When I was choosing which degree to do, I was young.
I mean young-for-eighteen young.
I was painfully shy — to the point where I couldn’t go into a shop by myself.
Fast-forward ten years later, and I’ve acted in amateur dramatics plays, presented webinars to a hundred people, auditioned for Russel Howard’s Good News (spoiler alert: I didn’t get it), and next month, I’ll be presenting live at a big industry conference.
That’s quite a leap, from the person who broke out in hives at the thought of making a phone call to someone looking for her next stage.
So how did I do it?
Honestly? I owe a lot of it to my degree.
I’m going to start off by acknowledging my social and financial ability to go to university.
I know that’s a privilege, and I know that not everyone has the same opportunities as I have had.
So with that thought, I’d like to share some of the things I learned with my ‘fluff’ Bachelor of Arts degree, so more people can possibly benefit, and take to their own stage — whatever that means to them.
I ended up choosing Drama Studies at Bath Spa University.
I enjoyed acting, and the geek in me loved the theory behind it, and while I admired many actors, I simply didn’t have the confidence (at the time) to apply for full-on Performing Arts.
So I chose a mix between the performance and theoretical side of acting and dramaturgy — a Bachelor of Arts.
At the time, I didn’t even consider the potential stigma of BA degrees, having attended a school that prized itself on its students’ artistic achievements.
I thought that was what the world was like.
How wrong I was.
Instead, when getting my first job, fresh out of university, I was faced with job descriptions requesting ‘real’ degrees — scientific, economic, engineering-based qualifications.
For a long time, I flitted from job-to-job, never really using the skills I had learned at university, and never staying for longer than 6 months out of sheer boredom.
What I discovered in my aimless job-flitting was that I had the skills to go further in those organisations, but they weren’t willing to give me the platform to demonstrate them.
Because I didn’t have what they classed as a real degree.
I was overlooked as a valuable worker for a long time.
I found that, at university, I had learned ‘soft skills’.
Soft skills are defined as: “Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Soft skills can only be demonstrated by interacting with others — they’re not like ‘hard skills’, which can be easily demonstrated through qualifications and certificates.
Soft skills are also often seen as something that people either have an aptitude for, or they don’t, and never will.
They’re seen as harder to develop than hard skills.
So, then, why do we roll our eyes when someone says that they have a degree in Media Studies, Creative Writing, or Drama Studies?#
We need to stop the stigma of BA degrees.
Employers, give us a chance to show you what we’ve learned and how we can translate that to your organisation.
BSc holders, stop turning your noses up at us — our achievements are just as valid as yours, just in a different way.
We shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed to say what we studied, for fear of ridicule.
It took me a long time (almost 10 years), but now I’m proud of my BA in Drama Studies.
It’s given me confidence, my own voice, flexibility, the ability to communicate effectively with others, research skills, the capacity to look at creative works more objectively, the ability to work well with others in a team, patience, and shown me that I can stand on a stage by myself and deliver a monologue or presentation.
So let me hear you, BA alumni!
Let’s shout it from the rooftops — stop the stigma!