I recently completed my bachelor’s degree and was wondering how I could convert what I learned at university into a full-time, paying job. The fear of unemployment and of discovering that I had completed a degree which had absolutely no value consumed me for a long time. I’d been hoping to transition to a career in graphic design, after working as a graphic designer at my university’s newspaper, for a while but had no idea how to proceed. Along the way I uncovered 5 myths about university degrees and career prospects which I gave me much-needed clarity.
- Your (Non-STEM) Bachelor’s degree is useless
Many students believe that a university education in anything other than STEM is useless. The media, school counselors, our parents and sometimes even the government spend a great deal of time convincing us that this is the case. After all, don’t most Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students make bank (or at least land a white-collar job) after graduation?
While it is true that a large number of STEM graduates find jobs faster than their non-STEM counterparts it is patently false to assume that a Degree-In-Anything-Else is utterly useless. In an article published in 2016, the Ottawa Citizen argued that while non-STEM majors ( specifically liberal arts grads) did not earn as much as their STEM counterparts immediately after graduation their incomes were likely to rise over the course of their careers. This indicates that a non-STEM degree is not as worthless as it appears.
Finally, its crucial to remember that any good bachelor’s degree opens up opportunities for further higher education; a Master’s or a Graduate Certificate may be the perfect way to build a new roster of skills that allows you to change careers.
2. You have to work in the field that you did your Bachelor’s degree in
Not true. I’ve seen many cases where student complete a B.A/ B.Sc/ B.Eng and decide that they don’t want to pursue a career in that field. There is the often shared stereotype of the Engineer-Who-Worked-At-An-Investment-Bank becoming a writer, artist or musician. The opposite is equally possible; I’ve seen social sciences grads work in Public Relations and Humanities graduates pursue certificate courses in Python and CSS to improve their employment prospects. Changing careers after graduation is 100% possible and, dare I say it, the new normal.
3. Changing careers is easy
A common misconception among college students and graduates is that it’s easy to transition into a career that you did not prepare for at university. You have to put in considerable effort to acquire the skills you need for your new career, which makes the process lengthy and challenging.
To be clear, this does not mean that university graduates cannot or should not change their minds about their chosen career paths. It just means that you have to make the necessary effort to skill-up. Whether this means that an engineering graduate needs to build her writing skills or that a MFA graduate needs to learn to code in order to explore the field of web development depends on the student. The point is that a certain amount of careful, consistent work is absolutely crucial while changing careers. It is also important to remember that the benefit of this effort will take some time to yield real-world results.
4. Pursuing a Master’s degree is the only way to change one’s career
There is no doubt that a Master’s qualification can benefit an individual’s career. Many people decide to pursue further higher education (E.g. an MBA) so that they can make a transition in their professional lives. It is important to note, however, that it is not the only way to achieve this.
Writing for the CBC, author Ken Coates observes that many Canadian graduates “move into a college or polytech program shortly after graduating”. This indicates that the right college diploma or certificate programme can equip a graduate with the necessary employable skills which is great news for students who face financial or time constraints when considering a Master’s programme.
5. Online learning is a total scam which can derail your career.
With the rise of digital education platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera and others graduates have the option to continue their education after university at their own pace. Some of these platforms even offer online degree programmes, as do certain universities. While these new technologies simplify distance-learning and increase affordability, there are valid concerns about abuse and potential scams.
These online education scams are also known as “diploma mills” and often have fraudulent accreditation. The “degrees” these institutions confer are useless and damage the reputation, health and finances of their “graduates”. For example, the New York Times published a detailed investigation on Axact, a Karachi-based company which sold “fake degrees” from non-existent universities.
I believe its important to know the risks associated with any new technology I use, which is why I did some research on the subject. While I found this disconcerting story I also found an excellent article from the Business Insider on how to identify and avoid these scams. You can check it out here.
After completing my bachelor’s degree I discovered that I could learn several software skills, which my university education missed, by using these platforms. I’m careful about the resources I use and can say that I am yet to discover someone whose career has been harmed by using verified resources. Online learning platforms offered by well-known institutions (LinkedIn, TedX, Coursera) who have their reputations to protect are far more credible. Using these platforms is an excellent way to acquire skills which complement your formal education while boosting your career prospects.