Higher education is a noble pursuit but, now that everyone’s got a degree, it’s hardly as valuable as it once was – so maybe it’s time to rethink that old Princeton logic. If you’re looking for credentials that will really make you pop on the job market, luckily there are tons of bizarrely specific programs that most people would never dream of pursuing.
The work these degrees designate is far from conventional, and the appeal of these subjects certainly goes against the growing trend towards “professionalization” in the workforce, where just about every task requires some kind of special license to carry out. Chalk it up to 21st century capitalization of everything. But let’s suspend our cynical ideas of education for a moment and appreciate how these fifteen kooky programs might pave the future economy.
15. The Beatles
At Liverpool Hope University, a day in the life of an MA Beatles student explores topics like the 60s music industry and the fab four’s sound production; after 48 weeks on this long and winding road, they present a final dissertation. Academics have been studying John, Paul, George and Ringo for going on 30 years, and MAs and PhDs in the topic have gained enough interest to constitute full programs at prestigious schools like London University.
14. Chicken Science
“Chicken” has been a popular field for a long time in agricultural North America. From Saskatchewan to Texas, graduate poultry science programs require a rigorous background to pursue research in nutrition, physiology, genetics, and farm management, all under the subject of arguably the most indispensable (and poorly treated) animalian resource, the chicken.
Some people aspire to be the ones pulling all the strings – others will keep busy with puppet making, scriptwriting and advanced shadow theatre courses at the University of Connecticut’s MA in puppetry. This isn’t a side-note on the theatre studies course calendar; UConn has been offering the program for five decades, ever since their late master puppeteer Frank W. Ballard conceived it in 1964. As they say, live entertainment, in all its forms, will never be in short demand.
If you idolized Marry Poppins growing up, know this: it’s not enough to be compassionate, safe, a good role model or irresistibly British to meet the booming nanny demand of the 21st century. The Professional Nanny Program at Kentucky’s Sullivan University takes 12 months to teach you the Proper Way to clean up and care for snotty youngsters. Learn that baby care, cooking, event planning and indispensable CPR and First Aid.
For a lowly human, decision-making seems simple: Hungry — eat. But if we had to be conscious of the complex biology underlying everything we do, we’d probably be inclined to sit down and do nothing. In the same way, when the new dominant organism on the planet, the bureaucracy-corporation, wants to make a simple choice like acquire chairs for the board room, it takes a tremendous amount of work from its subordinate nodes: we working professionals. Enter Indiana University’s Decision Sciences program, preparing students for the infinitely complex task of making businesses do things and stuff.
The University of Edinburgh offers the Ouija board of educations, a 3-year doctorate in the psychology of the paranormal. Perform intensive research into people’s claims of paranormal abilities, and try, if you dare, to explain them beyond “they are very confused”.
9. Cannabis Cultivation
This is not a program but an entire college — a Cannabis College — operating out of Oakland, California (where else?). Oaksterdam University teaches dispensary management, “budtending”, cannabis law, cannabis cooking, cannabis economics and pretty much every other useful study prefixed by cannabis. With the legalization movement in the United States, enrolling might just be most useful career investment you’ll make.
Who says you can’t learn to be funny? Toronto’s Humber College gives aspiring humour scientists a chance to hone their stand-up, improv, scriptwriting and sketch comedy while learning about the commercial side of the arts and entertainment industry. Presumably, you won’t be presenting a thesis and defending it to an academic committee; you’ll take stage in Humber’s fully equipped comedy cabaret, and strike down academic hecklers.
7. Bakery Science
When we think bakeries, we imagine pleasant smells floating from warm, soft creations of family-owned kitchens with ancestral cooking instincts. But at Kansas State University, bakers practice cold hard science with state of the art technology, and study the logistics of highly capitalized, profitable baking industries of the 21st century. Things just aren’t the same these days. Choose from production management or cereal chemistry — a baker’s businessman, or a baker with a beaker.
Unlike firefighting, we probably would’ve stuck with this one if we knew about it twenty years ago. Most kids know they’d make a totally awesome adventurer and it’s a shame most of them end up selling out (like Tom Hanks almost did in Big). Redeeming the masses are those brave enrollees in Fleming College’s two-year program in Outdoor and Adventure Education.
The intricacies of compass navigation and multi-day backpacking might not sound terribly exotic, but how about dogsledding and Nordic Skiing? If you want to work the outdoors, especially camps and tours, look no further than this Ontario college.
Not much to say here. It’s the bassoon, that 19th century woodwind that sounds like a foghorn, probably humanity’s most under-appreciated instrument next to the vibraphone. U of Arizona will take you from bedroom bassoonist to chamber bassoonist in their bassoon music stream.
4. Bowling Management
Do you ever find yourself too deep in thought over the logistics of pinsetters, and all those fascinating mechanical networks that must run beneath the lanes, to enjoy actually playing a round of bowling? If so, you’re probably the type Indiana’s Vincennes University attracts to its Bowling Management program.
The only degree of its kind in the country, and let’s face it, the world, you’ll be taking courses in pro shop operations, lane maintenance and responsible alcohol service to break into this market that may or may not be booming.
3. Turfgrass Science
Are you passionate about grass? Do you have big ideas about grass, and do you want to base your living on grass? Assuming you’re not talking about entry ten on our list, we’ll admit we understand—grass is a fascinating subject and Pennsylvania State University would like to help you master the roots and move into the serious field of Turfgrass Science.
Golf courses, homeowners, athletic fields and turf farmers all need your sensibilities. Anywhere regular grass doesn’t cut it, your background in biology and chemistry will inject logical precision into lawns big and small. Become a natural miracle worker, turning shoddy brown patches into rich, perfectly uniform seas of green.
Is there a psychological theory that everything people do is so they can eventually drink beer? The enrollees of Heriot-Watt University’s Brewing and Distilling Masters in Edinburgh certainly have no illusions about their own love for ale. The program only accepts honours students from science or engineering ready to think long and hard about the malting process, beer fermentation, whisky distilling, and filtration; and then, perhaps, have a few drinks to forget all about it.
Like anything at all, packaging can be subject to endless scrutiny, thought and ultimately specialization. From understanding the causes and prevention of physical damage, to maximizing “storage stability” of packaged products, it takes Serious Professionals to hold the art of packaging under a microscope. Hence Michigan State University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Packaging: You’ll never look at boxes the same way again.
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