In Defense of ‘Useless’ College Majors


A recent Daily Beast blog post listing the 13 most useless college majors had a lot of people growling. Journalism and English (among others) apparently fail to give recent college grads a leg up in the job marketplace.

A successful art critic posted a comment that his degree in journalism and medieval history “were as useless as they come,” but he’d “do it all over again.” Other Beast readers posted comments like this one: “Are liberal arts majors really useless?”.

In the immediate aftermath of getting a degree, it may seem like liberal arts and so-called other useless majors aren’t as effective as, say, a teaching or engineering degree. I would argue that “useless” degrees can become useful – but in a different way. It just may take longer. Hopefully, college students whose majors are in the “useless” category are or were involved in many extra-curricular activities, which can literally trump “useless” degrees any day. That’s actually part of my own story.

After three years at college on track to become an elementary education teacher, I had an epiphany: teaching was absolutely, positively not for me. I didn’t just switch majors, I dropped out and fled to southern California where my mother’s friend helped me get a job as a copygirl at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. I impressed my bosses with my work ethic and contributing articles to their “house organ.” After five months, they offered me a job as a cub reporter for a new “teen” page, but my mind was already made up. I was going to finish college.

Back at school, I changed my major to English and became an active writer on the student paper, covering hot-button issues of the day which I was passionate about, like equal housing and Stop the War. Within one year, I was named newspaper editor-in-chief, a position which not only led to marriage but a career at a Fortune 500 company. Before I even started looking for a job, GE came to me with an offer: an editorial post at their daily in-house newspaper read by 2,000 employees. I joined the company and overnight, became their highest-paid female employee.

When I moved to Chicago, I tested the advertising waters (not for me) before landing a job as an account executive at a reputable PR firm. PR was my calling and I never waivered from it. When I hung out a PR shingle in 1984, I had no confidence I would succeed, yet here I am 25 years later still doing what I love.

Useless college majors? Not a chance. Just do what you love, follow your heart, and the rest will come. I’m interested in other stories from TCW readers who parlayed a “useless” college major into a meaningful career. Share your comments below.


About Chris Ruys

Chris Ruys is founder and president of Chris Ruys Communications, Inc., a marketing/public relations firm that specializes in high visibility campaigns using both traditional and social media strategies. Her blog, originally called "Getting Social," was launched in October 2010 as a way to share her progress as a "student" of social media. While she's still learning, Ms. Ruys has broadened the scope to include other aspects of marketing communications and PR, including blogging, email, traditional media and advertising in the blog she now calls "Proactive PR."