I recently received an email from a reader who made some fascinating comments regarding my articles. Among them was the claim that my degree had been a waste of time since I'd decided to become a freelance photographer at the end of the course.
An extremely expensive piece of paper.
I must say in many ways I agree. From a traditional standpoint, the degree I undertook was a waste of time and money. As a subject, Photography does not fit into the academic degree format very well, and there was a lot more work that involved writing than it did taking photographs. If I were to decide to be a full-time photographer, my time would have been better spent actually outside practising my skills by using camera equipment.
However: In the context of why I decided to pursue a degree, it wasn't a waste of time, and I'll explain why.
I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 26 after having substantial trouble finding employment and fitting into society. I ended up confined to my bedroom for a substantial amount of time each week. After some battling, I found myself receiving some benefits, which eventually entitled me to support 8 hours a week. Someone would come to the house and take me out for a day on Fridays. We would explore the local area and, most importantly, I'd get some exercise. On some of those Fridays, we'd end up walking almost ten miles!
The support worker was of a similar mindset to me. He was vastly overqualified but enjoyed helping people. So he found himself in this job, but with a Masters in Photography.
In short, his passion quickly became my passion. I embraced photography and integrated it into our trips. I began using my phone to photograph everything even remotely interesting, refining my skills every week.
This carried on until a particular day when I realised that I could fulfil my long-held dream of having a degree, and I'd have the ability to go out and take photos thanks to my support worker.
So, with a handful of iPhone images, I applied to a course online and was accepted, and the rest is history!
I finally gained my degree in 2019 via an online course with the University of Hertfordshire after six years of work. I overcame many difficulties along the way, and I even managed (somehow) to be the top student in my cohort, with 1st class honours.
Today I'm a self-employed newspaper editor and freelance photographer/artist. The degree hasn't really helped in either of those fields a great deal, and I could have gained the skills I needed without putting myself into £28,000 of debt with the student loans company. If the goal of the degree was to gain employment, it certainly failed.
What it actually did was give me confidence in what I know, and from that standpoint, it was a success. I can say something on the topic, and should anyone question me, I can have a spirited debate, using what I've learned as a guide. Without it, I feel sure I would not feel even half as confident about my art knowledge as I do today.
In short, for those of us who aren't blessed with an abundance of self-confidence, a degree can be a useful affirmation of our talents.
As ever, if you feel you want to donate, please do. I don't put adverts on my website, or annoying popups, because I feel that quality content speaks for itself. Each essay I write is original and isn't lifted, copied and pasted from elsewhere, as so many sites online.