if they received the same survey but none did. Hey J Money, do me a favor and ask your audience if they have received the same follow up survey.

    FYI. I use my engineering degree everyday. It required for my position and the type of work I perform.

  18. Nate Hall November 9, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    I’m in the same boat with Jenny. I’m a History major, but not teaching or writing about it. I’ve held professional positions where it hasn’t really involved my degree whatsoever. I do fee I’m currently utilizing some of the skills learned from the degree like analyzing, research and writing.

    Where I haven’t always used the skills learned from my degree, I also know that my degree has helped me to get jobs. It was worth getting the degree for that reason (and others).

  19. Heather November 9, 2010 at 11:12 PM

    Nope, but I never intended to do so. I went back to school, after an 8 year absence, mostly just to prove I could finish it. I completed a degree in my previous field of study, since starting over with a bachelor’s degree would have taken 4 times longer. I did it – I have a degree. It’s finished. Now, if I really want an education I would use, I’m free to move on to a graduate degree.

    But mostly, I did it. (Did I mention I finally graduated?)

  20. Edward - Entry Level Dilemma November 11, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    Since I’m unemployed at the moment, the answer is no, I’m not using my degree. But aside from that, I’m in a similar position as Heather, although I was only out of school for 5 years before returning. My B.S. is in Physics with a concentration in Earth Science. I have no interest in a physics-centered job, but the Earth Science is closer to what I want to do – natural resource management. And the end of the day, engineering would have been a better major for me.

  21. Erica November 11, 2010 at 8:46 PM

    I’ve received 2 college diplomas and 1 university degree and I can happily say I am working in my field and use both my college diploma as well as my university degree. College got me the job, university got me the pay raise :)

  22. J. Money November 12, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    @D*Rockafeller – Good luck!!! If you get it, you’ll have to give me a shout and I’ll buy you a congratulatory lunch ;)
    @Nicole – Awesome! Glad you’re happy with the way everything’s been working out so far :)
    @Jimmy Juber – VERY interesting, I hadn’t heard of that…I know we didn’t get a follow up survey! Love filling those things out.
    @Nate Hall – Exactly! It helps keep you at least in the running for jobs just by having that degree. Esp in this economy when everyone’s fighting over them!
    @Heather – That is hot! That you went back after all those years – good for you. That makes me smile :)
    @Edward – Entry Level Dilemma – Well now that your writing has blossomed and been featured on the best blog ever (*ahem*) you may have a new career on your hands ;)
    @Erica – Hah! Good one. I like that :)

  23. Dain November 12, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    I think a lot of people end up getting a career outside their major, but you definitely need a degree. For many jobs it’s a requirement for the job. I had one friend who called a degree a $40,000 foot in the door… could be the case :S

  24. Caroline November 19, 2010 at 4:20 AM

    I don’t use my college degree. When I went to college I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But with that said, I think having a college degree opens up a lot of doors even if you don’t work in your field of major. I also think it’s sort of a step into life. I don’t know how to explain it but I feel like if I learned a lot (not just academically) from going to college and I would say it’s worth it.

  25. J. Money November 19, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    It def. helps you for the rest of your life! :)

  26. Snoglydox May 13, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    One of the pieces of paper helped get me into the chosen field, but I work with many people who do the same work without any college education (one person dropped out of high school;) my knowledge base is larger, and people come to me for answers, but we do the same work, get paid the same salary, yet they did not have college loans to pay off, and they are getting some of their education from me. It has actually created a debate on what is more important…a college education or work experience; people with only experience do not understand that school is the experience of thousands of hours of thousands of people, and I do not need personal experience when I already understand the what, when, how, and why.

  27. J. Money May 14, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    yup! well said, my friend. interesting too that you all get paid the same regardless of the degree or not – in my experience it hasn’t really been that way, even though it does make sense for a particular task (aka if the job gets done well, why does it matter if one person has a degree and the other doesn’t? the outcome is still the same). Overall though I’m a huge fan of getting a degree – for most reasons I’ve already stated above. But if you can rock it without one, then more power to you. Lots of ways to succeed in this life :)

  28. Andrew February 9, 2015 at 3:17 AM

    i dont use my degree. i got a B.S. in biology with emphasis on ecology and evolution. i thought thats what i wanted to learn but as the years in college went on, i liked it less and less. cooking has always been my interest, i like creating. im planning on getting a culinary degree and see where that takes me but sometimes i feel like i didnt give my degree a shot and i wonder if maybe i should go back to school in my degree….what i would do for masters in biology, i dont know but these kinds of things weigh on me.

    1. J. Money February 9, 2015 at 12:05 PM

      Ecology and evolution – interesting! I don’t know anything about what type of jobs there are on that stuff/etc, but I feel like if you’re not that excited about it it’s probably not worth getting another degree in it. I’d probably steer towards the culinary stuff, but a lot easier for me to say looking in from the outside. You of course need money to survive so in either case I’d get a job (probably in biology stuff) while you pursue your passions on the side until you can fully switch over. And fortunately with cooking it’s not like you need a degree to at least start testing stuff out and learning! Youtube is brilliant for that stuff!