The Student Room Group

Is there a need for degrees outside medicine, dentistry and law?

In today's society with the internet and access to a range of online resources, not to mention libraries where you have a range of books to read, is there really a need for degrees outside the essential careers - legal sector, medicine, dentistry, maths, computing, perhaps engineering and teaching?

You can learn things for a fraction of the cost of a degree via libraries and the internet without any debt. Surely this is much better. Besides, there's way too many people with degrees anyway.
(edited 10 months ago)
Reply 1
Original post by RC2003
In today's society with the internet and access to a range of online resources, not to mention libraries where you have a range of books to read, is there really a need for degrees outside the essential careers - legal sector, medicine, dentistry, perhaps engineering and teaching?

You can learn things for a fraction of the cost of a degree via libraries and the internet without any debt. Surely this is much better. Besides, there's way too many people with degrees anyway.


how do you expect people to study any Biology or Chemistry related degree without access to a lab?
Original post by m214123
how do you expect people to study any Biology or Chemistry related degree without access to a lab?


Biology and Chemistry are natural sciences so I guess going to uni for those subjects would be highly advantageous. To clarify what I said, these subjects should really be the only ones offered at a university -

Computing Cyber Security - These could be done via apprenticeships or gaining a job, I don't think you'd necessarily need a degree for these but they could be useful.
Earth and Life Sciences - Ecology, Geography, Geology and Zoology
Natural Sciences - Biology, Chemistry, Physics
Mathematics
Engineering - This could be done via degree apprenticeships, so uni is not necessary for this
Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Studies - Degrees definitely essential in these professions
Law - There are, I believe, degree apprenticeships in law so again, a degree is not necessary but probably an easier route. That being said, studying law as an academic subject is very different from practising law and most people who study it don't actually go into law so maybe not that useful a degree.

Subjects that could be studied at uni but only for specific reasons -

Humanities - History could be useful if you want to work in a museum or teach history in a high school. I guess it goes well with politics.
Social Sciences - Economics and Politics could be useful if you wanted to work for government but then again, it's not necessary and so Social Sciences, despite being interesting subject areas, are kind of useless degrees unless you want to go into teaching them.
Languages - I guess studying languages as a degree could be useful if you wanted to work abroad, but then again you don't need a degree to do that. You can learn any language via books or online so a degree in languages is probably not that useful (unless you want to be a languages teacher).
English Language and Literature - Kind of useful if you want to be a teacher or move into law, but can't really think of anything else it would be good for.
Arts - The arts are important, I won't lie, but you don't really need a degree to get into or succeed in the arts. Accredited drama/performing arts schools should be the only unis offering arts courses because they are more vocational training centres rather than random unis teaching 'art theory'. Arts degrees (including Fine Art and Music) are a complete waste of money and time unless you want to teach it at a college/high school. Most creative people in the arts industry don't have degrees.

Philosophy is also a waste of time - who is realistically going to spend all that money to study 'theories of thinking'?
Just read a philosopher's book from a library rather than paying all that money for a piece of paper.

Business, Accounting and Finance degrees are also useless unless you plan on becoming an accountant. Besides, with accounting apprenticeships being popular, I don't really see a need for such degrees.

I hope this clears things up for you and apologies if it's a bit long.
(edited 10 months ago)
Reply 3
Original post by RC2003
In today's society with the internet and access to a range of online resources, not to mention libraries where you have a range of books to read, is there really a need for degrees outside the essential careers - legal sector, medicine, dentistry, maths, computing, perhaps engineering and teaching?

You can learn things for a fraction of the cost of a degree via libraries and the internet without any debt. Surely this is much better. Besides, there's way too many people with degrees anyway.


This is a discussion that could be discussed for many posts, but the long-and-short of why you need a degree over just taking an online course to obtain the same set of skills:

First, you have to understand why employers are less likely to take someone who has obtained skills from an online course (excluding online degrees).

When you take an online course (this does not include online degrees; they are different) and learn something, it doesn't prove you have the understanding and knowledge for that topic. For example, I could learn MIT OCW and get all the answers from another website; does that prove that I know advanced mathematics at MIT? No. I could have easily copied the answers from someone else.

Second, even if all your work is your own and you score a really high mark for a course; again, this does not prove that you are capable of succeeding in that area. It could have taken you 10 years on that single course to complete it. A student that takes multiple years to study something naturally difficult, is not something that is impressive. If it takes a student 4 years to learn calculus, while another student took 6 months, those two students would be massively different, but indistinguishable with online courses.

Third, studying an online course doesn't imply you are good for the job. Having a degree demonstrates to employers that you are capable, and have developed a set of skills that the employer knows the student has proven during their degree. For example, with a degree, they may have proven discipline, motivation, written communication, problem solving, team work (depending on degree). While you could argue that an online course might prove the same, unfortunately it doesn't. An online course has an indefinite amount of time to complete; a degree has a fixed time to complete. That means, employers are assured that every student with a degree will have proven skills for being a capable and achieving employee.

So, some employees offer graduate jobs where very few skills are required. This is because the employer is not always interested in your degree, but whether you are capable and sufficiently intelligent to complete the job. A degree to some employers can be a minimum level of attainment that generally demonstrates that person is capable, which is what an employer is looking for. An online course, does not show anything equivalent.

Now, there are some exceptions to this. Anything that is skill-based jobs, like graphic design, programming, fashion, art, etc, generally don't require degrees, but rather skills. So, in those types of jobs an online course will be sufficient. But in other jobs, a degree is necessary.

I always think of a degree as a guarantee of quality. There are some people that aren't capable of a degree; it is a reassurance to employers that you have the sufficient mental capacity and intelligence to complete the job to a satisfactory standard.
Reply 4
Original post by RC2003
In today's society with the internet and access to a range of online resources, not to mention libraries where you have a range of books to read, is there really a need for degrees outside the essential careers - legal sector, medicine, dentistry, maths, computing, perhaps engineering and teaching?

You can learn things for a fraction of the cost of a degree via libraries and the internet without any debt. Surely this is much better. Besides, there's way too many people with degrees anyway.


You can apply the same hypothesis to school. The answer is that books and the internet don't give you feedback, don't point you in the right direction when you are lost and don't ask you questions that challenge the work you have produced.
Original post by hotpud
You can apply the same hypothesis to school. The answer is that books and the internet don't give you feedback, don't point you in the right direction when you are lost and don't ask you questions that challenge the work you have produced.

I understand what you're saying but I don't think a degree is a necessity. In a world where many uni graduates are struggling to find jobs, uni shouldn't be seen as essential or preferred. I do believe the open university is quite good though as you're studying while you work in a job which I think is better than studying at a uni full time and then try and get a job (with the exception of long degrees like medicine and dentistry).
Reply 6
Original post by username6305830
I understand what you're saying but I don't think a degree is a necessity. In a world where many uni graduates are struggling to find jobs, uni shouldn't be seen as essential or preferred. I do believe the open university is quite good though as you're studying while you work in a job which I think is better than studying at a uni full time and then try and get a job (with the exception of long degrees like medicine and dentistry).

I agree. Which is why lots of 6th form students now choose apprenticeships. In fact lots of tech companies also prefer apprenticeships too.

That said, most universities provide additional courses that give you employability skills. My wife did loads of them and was surprised at how few students attended. And then students wonder why they are not employable.
You've completely ignored the fact that the rampant commercialisation of the internet means that it is increasingly harder to use it as a source for academic resources. Archive.org is constantly under attack by legal challenges from publishers even for material in the public domain, contemporary research is rarely available outside of paid journals and there are plenty of sources not available outside of special collections usually either held by universities or only accessible by appropriately credentialed researchers.

There are drawers upon drawers filled with cuneiform tablets, entire collections of rare books and manuscripts and so on that have never been translated, are not and cannot be publicly acessible due to fragility which contain mountains of past human knowledge and culture. Who do you think is going to translate those to make them accessible to non-academics, much less act as caretakers of the objects themselves? Should we do as authoritarian regimes of the past and present and just burn and/or destroy these?

Or do you think that maybe there is a reason degrees and life in general exists outside of a narrow corporate capitalist frame? One of the major points of degrees was to train academic researchers, not churn out middle management.
(edited 10 months ago)
Reply 8
What a sad worldview.
I often wonder if the people making these suggestions are the ones volunteering not to go to uni.

I’m not sure it needs saying, but reading Wikipedia doesn’t offer the same opportunities for personal growth as attending uni for 3-4yrs.
Reply 10
Original post by Admit-One
I often wonder if the people making these suggestions are the ones volunteering not to go to uni.

I’m not sure it needs saying, but reading Wikipedia doesn’t offer the same opportunities for personal growth as attending uni for 3-4yrs.

I wonder what the world would be like without ethicists?
Reply 11
I have my old anatomy and physiology book, guess I can perform surgery consulting that book.

I realise you highlighted the importance of university for medicine, but it's the same argument you're using.
Reply 12
Perhaps engineering? an absolutely vital sector to lay good educational foundations. Not to mention all the allied biological science essential to medicine and indeed industry. Plus yes, arts degree are valuable foundation to the just as significant impact the humanities have for society. No to mention the social skills that uni develops

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