A degree that really pays

CHRISTIAN HARTSELLE | OPINION COLUMNIST

 

If you are not in love with your degree, it will not pay off in the long run, no matter the income it promises you.

The beginning of the feature documentary “Happy” asks people what they want most out of life. They all ultimately respond with the same answer: “To be happy.”

But is a fat salary the best guarantee of that?

Emotional well-being increases with salary, but only up to about $75,000, according to a 2010 Princeton University study. Above this figure participants did not experience any more happiness on a daily basis.

A 2011 study by international researchers polled 18 nations to compare mental health data between wealthy and developing nations. They found that wealthier nations suffer more from chronic depression.

While happiness is the ultimate goal, chasing money does not appear to be the way to achieve it.

Some of us are lucky to be passionate about something lucrative such as medical sciences and finance. The others faced a difficult decision: to secure a career with a degree they are hardly interested in, or to major in what fascinates them and allow a degree of risk.

As an English major, I face the same question any time I tell someone what I am studying, met usually with a drop of condescension: What am I going to do with that?

The question has an intrinsic flaw: the assumption that we go to college to have knowledge and skills pumped into our brains so we can follow the conveyer belt to a job. Students and professors at a liberal arts university should know college is more than this.

We are here to think critically, to read great books, to be exposed to new experiences and to meet new people. I love what I am studying because the humanities are valuable in and of themselves: I am not learning the esoteric intricacies of a field that will completely change after I pass away.

According to ABC News, a degree in advertising offers the best return on investment, with economics, engineering, political science and pharmacy not far behind.

But if it takes 20.58 years to get a return on investment for your education in zoology, near the end of ABC News’ list, then it is worth it because you get to do what you love. It is ideal to love something that actually makes money, but that is not the case for everyone, so we take risks to pursue our fascinations. I know that I did.

Authors

*

Top