Something is eating me up. Or to put it more correctly, a thought has been spinning in my head. Was on facebook and I read something on a friend’s wall.
In her opinion, some courses equip students with nothing more than a gratifying piece of paper; a status symbol that qualifies them to be called graduates. To her, courses like journalism are an utter waste of precious time given that there are very few jobs in the industry and those few jobs belong to the elite anyway.
Being a graduate of media and communications, and print journalism, her comments stung. I had to disengage my emotions to be able to take in her analysis.
It wouldn't be wrong to say that it is abysmally unfair for universities to offer courses with very little career prospects. In my case, for instance, pursuing a postgraduate course in journalism did not come cheap, but I was told it would give me an edge in a fiercely competitive industry. Just imagine the costs:
Fees for professional exams
Unending and unpaid work experience
Raw, unadulterated stress in every sense of the word
The average journalism job on offer paid 10-12k a year. And from my experience in newsrooms, they don't just take the last drop of sweat; they take the last grain of salt. Talk about modern day (voluntary) slavery!
Question is - should universities be held responsible for 'micky mouse' courses, or should students be responsible for their own decisions?
In my opinion, a degree should make commercial sense because in the UK, for instance, students accumulate thousands of pounds in student debt. Why take the risk if it will not pay off ultimately?
However, universities cannot be blamed for poor economic conditions and a lack of jobs. Youth unemployment is a global phenomenon at the moment.
Personally, I think prospective students and graduates need to modify their expectations. A degree is not the be-all-end-all.
Students Need to be Savvier
Signing up for a course just because you love it is a tad naive if not stupid. Think profit. You will be investing your time, money and life - are there good career prospects for the course you are about to study?
Caveat: I know people who chose courses solely for their career prospects/potential monetary rewards. They got jobs quite alright, but every work day for them is a death sentence. Rather than get stuck in a career you detest, opt for a course you have some measure of interest in.
Conventional wisdom says work hard, get a degree and you'll get a good job. That is erroneous. Consider a degree a stepping stone. It may not necessarily be the goose that lays the golden eggs.
A degree adds value to your life in many ways - broadens your worldview, expands your mind, gives you an air of refinement and class, opens up opportunities and so on. However, it might not put food on your table. So, think outside the box.
You don't have to work in your field of study. Extend your tentacles far and wide. You never can tell, you might become a juggernaut in a field you never imagined.
Do you have a passion different to your degree? Pursue it - it might be your ticket to the good life. Don't simply sit on your hands waiting for your degree to yield dividends.
Are you stuck in a career that is refusing to take off? Take a detour. Consider studying a different course with brighter job prospects - just be careful studying doesn't become your career!
Be realistic - a degree is not a magic wand. Always keep your eyes open for fresh opportunities. Develop new interests. Keep your pulse on the jobs market. Look beyond your degree. Most importantly, never give up. Nothing is impossible if you persevere and believe.