On path to riches, no sign of fluffy majors

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by bruno, May 24, 2011.

  1. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    http://www.washingtonpost.com/busin...s-a-major-deal/2011/05/23/AF7r459G_story.html

    Some food for thought as you consider your college major. Reality is often kind of unpleasant to hear but you should anyway. It's a technical world getting more so every day. Everyone should be well read, and everyone should possess the ability to write clearly and concisely. But this echoes what I have thought for a long time (and what I told my son which he promptly ignored)- your marketability as a liberal arts major is significantly lower now and in the future than if you are an engineer. Sure- you get more rack time in college as a Liberal Arts major than you do as an ME; EE; CE etc... but as the old Fram Oil commercial goes: "you can pay me now or pay me later".
    I often times hear people give the advice to major in what you are interested in. True enough but counterbalancing that is that as an 18 year old you don't know that much about your options so what you are interested in is often the product of a fairly narrow life perspective. The other problem with that advice is that it's often a thin cover for sanctioned laziness- "I'm good at reading and writing so it won't be that hard to major in history, while it will be real work with lots of math if I become an engineer".
    Lest you think that I am an engineer reinforcing my opinion of myself- I can say all of this because I have both a Bachelor's and Masters in History- which I have had to overcome in my post military career. Bluntly- the only fields which value those degrees is academia and the law and in both cases they only value them as stepping stones to higher degrees. So while there may not be an absolute right and wrong answer to the question of what do I major in- but there are definitely some truths you should consider when making the decision.

     
    Last edited: May 24, 2011
  2. sprog

    sprog Member

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    Et tu, Brute?

    I'd point out that if you're awful at math, it's probably better to have a strong GPA in a subject that interests you versus being an ME major who flunked out.

    Also, as important as money is, if you would be absolutely miserable studying math/science/engineering, it doesn't make much sense to go that route. English majors make less, for sure. Still, there are those who would be a hell of a lot happier teaching literature to 10th graders as opposed to programming software or designing a bridge. It takes all kinds.

    And I have a BA in International Studies with an English minor..... :0).

    Heck, if you really want to rake in the bucks, skip college and become a plumber. There is a dearth of people entering the skilled trades, and there are buckets of cash to be had there.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2011
  3. Idzak

    Idzak Member

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    The Frame Work

    The selection of career path is filled with stumbling blocks, dreams and misinformation. About thirty years ago there was an interesting TV program called “All Things Great and Small” about the idyllic life of an English veterinarian. Within a few years the vet schools were filled with those looking for the dream. Now NCIS is inspiring many young people to go into forensic medicine. Are there too many English majors for the current technological economy? Probably yes. Certainly way too many lawyers.:shake:
    I contend that the present economy and the high utilization of engineering talent must decline because the present fossil-fuel based economy probably cannot be sustained at this level for more than three to four generations. What will the future economy be like? I have no idea but hopefully our basic humanity will remain intact. Within that frame work, humanity will need farmers, poets, philosophers and dreamers. And a song to stir the spirit.
     
  4. 1017225

    1017225 Member

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    Sounds nice, but is it inherently implausible and idealistic. Dreamers can dream all they want, but its the engineers and mathematicians who get the work done. A "dreamer" with a major in an academic field is infinitely more valuable than one with a major in a social science.
     
  5. evilleramsfan

    evilleramsfan Member

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    Most farmers I know are more engineer than some of the engineers I have dealt with. All you have to do is see what a little ingenuity and a supply of baling wire can yield.....
     
  6. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    Being this is a military forum, there is another point to see. Because income is important to many people, their career choice many times will be determined by financial/material desires and not passion. However; for the person who joins the military, and possibly stays in for 20+ years to receive a retirement, their career paths broaden immensely because their financial situation is a lot more productive. The person who really wants to work in the fields of history, psychology, art, etc... might not be able to do so out of college because of financial necessity; but if they make that their 2nd career after retiring from the military, it becomes quite feasible.

    1. Retired military has that additional income to offset the lower paid vocation which you have a passion for.
    2. 20+ years of military service has also prepared you with many additional skills that employers want that aren't measured with a piece of "Sheep-Skin". e.g. management, leadership, data/computer skills, and many other "Life-Skills". Life skills are becoming very desirable in today's society. Employers want individuals that can actually accomplish something, not what's on a piece of paper.

    As important, being we are speaking of military officers, most, "All" if staying in for a career, will have HAD to accomplish grad school or higher. So, your B.S/B.A degree becomes irrelevant if you get a master's degree in something more marketable. Yes, the english or art major with a BA/BS MIGHT get a master's in political science or archeology; but they don't have to. Many will get a master's in business and get an MBA. Also; that psychology degree might not net a high paying career with a BS label; but if they go to grad school and get a master's in counseling, marketing, criminal psychology, etc..., then all sorts of other doors are opened.

    So while I somewhat agree with the article for the 22 year old coming out of college, I definitely don't agree with it for the career military person, the individual that continues on and gets a master's or a PHD, or even the military officer who has 5-10 years of military service and experience behind them. Individuals in the military have a lot of intangible benefits from military service and employment, that a typical degree does not show.
     
  7. sprog

    sprog Member

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    I think the point of the article was to compare those with undergraduate degrees only. This raises a second issue in my mind. As you point out, those with graduate degrees, for the most part, do better than those with only a BA or BS. This means that while someone may have a BA in international studies, if they also have a JD with a bar admission, they tend to even out or come ahead of the engineers. It would seem that the graduate degree for the humanities major is really the equivalent of what an undergraduate degree was worth maybe 25 years ago. The humanities/social sciences BA/BS is the new high school diploma, although this isn't necessarily the case for engineers. It would seem the BS/BSE degrees in the technical fields retain the value that they have had for many years. Of course, an engineer with an advanced degree can expect to do very well for themselves.

    I'm not sure I agree with my own assessment, but I think there is a point to it.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2011
  8. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    I agree with all of that-and certainly no amount of education in any field will overcome lack of drive and initiative. But what this really points out to me is the relative utility of the major. For the most part a liberal arts undergraduate degree is basically only looked at as stepping stone to another more functional degree. So when you major in those degrees - count on being relatively unemployable when you first graduate from school and when you do get hired you will do so at a much lower scale. The army and the USMC don't really care- but it's hard to argue that the Navy and the AF treat them the same- their ratio of technical and engineering majors to LA majors for ROTC scholarships for example is extremely skewed- not because they think every O1 is going to be an engineer- but because they have little faith that they can place an english major in a Nuclear submarine successfully, while they are reasonably sure that they can throw a Mechanical engineer into the supply corps and they will be able to succeed.
    I just am extremely skeptical of a system that produces so many very fluffy degrees that require advanced schooling - beyond the extremely expensive advanced schooling you've already paid for, in order to be employed at the entry level of a professional career. I'm convinced that this trend is going to get more accentuated not less as the world becomes more and more technological. I believe that we would be far better served by restructuring Bachelors degreee programs so that they are technical by major but with heavy doses of writing and history thrown in as required electives so that essentially the outcome is that we have more literate engineers. I just don't think that in 2011 you can be considered well educated if you don't have a strong foundation in math, hard sciences and engineering - along with the ability to read, think, analyze and write well. (Now that I think about it- that rather describes the educational philosophy followed at the Service Academies.) And while that's my personal bias (again keep in mind my own undergrad degree and Masters degrees which I think were mostly neutral at best in my quest to find a post military career, which I was able to do because of 20+ years experience as a career army officer and despite rather than becasue of the multiple degrees). More to the point of this article- I think that it is one shared by many of the employers of the world as well

    BTW TPG- I agree completely about your assessment of the test taking generation- I'm not sure though if it really is a result of the NCLB driven assessment testing craze that pervades HS and elementary school these days. It could be thecause, but I think that it also corresponds to the availability of the internet. Critical writing skills are generally on the decline and IMO the idea of research and analysis has been turned on its head- it's all spoon feeding and regurgitation now with bites provided via google and facebook. People don't think and analyze - they link with little or no commentary or thought of their own. The challenge of the future- how to educate folks to look at the internet as a source of information but not as the source of thoughts and conclusions?
     
  9. sprog

    sprog Member

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    A math teacher in my middle school once promised me that algebra would save my life one day. It has yet to do so. :shake:
     
  10. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

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    I think the West Point WCS is a reflectoin of this discussion

    Academic 60%
    Leadership 30%
    Physical 10%

    It's not the same percentage in real life, but your college major/advance degrees (academic), life/job experience (leadership), and your appearance (physical) heavily influences how your career/life unfolds.
     

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