Misunderstanding My Degree

On my last post Andy commented, asking how my education at UMW has fit in with real life. I’ve learned many things since leaving but, one of the first things that came to mind when Andy asked this question was peoples’ perception of what a college degree means.

I’ve discovered most people don’t understand that having a liberal arts degree (specifically a B.A. in History) means that I can do more than teach history or work at a museum. I’m really *this* close to making a shirt that says, “Yes, I have a degree in history. No, I’m not going to be a teacher”. It has become clear to me that most people don’t understand how my degree has prepared me for than doing “history stuff”. One of the most important skills I gained while at school is the ability to think critically and apply those basic skills to fields outside of history. So while I may not have deeper knowledge of fields outside of the one I studied, I know how to get information I need and I am reasonably good at evaluating that information.

One of the things I was told all the time by people at school was that my degree would prepare me for a wide variety of jobs, careers and prepare me for life in general. While I still believe that these people are fundamentally right I’ve realized that this idea is not so widely understood (or maybe it is rejected, I’m not sure) and it is a bit frustrating to have to try to repeatedly explain to people that I am more than a history major, much more.

On a related note I have a post on critical thinking and skepticism in general in the works.

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5 Responses to “Misunderstanding My Degree”


  1. 1 Cynthia July 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Can I copy and paste this into my blog? If I give you credit? Haha. And replace history with creative writing/English? Love you.

  2. 2 Andy Rush July 11, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Featured twice in a row. I am indeed honored.

    I have always felt that a college degree, a Bachelor’s degree anyway, has just meant that you’re trainable for doing advanced things. Now we just need to perfect what goes into a liberal arts degree 😉

  3. 3 Steve July 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

    As my son prepares to go off to college and study history, I find your comments very interesting and worth more discussion. I’m not doubting that a liberal arts degree prepares one to do more than teach one’s major. I suspect you’ll have more to say about this as you progress career-wise.

  4. 4 Shannon July 11, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    @Cynthia – Haha yes. I knew you would understand how I feel 🙂

    @Andy – Well I’m all about the Rushaw love on my blog. I agree, having a B.A. should mean you are trainable for doing advanced things. Don’t know if school always conveys that.

    @Steve Yes, I’m interested to see how this plays out as I get a “real people” job. I have a feeling once I get a career people will care less about my degree or will make less assumptions once I have “real world” experience.

  5. 5 Leslie M-B July 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Amen. As a (new to) history professor, I find I spend a lot of time helping my students think outside the teaching box, especially in a state where education funding is declining rapidly.

    I also always correct students (and others) when they talk about the world outside academia as “the real world.” I live in the real world, thank you very much. . . And thinking critically and creatively about a broad spectrum of subjects should fall squarely in the realm of “the real world,” yes?


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