On ‘useless majors’

Not too long ago, I learned dance is a major. love dance — I dance everyday — as much as I need air to survive. If I can’t do it, I go stir crazy.

I’ve touched the surface of my feelings about attending college and whatnot, but I can’t remember what the posts were anymore or else I’d link to them.

People change. Learning I can major in dance changes everything. There was the interest of majoring in, or at least taking classes for, photography just for the hell of it, but I lacked actual interest in actually doing it to the extent that everyone around me considers photography to be: taking photos with their smartphones of people, etc. I prefer my subjects not to be human.

But it’s one of those ‘useless majors’ people think others waste their time on. According to Chapman University, dance majors go on to be plenty of other things outside ‘dance performance, choreography and teaching’.

I don’t know exactly what I’d do with a dance major, but I imagine I’d bounce around ideas throughout the terms; for all we know, I could wind up in California1 and dance in music videos and movies and other productions and live out my childhood dream. (Seriously, though, that would be amazing.)

I could also be a food blogger with a degree in dance and make dance references all the freaking time, working dance into the food blog itself.

Or, perhaps I’d become a dance photographer.

Of course, that’s a ways off.

I need to get back into therapy and get everything all situated with myself first — I’m trying to focus on taking care of myself and really acknowledging my own needs, etc., something I’ve never been great at — before I can actually get into school, or work, because my brain doesn’t work the same way it  used to.

This post, however, didn’t stem from me wanting to share with you my hopes and dreams of majoring in dance, or even to refresh your memory on my love for dance. I wanted to see if there were any other dance majors who had a food blog (because why not?). I’ve found food bloggers who moonlight as something completely different (e.g., a pianist, a zookeeper, a pet groomer, etc.), so why not search for a dance with a food blog?

And then I came across an article by a mother whose daughter is an American Studies major.

The article was comforting; the mother was supportive.

The comments, however, were harming, hurtful even, and shallow.

…and ridiculous.

  • Anyone can go anywhere with a degree; a degree does not determine what one’s income will be. Some don’t even need degrees to make a lot. Thus, asking whether one wants to live in a rural or urban area is quite meaningless, as the countryside does not determine one’s wealth — honestly, if you own property, you have a greater advantage than those living in the city, and chances are, you have a slightly larger income than those who live in the city. Rural areas and people tend to be more conservative, whereas the rich are more wasteful.
  • STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — major is merely that; some ‘make it’, others don’t; it doesn’t guarantee wealth and penthouses.
  • Arts majors are not for the unintelligent; geniuses who want to be artists should have the freedom to become that. For example, I like writing, but I could never major in it no matter how naturally it comes to me, no matter how many people have offered to hire me if I ‘just had a major in writing’. (Two. Two people have, and I would rather die — or major in science — than major in writing.)
  • “Why not major in one of the STEM areas and incorporate your true love into that?” I can’t with this ignorance.
  • One’s success is their own definition.

I’m really glad college doesn’t define success on my dad’s side of the family.
(Well, business defines success, but one bird and one stone at a time…)

And maybe I’ll go back to photography, but I know my stance on obtaining a degree changed drastically upon learning dance is a major, and if I’m gonna major in anything, I’d rather major in something that makes me happy instead of something that stresses me out.

(Take that, everyone who crushed on my dreams when I was thirteen.)

  1. With Nancy and Stephanie and the rest of you… who else? >.> Tiffany?

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Comments on this post

Amanda’s gravatar

Yes, come to California and live out your dreams! 🙂

Being on a university campus all the time, I’m always running into people working on all sorts of majors… some not as “practical” as others, but if it makes you happy then why does it matter? I think it’s great that you’ve decided to choose something that makes you happy. I’ve seen people go on to be doctors and I ask them why and they just say, “Well, my parents wanted me to be one…” and they’re not as happy as those who decided they wanted to be one because they just enjoy helping people!

Kerry’s gravatar

I studied Drama at university and still, to this day, I get people telling me that “it’s not even a real subject” or making derogatory comments about my choice of degree. It doesn’t bother me too much, but I do think it’s rude and people don’t realise what hard work subjects like that are. It’s the same with dance; it’s not just a case of going to lectures and then completing an assignment – like a lot of my friends did. I would also spend hours of my own time learning lines, or attending rehearsals which were outside of schooling hours. It takes a lot of dedication and, I think if it’s something that you’ll love, you should go for it.

Clarisse’s gravatar

I found myself unconsciously nodding my head at several of the points in this post!

I absolutely agree with everything you said. I’m currently taking up Computer Science, thus am surrounded by a lot of people who think that way, or, at the very least, whose parents think that way. I’m personally taking this major up because I love it, but it makes me sad to hear that some of the people around me are there simply for the money, or because their parents thought it was a good degree for them.

Is it weird to believe that your priority should be your passion?

I also really hate when people judge arts majors. My brother is taking up an arts degree, and from high school up to the present, people are constantly asking him why he isn’t taking engineering or something instead “because he is smart”. It’s really condescending. If you love it, go for it.

Happiness is definitely the priority. When you’re happy, success will follow! 😀

Liz’s gravatar

Yes! Since being diagnosed with depression/etc., I’ve realized a lot of it stemmed from me doing things others wanted me to do. I’m a lot happier pursuing things I’m passionate about. 😀

And 🙁 People judge art majors too much, and I don’t think they realize that art isn’t entirely awkward; we need art just as much as we need the other things.

Janet’s gravatar

Majors are only useless if you, as a person, don’t get something out of them. If you feel it is boring or a waste of time, then it is. Most people would say a degree in history was useless, but the founder of Discovery Communications has that specific degree. So the limiters are really the people who believe their degree limits them.

Liv’s gravatar

There is ONE useless major. It’s psychology. You’re studying to be a jerk when you can naturally be one.

When I started college all of my parents’ friends asked them why they weren’t disciplining me, because I was going to study advertising, which apparently meant I do arts and crafts because my school is an “art school.” And now I’m a web designer-developer and their kids are stuck in the lab growing fungus cultures.

Don’t let people undermine your potential.

Jenn’s gravatar

I actually registered for summer school this past weekend. I’m taking Digital Photography. I haven’t been in school since 2008 so it’s gonna be interesting going back. I hope you follow your dreams and do what you want to do. In the end it’s your happiness that matters. California is really nice! *wink, wink*

Liz’s gravatar

Ah — good luck! I haven’t been in school since 2011, so starting three years or so after not being in it will be difficult (but my PTSD fried my brain, so it’s not like I had a choice). 😡 I think a lot of motivation for school comes into play when a person is doing what they love, so perhaps that’ll be helpful?

Ah, Cali scares me because of hurricanes and stuffs. There are also laws… Texas laws are so different from other places’. xD

Nancy’s gravatar

Dancing is definitely not a ‘useless’ major. I can’t think of any ‘useless’ major because most-if not, all (since I haven’t explored what other majors there are) majors have a use in them, no? Even the top universities here in CA offers a dance program under the theater/performing arts department like Stanford, USC, and even UC Berkeley (just looked it up right now). There’s a career in dancing with so many paths so you can still make a living out of it. Heck, you can even have your personal business teaching dance classes and make plentiful from it.

Do what you gotta do first :-). A dancer with a food blog is unique so why not ;).

I see the rich being more ‘wasteful’ because they don’t have any opportunity costs like the rest of us do. Not everyone needs to be majoring or going into a career that makes a lot of money. Like Amanda said, you should be doing what makes you happy. You can still make money off of it. If not, heck even people volunteer countless hours into organizations to spread their message and they’re still happy with what they’re doing! I think all majors are for the intelligent; just expressed in a different way whether it’s in art, dance, music, exercise, math, science, literature, and etc. Soooo do what you want to do and if anything, come down to California because we’re very welcoming in the arts! I have a couple of friends who came down to LA from New York and Kentucky for theater arts :D. So totally not useless at all!

Stephanie’s gravatar

I truly want everyone to go study what they love and make a living doing it. And I truly wish that jobs weren’t so tied to educational background. But as someone who has just finished a long and draining job search out of a top 10 university, I’m need to warn you that the path you want to embark on is going to be a tough road. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t do it. I’m telling you that it’s probably going to be very hard, and to prepare yourself for a tough life if you do choose the path. I have a lot of respect for people who choose to stick it out in music and art. I really do. When I’m banging my head debugging a piece of software, I sometimes wish that I were a musician. But I chose not to be in music because music is not, and was never, my one true love and dream, so it made more sense to become an engineer.

Right now, my impression of employers is that they have a checklist that they want new hires to meet and that the checklist includes a particular college major. They also stupidly assume that you are defined by your college major and have an extremely hard time believing that you are capable of anything outside your major. I found that it was dead-near impossible to convince other people that I am not a mechanical engineer and that I really shouldn’t be one. (My BS is in mechanical engineering, and my MS is in “control and dynamical systems”, an unconventional major that’s slightly related to mechanical engineering.) In the end, the only offers I got were from my advisor’s former students, so I’d guess that doing what you want to be doing would be especially hard if you don’t have the connections, like I did. (Thankfully, the offers were good.)

If you want an example of an engineer-photographer who only photographs nature, without people, you should check out Art in Nature Photography. 😛

AnneMarie’s gravatar

I entered college as a Humanities major, which gets just as much crap as arts-related majors because people always ask me “What are you going to do with that?” Since then, I decided to double degree but I still get ish for my Humanities major. Funnily enough, I find my Humanities major a lot more useful than my Comm major or even my business minor.

Anyways, if you’re passionate, go for it. So many of my friends started in science or math, because they felt like that was the only route to a decent paying job. Then they burn out/find out they hate that route and switch several times…sometimes causing them to stay a few quarters or years more. Do what you love, that’s what will make all the difference.

Liz’s gravatar

I graduated high school with intentions of pursuing a major in Education so I could teach some of the maths, but I soon realized it wasn’t actually what I wanted to do — I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life stuck in a classroom teaching kids whilst I wanted to be something different. At the time, I really wanted to dance, and I wanted that to be a career, but I didn’t know what to major in for it, and for some reason, I didn’t think to do any research. I get tired of constants after a while and need a change of scenery, and dance really seems like something I could enjoy. It would change ever so often and give me the culture I crave.

…it’s also a lot of exercise, and a career with built-in exercise sounds like a super-win to me! 😀

Sara’s gravatar

I think what you said is valid, at least how I interpret it. It is more important to find something that gives you satisfaction, than to choose a major solely based on the income it will produce. I liked what Amanda said about people who become doctors….

I’ve had a varied career regarding jobs and work, but one thing was consistent in all my jobs: writing. I wish I’d had the guts to follow through on this with a degree, but I focused more on becoming a professional and didn’t believe writing was the way to do this.

Find your passion and then make it fit your education. :~)

Coryl o'Reilly’s gravatar

I’m an English major. English Literature & Creative Writing, to be specific, and my program is a Bachelor of Arts as opposed to a Bachelor of Fine Arts. And let me tell you… I have been asked way too many times if I want to be a teacher, because that’s apparently the only useful reason for getting a degree in English.

The thing about my degree, though, is that it’s changed from English Literature to have the Creative Writing bit only because of 3 courses. 3 courses.

People think degrees are the gateway to your future career. For some, that’s true. If you want to be a doctor, you have to study to be a doctor. But others pursue degrees out of personal interest. I have a few friends who are working on their second and third degrees because they want to. The problem there lies in the costs. Schooling here in Canada is definitely cheaper than in the States.

And even then, degrees are useless when they’re not a logical requirement for your job. I see requirements for jobs that just say, “A Bachelor of Arts or higher.” It’s ridiculous, especially with the cost of post-secondary education these days.

If you want to go for a degree in dance or photography, then go for it. It may not be a “useful” degree, but when you really think about it, only a few degrees are really “useful” when people only look at the degree. I think the most useful parts about getting a degree or a diploma or a certificate are the learning and the connections you make. You meet a ridiculous amount of people, be them classmates or professors, and they’re so helpful–regardless of the degree.

Also, photography =/= photographing people. I think photography classes would be more about composition, settings on cameras, how to light, etc., rather than how to use your iPhone and instagram filters for a better selfie.

(sorry for the long post; I get really into the topic of how useful post-secondary education is…)

Liz’s gravatar

I almost majored in writing! The things that deterred me away from it was the literature bits, the criticism, etc., as I’m not a fan of literature from long ago, nor do I enjoy writing enough to make a hobby out of it.

I know photography doesn’t necessarily mean photographing people, but a lot of family considers photography to merely be such, thus not considering the importance of other kinds of photography. There’s a photographer in the family who lives in Oklahoma who does portrait and family photography, and no matter how many times I explain to them the difference between she and I, they still don’t understand that I’m well aware of what she does and that nature photography is more natural and doesn’t include all the backdrops and whatnot — thus meaning I don’t need artificial backdrop tips. I should have worded it differently, but at the time I couldn’t figure out how. x.x

[…] myself more into things I enjoy and have found hope in various departments and things, e.g. I really might be able to dance for the rest of my life. […]