When it comes to 2 and 4 year college degrees, don’t spend your time and money majoring in programs that don’t strongly emphasize skills not easily acquired. And only burn a few electives on stuff that tickles your fancy, but no more.

Okay, so you like literature, history, politics, psychology, education, business, etc. Super, go to the library and check out a book, search the web, and read the flavor of stuff that intrigues you. Cost, nothing, well, other than the gas to and from a library.

Read what you want, when you want, and no one can make you work in a group to discuss the book, write a mundane paper about it, or force you to listen to a canned lecture about the same damn thing you just read. Or perhaps you like all that extra stuff tacked on to your preferred reading?

Why the hell does anyone want to spend hundreds of hours stuck reading and writing about someone else’s preordained concept of what constitutes interesting material? It’s a matter of opinion anyhow. Everyone now has access to the web, an amazing library at our fingertips, and we can view and read material from all over the world, great works, classics, order books for shipping costs alone, even partake in college courses for free, on and on. Don’t spend time and money on a degree to obtain knowledge you can acquire yourself. Think of all the time you’ll save not writing bogus papers, taking bullshit multiple-choice exams, and schlepping back and forth to some grand lecture hall according to someone elses schedule, not to mention the outrageous cost.

And if you are attending a 4-year research institution, do you really desire a graduate assistant lecturing you or grading your work. What the hell does that 20 something kid know anyhow? Are you kidding me? Your work goes in the trash can at semester’s end. If you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year research institution that’s often what you’ll get.

If an academic course has no value for a mature adult, why is it any more valuable for a 19-year-old? Reflect on that a moment. Look, there are some great subjects worthy of exploration. I love devouring science books, physics articles, and war history, but I don’t necessarily need a degree in any of it.

If you choose to spend the time, which you can never get back, and the tens of thousands of dollars on a prescribed, highly structured, and state-sanctioned education, then grind it out in an area that ultimately proves you have a skill when you finish. Being well read in a subject area is a marvelous thing, but who needs to sit through insufferable class hours costing hundreds of dollars a session for a non-professional degree.

It’s the 21st century, and if you want to listen to top talent lecturing for free, go to iTunes U, YouTube, or TedX. You will find excellent lectures to last for years, and many by people at the top of their fields or on the cutting edge of discovery. No grad students.

Many universities even offer full classes online for anyone to partake in, free. No credit is awarded unless you are a registered student, but it is a great opportunity for any learner. M.I.T. is one such example.

If pursuing a B.S. or B.A. at a research university you will be lucky to get a teacher professionally experienced in front of you. More often than not it is a graduate assistant with minimal life experience and zippo professional experience to boot. The grad assistant is nothing more than a cheap, low-skill labor substitute for the real deal. And there is no guarantee the real-deal is any great shakes either.

If you are not grinding it out acquiring a hard-earned skill set with your college degree, frankly you are mostly wasting time and money. You can get the money back, but the time is gone forever, poof, buh-bye. A college degree with no hard-earned skill set is likely a substitute for lack of self-discipline. Perhaps you can’t direct yourself to finish books or articles without  authority figures demanding research papers written, group projects, the threat of bad grades, or artificial deadlines looming.

Upon reflection, the most influential books and articles in my lifetime never came with a mandatory essay, deadline, lecture, or group chat board. Yeah, enough said.

Read on your own. You can do it. Finish what you start, but if it really sucks, start another article or book. You make the call if you are in charge.

Bottom line, acquire a skill for your 2 or 4 year college degree. Get a skill that requires experienced practitioners to coach you, push you, and hammer you relentlessly to the breaking point until you master the damned thing. Sound challenging? No shit.

Here are some tangible examples.

1) Engineering

Yep, just about any flavor will do. Why? Because you learn tangible application of science, design, and math. Skills baby, skills. And you need the degree now to call yourself one, take certification tests, and be hired in the field. Reality. Start here, and your options are wide open. Need a few examples: Bio Engineering; Chemical Engineering; Electrical Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Computer Engineering; etc., get the picture? You will have many career options if you start here.

2) The Hard Sciences

This is excellent too, but you will likely need to take it one step further because unless you want to teach in high school, these are jobs that often require a Master’s level degree for application and research professions. Examples: Chemistry; Geology; Physics; and all similar flavors.

3) Statistical analysis

Learning this independently is unlikely, not impossible, but so daunting that it is a rarity. It is an applied skill. It is also part and parcel to many other tangible fields such as Finance. Do people truly love statistics? Find one. It’s like practicing scales on the piano, ugh. But do pianists, the great ones, still practice fundamentals? Ask one. Daunting, but it’s a degree that has “skill acquired” written all over it. And no, this is not in reference to a one and done Statistics 101 class, or some such thing. If you are not grinding it out and crunching formulas into the wee hours of the morning across many semesters, on the verge of tears or a mental break down, then you aren’t in it.

4) Career focused programs

Yes, I highly recommend most if not all of these. If you must go through a certification program, associates degree, or bachelor’s degree, to get a shot at the certification exam, then do it. Pick a field and go for it. Finish and practice your craft. Learning really begins the first day on the job after the training is done and the certification is passed. Learning divorced from application and experience is just a hobby. With experience gained, one can then specialize and go back for more education. Go, go! Be a plumber. Be a mechanic. Be a graphic designer. Be an air traffic controller. Be an electrician. Be an accountant. Be a paramedic. So many excellent professions! Get the vocational training, certification, and the degree.

*Liberal arts degrees

Fuggetaboutit… The majority of these bachelor degrees are not worth the investment of time and money. Unless you are a top-notch salesperson, or inheriting a fortune, I would never recommend any of them. Find a good career-focused program instead. You can study this stuff as a hobby once you are working, and pay for further studies out-of-pocket without going into debt. If you have passion for poetry, read what you like, then write some poetry. A bachelor’s degree in poetry, why?

Anyone can go back to college while they are working, or do a graduate degree in an area of passion. Get a degree in the Liberal Arts if you are independently wealthy, or a trust fund recipient.

 *No degree required

There are many excellent careers and professions that do not require college degrees at all. Look them up. Start your own business. There are many ways to earn a living, but there aren’t many short cuts, don’t fool yourself. Winning the lottery, yeah, good luck with that one.

*A few last words of advice

If you are in college, please don’t fill your time with bogus electives just because they are easy. Even if you have money to throw away on education, why throw your time away? You can’t get back your time, so challenge yourself, and stretch your abilities.

I love spending time taking long nature walks. No, I didn’t major in that in college. And no, I didn’t even take an elective such as “Nature Walking 3000.” Yes, this is likely a class offered somewhere as an elective, perhaps even a major course requirement, but seriously why? Who the hell wants to write papers about it?

Grind it out. Push yourself hard. Make it count. No bullshit.

Dutifully yours,

The Drill Sargent

Now drop and give me twenty!

“Copyright © 27APR17 by Steven A. Schwab”