Sybil Low by Sybil Low

As student debt continues to rise and the job market evolves, those who enter university ask a natural question “Is College a waste of time and money if you’re not studying a STEM major?”. Thus, a heated debate has emerged around the value of college education, particularly for non-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors. The crux of the debate hinges on the perceived economic value and career opportunities associated with non-STEM fields compared to their STEM counterparts.

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Key Takeaways

  • When choosing a college major, it’s essential to consider the cost and time investment. The key is to make informed choices to ensure your education pays off in the long run.
  • While STEM fields are often associated with high-paying jobs, this isn’t always the case. The value of education goes beyond financial gain. It’s about gaining knowledge and contributing to society.
  • Non-STEM fields, like humanities, have a vital role in society. Journalists, lawyers, social workers, and artists enrich our culture and contribute to a balanced society. However, it’s essential to research job prospects and potential earnings when choosing a major.

As technology and science are now ruling the world, more and more students are choosing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors. This trend is changing the face of higher education and job markets, making us wonder: what about non-STEM fields like arts, humanities, and social sciences? Are they losing their shine? As STEM fields attract students with promises of high-paying jobs and cutting-edge careers, there’s a growing concern about how this shift affects other important areas of study. The big question on everyone’s mind was raised on Reddit.

Understanding the True Cost of Your Education

When choosing a college major, it’s crucial to think about how much time and money you’re investing. Imagine education as a market, where you’re choosing between a truck driver’s license and a medical license. Both are valuable, but they come at very different costs and lead to different financial futures. Someone wisely pointed out,

“The real problem isn’t that college is a ‘bad investment’ but that it’s easy to make that bad investment if you don’t think about what you’re doing.”

Investing in any college degree, whether in arts or science, has the potential to increase your earnings and improve your life in the long run. But the key is to be smart about how you spend your money and time. For many, this means starting at a community college, which costs less, and maybe working part-time to pay for tuition. This approach can significantly reduce the burden of student loans after graduation. It’s all about balance and planning. As someone aptly put it,

“It’s always going to come down to how much you invest into it. The stats are out. It doesn’t matter the degree, simply having a college education increases everything from your lifetime earnings to your health over someone that doesn’t.”

So, before you dive into a college education, especially in a non-STEM field, it’s important to consider whether the investment you’re making now will pay off in the future. Getting a degree is not just about the knowledge you gain, but also about being able to manage your finances smartly after you graduate.

Rethinking STEM and the True Value of Education

The common belief that studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) guarantees a high-income job is not always accurate. STEM fields can indeed lead to lucrative careers, but this is not a universal rule. Graduates in areas like biology and math often find themselves in a competitive job market where practical skills and additional education are key. For example, someone with a biology degree might need further studies to stand out. This is similar to trades, where practical, hands-on experience is highly valued.

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Moreover, the value of education goes beyond just making money. It’s about gaining knowledge and understanding the world more deeply. Take the story of a chemical engineer who decided to pursue a Ph.D., even though it meant earning less money.

“People need to get out of the mindset that only activities yielding a lot of money are worth the time. I took a 70% pay cut to leave the industry as a chemical engineer and go get a Ph.D. Education isn’t just about the money. Being a tradesman making 150k a year, but having a high school level understanding of the world, is something I’ll pass on any day of the week.”

This decision wasn’t about financial gain. Instead, it was about a passion for learning and contributing to the field. This example shows that education should be seen as more than a path to a high salary. It’s an opportunity to grow, explore, and contribute to society in meaningful ways.

The Vital Role of Humanities in a Balanced Society

In the debate over the value of college majors, it’s crucial to recognize the indispensable role of non-STEM fields in our society. Fields like the humanities, which include studies like history, literature, and philosophy, play a pivotal role in shaping a well-rounded society. Consider the impact of journalists, who keep us informed; lawyers, who uphold justice; social workers, who support the vulnerable; and artists, who enrich our culture. As one commenter rightly said, “The world runs on humanities and STEM.” Both fields are necessary for a balanced and functioning society.

Are You Wasting Your Time on a Non-STEM Major?

However, when choosing a major, it’s important to be mindful of the job market. Different fields have varying levels of demand and job prospects. For instance, some areas might be oversaturated, meaning there are more graduates than available jobs, which can impact your return on investment. This doesn’t mean you should avoid these fields, but it’s crucial to be aware of these factors. Researching potential earnings and job opportunities is key. As the debate on Reddit highlighted,

“Those who enter a saturated field will not get as good ROI, and many fields are so bad that debt will never get paid off. Before anything, do your research and truly know what you want to do, maybe run the numbers to see if it makes sense.”


The one point that could be drawn from this discussion is that the choice between a STEM and a non-STEM major should not be solely dictated by income potential. Instead, it should be a deeply personal decision based on one’s goals and aspirations. Surely, STEM fields offer promising career prospects, for now. Nobody knows what will happen in the next few years though. Besides, the value of education extends beyond financial gains. Non-STEM majors, such as humanities, play a vital role in society too, and their importance should not be underestimated. The key is to strike a balance, acknowledging that education enriches the mind and empowers individuals to contribute meaningfully to the world, regardless of the chosen path.


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