In Defense of Useless Majors

May 4, 2012 No Comments

A recent Daily Beast blog post listing the 13 most useless college majors had a lot of people growling. According to the author, liberal arts majors apparently don’t give recent college grads a leg up in the job market.


I agree with the critics of the post. I am living proof that a French and Linguistics major can find her way into a meaningful career. The real point of college isn’t about gaining expertise in a particular discipline. It’s to gain knowledge, learn how to think and develop a point of view.


When you are 18, 20, 24 (even older for some people), you won’t know what you don’t know. I just knew I wanted to be a veterinarian when I went away to college, based on my love of animals. I had not been exposed to business enough to know what all the occupations even were. When I changed my majors to French and Linguistics, I never expected to have a career in languages. The studies were a means to an end.


Note to parents: help your children see the relevance of their studies. I am constantly encouraging my 16-year-old son to integrate as many concepts from his various classes into his papers and projects. I try to get him to reference what he learned about Chinese culture in his Honors Chinese class and link it to his World Religions and Physics classes. The ability to synthesize information leads to knowledge, which sparks curiosity and the resourcefulness to make intelligent inquiries about things previously unknown.


  • Pursue what appeals to you – If it appeals to you, the more likely you are to do well at it, and excelling builds confidence. Confidence, learning how to think, and applying what you learn in real life, leads to being a conscious, purposeful and happy person.
  • Be willing to change your mind – Don’t get locked into something because of other people’s expectations, just try to have a sound rationale for the change. Few things are forever.
  • Take supplemental classes – If you are anxious about a weak grade in a subject hitting your GPA, consider an on-line class in accounting or another subject to gain practical information.
  • Expand your world view – Track what is happening in your discipline globally to explore applications. If you are studying art history, know what is happening on the international art scene. Might you run an auction house?
  • Build a sound job-hunting strategy – In my book, Career Mapping, I detail how to analyze your gaps against aspirational roles and build a case for being considered for those jobs.


So were my French and Linguistics useless majors? Not a chance, because I realize now they involved words, numbers and a thought pattern that enabled me to create a path that led me to where I am today. Useless college majors? There’s no such thing.

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