What do you with a BA in English? What is my life going to be? Four years of college and plenty of knowledge, have earned me this useless degree…
The above lyric came from the satirical and very funny musical Avenue Q, where a Sesame Street inspired puppet anguishes over having a BA. The Bachelor of Arts is often been derided and accused of being a McDegree (“would you like fries with that?”). It is typically seen as a qualification that students choose when they cannot think of anything else to do, or when they cannot gain entry into law school.
University snobs snigger at subjects such as sociology, ethnomusicology, philosophy and German literature… they ask “can you actually get a job in those areas?”
I ask those people to stop being so literal. Of course we are not going to end up with hundreds and hundreds of anthropologists. To think that is totally unrealistic and unwarranted of the job market.
A BA is much broader in scope and appeal and offers so much than a single major or subject title. It warmed my heart to read a recent article in the NZ Herald where Massey University launched a campaign featuring high-profile New Zealanders dispelling myths about the utility of the BA. Professor Shaw said one of the worst effects of the negative attitudes towards the degree, was that students then felt it was less worthy.
I am a proud holder of a BA where I majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology. I also studied business/commerce, but to be honest, this was to satisfy my need to undertake a ‘safe’ course of study that had traditional career outlook.
A BA allows you to develop strong critical thinking skills, and I found this out during the course of my studies. I was challenged to not accept things at face value and to consider both sides of a coin.
I fondly remember undertaking papers such as Film Studies, Children’s Literature, Sociology of Families and Social Psychology. They may appear to have airy-fairy titles but all of them taught me to look at the all the different reasons as to why things happen and occur. For example, the Sociology of Gender paper gave me a strong understanding of how gender differences are exacerbated in current society. The female who gazes longingly at the strong male figure (think of a Calvin Klein advert) is less powerful than the glamour she portrays, but this image is constantly fed to us in the media.
Psychology was an extremely challenging subject and not as easy as people think. Even though it is deemed a humanities subject, I mean how can you quantify concepts such as ‘love’, it has a strong scientific rigour to it. Sociology also required me to write countless essays which definitely strengthened my writing skills.
Ironically, the business studies I undertook feels lightweight compared to the lifelong skills gained from my BA. In my work as a career practitioner and team leader I often have to reflect on decisions and trends, many of which need a consideration of what is happening in society. I often chuckle when I find myself referring to theories and stories gained from my studies.
To those of you who have wondered about the point of a BA, do know that it is indeed useful. It broadens the range of pathways you can consider, and it all it requires you is to be openminded about different jobs.