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Choice of college major and usefulness

lee_44106

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I read in our local paper this morning that there is a growing number of college age women who are incurring debt at an alarming rate (school loan, credit cards ....etc) Apparently lots of college graduates are coming out with debt.

This got me thinking. In anticipation of such a financial burden, why would anybody choose college majors that, essentially, have poor financial returns. I certainly admire learning for the sake of learning, but in trying times as this it just does not make sense to major in, for instance, art/philosophy/ethnic studies/etc, that YOU know just ain't gonna get you paid much.

I hear lots of people advocating for college attendance and the importance of a college degree. What good, may I ask, is that BA in art history when the four or more years of "college education" could have been better spent in trade school.

*I must clarify before you all crucify me that I HAVE NOTHING against art history; am merely thinking of an example that would illustrate my point.
 

Violinist

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Originally Posted by lee_44106
I read in our local paper this morning that there is a growing number of college age women who are incurring debt at an alarming rate (school loan, credit cards ....etc) Apparently lots of college graduates are coming out with debt.

This got me thinking. In anticipation of such a financial burden, why would anybody choose college majors that, essentially, have poor financial returns. I certainly admire learning for the sake of learning, but in trying times as this it just does not make sense to major in, for instance, art/philosophy/ethnic studies/etc, that YOU know just ain't gonna get you paid much.

I hear lots of people advocating for college attendance and the importance of a college degree. What good, may I ask, is that BA in art history when the four or more years of "college education" could have been better spent in trade school.

*I must clarify before you all crucify me that I HAVE NOTHING against art history; am merely thinking of an example that would illustrate my point.


well, the whole thing about students incurring massive debt has been around for a long time. You have to remember that a BA is a gateway degree. If you want to become a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, or go get an MBA, you need such a degree. Also keep in mind that not everyone's idea of a fulfilling life is a little house with a white picket fence and a golden retriever. For some people, learning and the pursuit of new knowledge is the ultimate goal.
 

GQgeek

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So basically everyone should major in business or economics? I think it's a bad idea to major in something you're not interested in because unless you're extremely disciplined, you won't do as well and you'll be one of those guys that graduates college having learned absolutely nothing.

Except for specific fields, which tend to be focused upon on this forum (i-banking, law), for a lot of jobs, any degree will do. Generally speaking, when you start your career it's at the bottom and you learn the job as you go. Years ago there was an article in Macleans magazine that did a survey of CEOs and a majority of them had arts degrees, only about 20% had finance or accounting degrees.

There's nothing to stop an arts major from writing the CFA exams, which i'd wager carries more weight than a finance degree. I also think that Arts majors tend to be more interesting to talk to which has indirect payoffs in the long-run. Most business grads know nothing about history, culture, language, etc. The scope of their knowledge is very limited and to be quite frank I find that a lot of business students lack any sort of real intellect or creativity, which perhaps explains why there are so many CEOs with non-business degrees.
 

Thomas

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Wait a second...Art History worked for Mr. Smith...Oh, wait, that was a movie and he was an assassin and married to Angelina Jolie... Never Mind.

As part of our school's MBA re-accreditation we wrote criticism attacking or defending the way B-schools are shaping the curriculum to satisfy employers in a given field or area. To me it smacked of trade school, but then again, these schools are churning out students to get jobs - the higher-paying, the better.

The well-rounded individual is - sad to say - surplus to requirements in our dumbed-down work-first society. I periodically consider chucking the job to take up teaching and shape impressionable young minds, but I know what they have to go through in that sorely unappreciated profession and shudder at the thought.
 

Violinist

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Here's a strange little statistic; in canada, music majors constitute the highest percantage of successful applications to med school. I hear it's a similar situation in the USA as well.
 

lee_44106

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Are the people to whom the pursuit of knowledge is the ultimate goal the same ones we all hear who still live at home with their parents, because they can't afford to strike out on their own?

GQ, you have a very good point.

Personally, I view college attendance (4 years) and the resultant diploma as an investment. Any investment must come with a return, in this case the return being financial security. If, after incurring the debt of four years of college, I'm no better off than the kid with the GED, than what's the point?
 

Violinist

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Originally Posted by lee_44106
Are the people to whom the pursuit of knowledge is the ultimate goal the same ones we all hear who still live at home with their parents, because they can't afford to strike out on their own?

GQ, you have a very good point.

Personally, I view college attendance (4 years) and the resultant diploma as an investment. Any investment must come with a return, in this case the return being financial security. If, after incurring the debt of four years of college, I'm no better off than the kid with the GED, than what's the point?


lee, generally these people become professors. People might not necessarily be living with their parents, but I can imagine that quie a few of them don't lead great lives in the materialist sense.
 

lee_44106

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Originally Posted by Violinist
Here's a strange little statistic; in canada, music majors constitute the highest percantage of successful applications to med school. I hear it's a similar situation in the USA as well.


I seriously doubt that, at least in the US. All the doctors I know are not very musically inclined
, and they certainly can't do this
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by lee_44106
I read in our local paper this morning that there is a growing number of college age women who are incurring debt at an alarming rate (school loan, credit cards ....etc) Apparently lots of college graduates are coming out with debt.

This got me thinking. In anticipation of such a financial burden, why would anybody choose college majors that, essentially, have poor financial returns. I certainly admire learning for the sake of learning, but in trying times as this it just does not make sense to major in, for instance, art/philosophy/ethnic studies/etc, that YOU know just ain't gonna get you paid much.

I hear lots of people advocating for college attendance and the importance of a college degree. What good, may I ask, is that BA in art history when the four or more years of "college education" could have been better spent in trade school.

*I must clarify before you all crucify me that I HAVE NOTHING against art history; am merely thinking of an example that would illustrate my point.


Depends on what's important to you. Your proposed comparison of the art history BA and trade school only works if one accepts your premise that what matters is increasing your earning power. Plenty of folks are perfectly happy studying/working in fields they enjoy and care about, even if they could make more money elsewhere.
Besides, it's not like your life's course is irrevocably fixed upon graduation at age 21 or whatever. Once can always go to biz school or whatever and chase the dollars down the road if one wishes.
 

Violinist

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Originally Posted by lee_44106
I seriously doubt that, at least in the US. All the doctors I know are not very musically inclined
, and they certainly can't do this


Anecdotal evidence is pretty much the lowest form of knowledge. Perhaps you should do the 4 years of college thing.

Keep in mind that people apply to med school from lots and lots of different fields, and music prepares you extremely well for certain aspects of practicing medicine. That and the fact that there's not much money to be made in music (well, the music you would study in unviersity), which is probably a motivating factor to go to med school.
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by GQgeek
So basically everyone should major in business or economics? I think it's a bad idea to major in something you're not interested in because unless you're extremely disciplined, you won't do as well and you'll be one of those guys that graduates college having learned absolutely nothing.

Except for specific fields, which tend to be focused upon on this forum (i-banking, law), for a lot of jobs, any degree will do. Generally speaking, when you start your career it's at the bottom and you learn the job as you go. Years ago there was an article in Macleans magazine that did a survey of CEOs and a majority of them had arts degrees, only about 20% had finance or accounting degrees.

There's nothing to stop an arts major from writing the CFA exams, which i'd wager carries more weight than a finance degree. I also think that Arts majors tend to be more interesting to talk to which has indirect payoffs in the long-run. Most business grads know nothing about history, culture, language, etc. The scope of their knowledge is very limited and to be quite frank I find that a lot of business students lack any sort of real intellect or creativity, which perhaps explains why there are so many CEOs with non-business degrees.

I can't speak for i-banking, but for law any field will do as well. I majored in English. Law school classmates of mine had undergraduate majors in everything from (gasp) art history to philosophy to economics to political science to mathematics to peace & conflict studies to electrical engineering. To the extent anything from undergraduate studies proved useful in law school, it would have been the development of skills that are fostered by the study of pretty much any of the humanities: reading comprehension, clear writing, logical thinking, etc.
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by lee_44106
I seriously doubt that, at least in the US. All the doctors I know are not very musically inclined
, and they certainly can't do this

Why, because it runs contrary to your blind prejudices? Among many other things, becoming an accomplished musician reguires a level of discipline and focus that would well serve one aiming for medical school. Depending on what kind of medicine one intends to practice, manual dexterity isn't a bad thing to have either.
 

designprofessor

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Yeah, when you see a great film, or get a nice work of art, or have an architect build you a nice home, or you buy an expertly crafted suit, you'll be glad that those of us with useless degrees study hard and enjoy what we do.
 

briancl

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My college studies were not focused on a career. I've got degrees in Statistics and Computer Science and a minor in Math. I don't want anything to do with stats/math on the career level and likewise for any computer science related field (programming, research/academics).

I also have a lot of debt from school.. about 50k upon graduation.

I'm not upset if I happen to be part of some growing trend or whatever else. I'm happy with my choices.
 

Bradford

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As I'm currently enrolled in an MBA program, I will say that there are several music majors in our programs, lots of engineers and numerous finance types. Then there are the liberal arts majors like me (political science in my case).

I would argue that the point of college is to teach you how to analyze issues and think, not necessarily prepare you for a specific career, and you can learn these skills in many different fields - be it business, art history, music, philosophy, religious studies or even political science.

The business world changes so quickly that it is unlikely that any university could keep up with the changes. Had I been trained in the computer programs that were popular when I was in college, I'm doubt my WordPerfect, DBase III & Lotus skills would have remained relevant for long.
 

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