Last August I earned my master’s degree from Northwestern University. I have now been unemployed for six months. I realize now that life with a liberal arts degree is self-inflicted. It turns out that few job descriptions list a base understanding of semiotics or rote memorization of the oeuvre of Alfred Lord Tennyson under necessary Skills/Qualifications…
It seemed like worthwhile knowledge for those of us naive enough to believe English, history and philosophy were rewarding academic pursuits. What else could allow me to play the sophisticate at parties, wearing tweed jackets, or quoting Nietzsche on nihilism when someone asks if I’ve seen last week’s episode of “The Walking Dead.” What I didn’t realize is that first you must earn the money to buy that tweed jacket, which is damn expensive.
Tyler Moss, Trials of a Stay-at-Home Boyfriend
Man is this depressing. I majored in political science with a concentration in political theory. I got out hoping to go to work for a legislator or go to work in municipal government. That didn’t happen. Now I’m in law school. How naive I was back then.
I suppose what is most painful about this is the fact that I can’t imagine myself having pursued another degree that would’ve been any more “marketable.” I minored in History, which frankly, has the same or lesser pecuniary prospects. And a philosophy major wouldn’t have helped me much unless I intended to pursue it in grad school (which I didn’t). I thought seriously about pursuing a Music degree, but I would’ve needed to pick up piano relatively fast, and I didn’t think I had it in me. Which is a shame, because I can see myself teaching music, either at the secondary or collegiate level, and loving the heck out of it. But none of these degrees are all that lucrative on their own. Still, I wouldn’t trade my undergraduate degree for the world. As it happens, the world just doesn’t feel the same about my undergraduate degree.
I guess in the end, I should just feel blessed to have multiple interests that I could have pursued with equal vigor. Not everyone has that option. My roommate and I always joked that philosophy is the “most important useless thing a human being can pursue.” I believe that still. Philosophy, history, the arts…more often than not, these things won’t provide you a living. But they can help you live. That’s got to count for something. At any rate, I need to believe it does.