I have seen college graduates from metals programs with large
debts and little skill to show for that debt. Certainly no skill
that would lead to employment with starting pay to live comfortably
and pay back the loans.
We keep coming back to this - what I believe to be a complete
misunderstanding of the purpose of college/university. It is NOT to
prepare you to walk right into a job - and if you go in thinking
that, you are most likely to be rudely awakened when you graduate! It
doesn’t matter whether you are studying metals or biology or history
- the basic degree is not to make you job ready.
The point of a degree is to broaden and deepen your knowledge, not
just in one field, but across the range of human knowledge. This is
why good colleges/universities require students to take courses
across the range of disciplines, not just in their major area of
study. It is also to expose you to knowledge and ideas you might not
have encountered. Many students enter thinking they want to do one
area, and discover an area of study they either didn’t know about at
all, or didn’t understand, and realize that is their real passion.
Just as a pre-med or pre-law student then goes on to professional
school to actually learn the job skills, someone coming from a
metals program will need to go on to additional training to learn the
precise skills for the area they want to enter.
What that degree and money SHOULD have done (doesn’t always happen!)
is to prepare them to be able to find the knowledge they need
throughout life, to communicate clearly, and to know how to think -
and enjoy it. These skills will serve them in whatever field - or
more likely fields today - they enter.
I had a contemporary who graduated with honors from a very highly
ranked college - and became a house builder. Did the college degree
help him build better houses? I would seriously doubt it. Did it help
him lead a fuller life than he would have otherwise? Quite probably.
A good college introduces the student to things most people would not
encounter or seek out on their own. The interests thus begun can be
continued throughout life.
Does that mean everyone should have a college degree, or if you
don’t you are less somehow than someone who does? Absolutely not!!!
It is simply ONE way to prepare for adulthood and life - not the only
In the US, at least, I think this whole subject is tremendously
misunderstood, with people who would be much happier and much better
served by a different route thinking they HAVE to get that
university degree! There are a few fields - like law or medicine -
where you HAVE to have the proper degrees to practice in those
fields. Many other fields do not require a certain degree, or any
degree at all, to be quite successful.
I would suggest anyone considering a college or university degree
take the time to figure out WHY they want the degree, WHAT they
expect from it, and then check with professionals in your desired
field to see if your expectations meet the working world reality.
I have a BA and an MFA in art - and didn’t get either with the
expectation that they would lead to immediate jobs with high
incomes! I got them because I wanted to learn the breadth and depth
of knowledge they provided, and with a real understanding of the
limitations they had. I looked at some schools that were more
“skill/ trade” oriented before embarking on my BA degree, and decided
that was not what I wanted at that time.
For me, those have been good decisions. I cherish the knowledge, the
stretching of my mental skills and communications skills, and the
breadth/depth of exposure that my college and university experiences
provided me. Those have all served me well in the numerous jobs, in
and out of the art area, that I have held.
They did provide me with some immediately marketable skills - I
walked out of my BA and got a job as a graphic designer immediately,
then switched to working in a photography store, and then to being a
professional photographer for a museum. All based on skills I
learned in my BA (undergraduate) program, but all also involving
additional skills learned by further study on my own.
I have held a range of jobs since those first three, and have
continued to expand my knowledge with reading, workshops, classes,
I have worked through a range of media, with metals being the most
recent - and I think the one that is turing out to be “it” for me.
It has only taken me nearly 30 years to find “it” though! But at no
point have I felt that my college and university times - and expense
- were wasted. I do wish that my college program had had a metals
program - I might have found “it” much earlier!
I’m jealous of those on the list who have had the benefit of trade
school programs, or whatever they are properly called, such as the
New Approach School and Revere, or the traditional apprenticeship
system in some countries - but I would not willingly trade my
college/ university time for those. I want those AND the
My daughter is off in college in now, and I had hoped, before the
economy tanked on me, that this would be the time I could go do the
New Approach course, and get the skill sets I’m missing or weak on.
That remains a goal. You are never too old to learn!
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio