Question #2

Q: I’m a sophomore and haven’t yet decided on a major. My parents and everyone in my family think I should study business so I can get a good job after college. I would really want to study history or anthropology, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to get a job with a liberal arts degree. What would you recommend?

A: It all depends on where you see yourself 5 or 10 years down the road. Business, and other professional degrees, will probably lead to better jobs (financially, that is) right after college than liberal arts ones. But research has shown that down the road liberal arts majors make more money and experience more diverse careers than grads of professional programs/schools. My personal take is that college is your last opportunity to earn a broad education in areas that you will not likely have a chance to study again, whereas you can always go to a professional school and get a master’s degree. In other words, you don’t need a business degree to work in business, and you will probably be more appealing to potential employers if you have a liberal arts education than a relatively narrow degree. To make it big, you will need to get an MBA anyway (or a master’s degree in general: a BA is no longer sufficient for most careers). And speaking of that, guess what is the largest group of admitted college grads to Harvard’s prestigious MBA program? People with humanities and social science degrees (42% of all admitted students in 2013, vs. only 21% who had a business degree). There’s a good reason for that: studying the humanities and social sciences trains you in analytical thinking, writing, research, and many other skills useful for almost any career, it makes you a more interesting person to talk to, and it breeds creativity in the long run. Professional schools normally don’t. So my advice would be that if your heart and soul are within the humanities or social sciences and you are not eager to make big bucks right away, study that. You will have better grades studying what you really like, you will actually enjoy your time in college, and in the long run your career would be more satisfying.

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