Nothing Says “Follow Your Heart” Like A Degree in Business


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

26 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    There’s a reason that we called engineering “pre-business” at my alma mater.Report

    • My undergrad CS class had an epidemic of transfers to Film Studies after the first year.  Joke was on them: the Film Studies survey courses were “watch a bunch of movies and write some bullshit about them”, while the Film Studies curriculum was if anything more abstractly technical than computing science.Report

  2. Avatar bluntobject says:

    Good catch!

    I find it a bit unsettling that of the four most popular majors (by the Chronicle statistics), three of ’em (business, education, and “health”) are above the median in degree participation and graduate earnings in Catherine Rampell’s statistics.  I’m inclined to be charitable and suggest that Tabarrok focused on STEM majors in order to tie them into the subsequent point of “STEM produces structural innovation, therefore it’s not so bad that we subsidize it”, but I agree with Tabarrok on a lot of issues so I’m likely to be biased.  Maybe the kids are all right after all?Report

    • My bigger complaint comes from the other direction: Making non-STEM majors look as trivial and self-gratifying as possible. I can understand the focus on STEM, but at the very least it needed context that wasn’t there (and context, without which, painted a distorted picture).Report

  3. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Definitely a good post.  I had wondered about the lack of attention to business, but hadn’t formalized my thoughts nearly so well and clearly as you did here.

    Also curious, Tabarrok’s own degree program is not in STEM.  I wonder how he rates an economics degree?

    Minor quibble–most of the health professions involve an undergrad degree in Bio or Chem (or at least ExSci, which often involves a substantial amount of science), so I’m unsure whether you should really separate those out.  But that doesn’t detract from your point at all.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to James Hanley says:

      Doctors certainly get undergraduate degrees in related sciences, but I was under the impression that most non-doctor medical professionals have degrees in their specific fields–nursing, pharmacy, etc.Report

      • Alan, some, I’m sure, but not all.  I’m no expert on this, to be sure, but my college’s Health Studies Institute director and I are friends, and she encourages students she advises to consider a wide range of health related fields, and most of those students are beginning by going for a degree in biology.  Some of those will ultimately go to nursing school, into physical therapy grad programs, etc.    I suppose it depends on the specific field and perhaps in the case of nursing what level you’re ultimately shooting fore.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Alan Scott says:

        That was my impression as well, Alan. Dr. Wife’s undergrad degrees are in biochem (yay!) and psychology (boo!). But when it comes to a lot of medical professionals, including medical assistants and medical staff specialists (billing, etc.), I think it comes under the health rubric. And those folks seem to outnumber actual doctors and pharmacists (who, like docs, tend to go scientific I think).Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to James Hanley says:

      Economics is an odd duck.  On the one hand it’s a asocial science, but on the other hand you learn a lot of applied math in an economics degree.Report

  4. Avatar J.L. Wall says:

    I’m going to repeat the same point I just made on Jason’s, but more quickly: the majors Tabarrok points to aren’t liberal arts/humanities programs.  They’re social sciences/performing arts/pre-professional programs.  Which is to say, they’re all kind of the latter: at least in my experience, the social sciences tend to be pre-law/pre-business; performing arts majors recognize that they probably won’t be Broadway stars and are hoping to either use their other major for their career, or use the technical skills they’ve picked up to find work in the backstage area; and journalism/communication are very much pre-professional programs.

    So, like, I’m sorry that we’re not all engineers.  But then a B.S. in Engineering would be pretty worthless and guarantee that one doesn’t know Latin.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to J.L. Wall says:

      (Note that, while being aggravated, I’ve avoided raising the whole matter of question-begging about the value of the humanities.  I’m learning!  I promise!)Report

  5. Avatar NoPublic says:

    I do think there’s a shift in attitude about employment.  With the abrogation of the unwritten contract behind the American Dream more people are trying to find their bliss.  The days when you could put in 40 at the grind and have your hobbies and weekends are gone.  Now it’s put in 50 or 60 (or more) and work at home and be connected 24/7.  Work/Life balance is a joke in the US and kids know it.  They know if they aren’t doing what they love they’re not going to ever get to do it, so they take a shot.  And yes, a lot of them miss.

    The real question is “How do we make more kids love STEM?”  It could start with better education, less rote learning and teaching to the tests and more experimentation and “playful thought” and soft skills that are necessary for growth in those fields.  But that’s counter to what all the business folks want.  They want more hard skills, more rote learning, more automatons.

    It could start with actually celebrating people in those fields instead of ignoring them in favor of athletes and celebutants.  It’s hard to make brains interesting though, and given that the only way our country knows how to keep score is by cash it would take a drastic shift in compensation.  Imagine if the guys who built things actually made as much as the guys who sell them.  Or got bonus structures like them.  There are some Silicon Valley places where that’s true and they’re beating away brains with sticks.  Woz will still never be as famous as Steve was, though.  Nor will Atkinson or Kawasaki or even Ive.  And who even knows who folks like Ritchie, Knuth, and Feynman are anymore?

    Kids used to want to be astronauts.  Now they want to be reality stars.  <shrug>Report

    • Avatar Benno in reply to NoPublic says:

      You say kids used to want to astronauts, and I agree.  But where does that put me?  When I entered kindergarten I wanted to be the guy that painted rocket-ships.

      Maybe not a substantive addition to the discussion, but hopefully a humorous one.Report

      • Avatar bluntobject in reply to Benno says:

        When I started high school I knew, deep down in my heart of hearts, that I wanted to make video games.  I wanted to be a rock-star nerd like John Romero, long hair and groupies and all.  I taught myself C++ and studied hard, got into a computing science programme, started reading research papers on graphics hardware and real-time rendering techniques.

        Then Daikatana happened.

        Okay, grad school it is then….Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to bluntobject says:

          *blink* *blink* are you saying you… actually liked Daikatana? Or that it taught you the folly of video game development? Confuzzled, over.Report

          • Avatar bluntobject in reply to Kimmi says:

            I played the multiplayer demo a little bit.  It had some neat movement mechanics but otherwise didn’t stack up against CPMA.

            Mostly I dropped the idea of diving into game development when I realized just how crappy game-studio working conditions could get, especially for people fresh out of school (see also ea_spouse).  My post above was mostly just an excuse to poke fun at John Romero.Report

  6. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    Good point Will. 

    I wonder if there are two sorts of business majors.  The first sort being professional oriented in how they teach a specific set of skills like accounting, finance, logistics, and then the more liberal-artsy-ish type business admins. 

    Of course, I don’t know much about business or the curriculumns, but from my limited personal interactions with people in those fields at school, it often seemed like there were one group of determined, I’m-getting-this-kind-of-job people, and another group of “I’m getting a degree in “business,” people.

    This dichotamy might mirror loosely the divide in arts and sciences departments between STEM and Social Sciences fields.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      I suspect there are two kinds. And while I am speculating, I would also suspect that the latter group has probably grown in proportion to the former group. Back when I was applying, Colleges of Business had a pretty good reputation for being tough. I wasn’t even sure if I could get into my alma mater’s (which had a particularly good problem, to be fair) before deciding I didn’t want to. But now it seems like it’s being pitched to the everyman who doesn’t know what he wants to do.Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Dude – This post was a most awesome catch!  And the graphs are killer.  Well done.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Before I was a philosophy major, I was a chemistry major.

    Organic, yo.Report

  9. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    Just wanted to say, the graphs were awesome.  I’d support a law requiring the Congressional Research Service to use the same format.Report