By Matija Stojanovic
Lisgar is a unique place: few schools in Ottawa carry an academic reputation like it, and nearly every graduating student has a plan for university or college.The vast majority of these students will move onto fields in science, technology, engineering and math, with a small minority going into humanities, arts and trades.This limited diversity in interests fosters an attitude that purely academic fields and STEM jobs are the only university degrees worth pursuing and propagates the idea that to study arts and humanities is a waste of time and money. The booming popularity of STEM fields means that fewer students are enrolling in trades or humanities. In a way, STEM jobs have become the modern-day trades and in many cases, the only requirement to a well-paying career is a bachelor’s degree in engineering. This is because in addition to the many opportunities for expansion and innovation in STEM fields, there is also a straightforward option in finding immediate work. If a student were to enter the Network Programming or Computer Science programs at Carleton, their degree will be a ticket to a career and gives them a guaranteed job, in addition to the opportunities presented by their own ability. These students will have a clearer path than those who are pursuing a journalism degree at Carleton and will be given far more immediate opportunities than the average student in Cognitive sciences.
If all four of these students put an equal amount of time into their studies, it’s likely that the first two will start a career before the others. However, does that discredit the education of the latter two? Does it mean that their learning, their passion and their effort is all wasted? Just because a degree does not come with an associated profession does not devalue it.
There is a perception that university is exclusively to train for a career and that it is a waste of time and money to study something which doesn’t have a job dangling at the end of it. In reality, a university education is whatever you make of it, especially in the arts and humanities. One can take a major in African History and make nothing of it, never following their passion due to a shaky job market for African Historians. However, if this student were to take what they learned and carry it into teaching, writing, film making, research or consulting, then they would be given infinite opportunities to follow their passion, all in a style which they enjoy. One can see a degree in the arts as an education without the safety net of a clear career path; the degree is proof of an education rather than a ticket to a career. To follow what interests you and to clarify your goals in learning is what matters most. Although it is shrouded in a fog of assignments and grades, the ultimate goal of all schooling is to advance your knowledge and learn how to apply it to the world.
There are few people with the title of Congolese historians, successful philosophical authors are rare, and having a career as an artist is unpredictable at best. However, there is always a market for politicians, professors, lawyers and other jobs which can come from non-STEM degrees, and in which one can apply their knowledge. In the arts there may be few steady offerings, but for those with willingness to pursue what they enjoy, the only limit is one’s own potential and effort. The career of an arts major may not be stable or obvious going into university. It isn’t supposed to be. But it’s what you make of it, and the goal is to discover something which makes you excited to learn and to find a field which will make you lead a satisfying career. If that field is engineering, then you’ll be able to pursue your goals with the security of a door-opening degree. If you’re studying philosophy and are genuinely interested in it, you shouldn’t worry about not having that option. A philosophy degree may not open up any doors, but it will help you find doors which you never knew were there. Don’t go to university looking for a job; go to university looking to learn.