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What Am I Doing This For?

Art vs. Science Degrees

Jessica Gearey

News Editor

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During times as tough as these, school can be a distraction from the real world. However, some academic paths are harder than others. Nevertheless, there are always pros and cons to everything.

Alessandro Mortellaro, a 2nd year Literature student, knows that he wants to write a novel one day. “I became attracted to the arts because it spoke to my innate passion to create and to appreciate life in its purest form,” he says. Although social work interested Mortellaro, Literature was his true calling. Art students generally know that they are taking a risk when it comes to their program of choice. In Mortellaro’s opinion the science route is more of a safe choice. “It’s a prepaved path,” he adds.

When it comes to the science route, there are certain advantages that art students don’t have. “The "hireability" of a STEM degree right out of school -- whether it's CEGEP or a university undergrad degree -- is bigger,” says Lorne Roberts, an English teacher at Dawson. Based on the program, he notes that becoming employed right out of CEGEP is more common among programs like nursing, while programs in philosophy or literature generally have a harder time.

In the long run, Roberts assures that studies have shown “the average earnings and career potential for arts and humanities degrees are just as high.” However, it may take more time. Roberts himself admits to a long time spent “living poorly” because he wanted to follow his passion of writing. “After I graduated, I stayed out of school for several years and lived quite poor, often doing labour jobs to pay the bills so that I could continue to write,” he explains. “That was the cost of my degree in some ways.”

The worth of a degree can be hard to measure. Although art degrees can help you learn critical thinking and analytical skills, they also take a long time to get going. Science degrees on the other hand, have a higher employment status and some feel they are generally more acknowledged than art degrees. Roberts himself sometimes feels the need to validate his subject of choice, something he feels doctors or physics professors rarely have to do. “There's always talk about whether or not art degrees are useful, over how much taxpayers should help fund degrees in poetry or sculpture,” says Roberts. But for science related projects, government funding is never questioned. Jeanne Hope, a 2nd Literature student as well, says that she doesn’t think that art degrees are undervalued as opposed to science degrees. “I think society views students who pursue science degrees as more intelligent than art degrees, but I wouldn’t say that society cares more about them.” Roberts on the other hand says society “absolutely” prioritizes science over art. “There's a reason we value science degrees -- our society, our world in 2021, is very technology-based,” he states, “STEM grads do super important things that help make our lives as wonderful and comfortable as they are.” Nevertheless, Roberts adds that storytelling has always complimented science and technology in some way.

That being said, have you ever reconsidered your degree? “I have thought about switching programs,” says Hope. Even during her final semester at Dawson she has had some doubts about her choices. What stopped her however is asking herself whether she wants to do it for herself or for others. “I grew up in a highly competitive and private high school, where everyone wanted to be doctors, lawyers and engineers,” Hope explains, “when it was time for me to decide my program, I felt the pressure of meeting the standard set by my high school.”

From the teacher’s perspective it’s not much different. “Students are hurting,” he says, “I mean, I'm sure some of you are sailing through it and having a great time, but a lot of the feedback I get on Zoom and MIO tells me this is a really, exceptionally hard time for a lot of people. So, I'm sure a lot of people are questioning why they're doing this.” However, Roberts assures that even if you’re just hanging on by a thread it will all be worth it.

“Your career is what you make of it at the end of the day,” says Mortellaro. Even if it takes you years of struggle and hard work Roberts says “if you genuinely want to study, and you have some idea where you want to take it, you have to follow your passion.” The pandemic, even with all the uncertainty, has taught Hope a lot about patience. “If my degree doesn’t lead me to where I want to be, then I’ll adapt,” she explains, “because there’s no true loss when it comes to education.”



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