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Why do people choose (semi) useless majors in college?

Rogerio

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
For ME, picking a major in college is about learning useful skills that will make me hireable. That's why I picked Business and Info Systems. Maybe if that was my passion, then so much better. But it isnt.

For those who choose English or French Lit (to pick as examples), you do so because you're interested in it, but do you also do so with the realization that it will limit your professional exits?

What does an English major do when they get out of college? I've met many that crossed over to office related jobs - which to me implies that maybe there aren't many jobs specifically for English majors. Was the whole point just to pick something easy through college?

Just curious. I never could understand that choice, but I'm pragmatic like that.

Freesia

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
First of all, I think it's unfair to expect an 18-year-old, when deciding on a college major, to make a decision that is essentially going to affect the rest of his life. I know when I went away to college I had very different thoughts about what I wanted to be when I grew up than I have now. Some people entering college may not fully realize how important choosing a major can be. While I work in a field now where I utilize my degree, I have no desire to stay in this field. In fact, I started grad school in a completely different field, kind of like an escape route. And if a lot of the entering college freshmen are anything like me, they might not even be aware of the plethora of career choices this world has to offer. Today, as a 31-year-old, I think, man I should have been a wildlife biology major or a forestry major (just using those as examples). But when I was starting college at the age of 17, I had no idea that such fields even existed. What you consider a "useless" major might be all an individual knows. He may stick with that because it's "safe", not really considering his future employment marketability. That's why I am a firm believer in taking a year or two off between high school and college to work a bit, travel some, and try to find the answer to that annoyingly age old question, what do you want to be when you grow up? I am definitely going to encourage my children to take this route.
"Keep not standing fixed and rooted. Briskly venture, briskly roam." -Goethe

anniebanannie

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
As an English major, I will try not to be offended. Smile

If anything, having that major expanded what I can do. Liberal Arts degrees are very useful indeed. Why?
1. We have to critically think
2. We have to be able to communicate (write cohesively, speak in front of others, etc.)
3. We often have a bit of a creative sides, which comes in handy for problem solving, even in an office environment.

I have never once felt like my major was in any way limiting. When I chose the major, it was to become a teacher. When I found that not to be my immediate calling, I decided to go into marketing. I could have gone into sales, web writing, PR, advertising, copywriting, journalism, magazine writing, editing, technical writing....the list goes on. I feel like I am way better rounded than many business majors I know, who only took business classes and only think in the business way.

I was once in an interview, where the person interviewing me asked, "Why would you major in something as useless as English." Because I was an English major, I knew how to quickly think of supporting arguments as to why this was a good major. He laughed, agreed, and said he was a history major and he usually loved to hire Liberal Arts folks.

So...don't diss the Liberal Arts, please. Or you're likely to get further discourses such as this one, because in addition to being able to argue a point, we'll do it until you see it our way.

Not the first Travis

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
quote:
What does an English major do when they get out of college?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but I tend to dazzle people.

And, to be honest, I find some of the presumptions in your post a bit offensive, Rogerio. Sorry. For a lot of us, University isn't "trade-school". And yes, a lot of us manage to get by.

There. Have I sounded defensive enough?

P.S./EDIT: Funny...Annie and I posted at the same time and she used the "offended" word, also. (Can't wait to meet you in PDX Annie!) Also agree with Freasia....18 is too young (often as not) to know what fits. I picked English Lit because I love reading and writing. No regrets. And the ability to think critically, and articulate an argument, have proven berry, berry valuable in the biz world. Smile

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
I know that when I finally settled on my English degree (after playing around with philosophy, dance performance, theater education and psychology), and when I later went back for another "useless" degree, it wasn't because I wanted to get a job at the end of it. It was because I had found a passion and wanted to learn more--and learn to think more.

Now, 7,000 years later, I finally have a career using both of those impractical degrees. The second one is what put me ahead of the rest of the applicants, and the first one is what got their notice in the first place.

As I tell other academic types: go to college to learn something. The job will come when it comes. So far, this theory has worked out happily. Except for one very desperate year, I've managed, and it's fun to *know* things.
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I'm not at my best when I moralize or philosophize. Logic is elusive, especially to one who so rarely uses it.
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anniebanannie

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
The more I think about this, the more defensive I become.

I'll try to shake it off.

I'd like to add, that in many if not most cases, what you major in during college doesn't have a huge bearing in your career. I could have easily gone the tech route, doing network admin stuff that I learned while in the business world. Or gone many other ways. Exceptions, of course, abound, but much of what people end up doing is by happenstance. (i.e. a colleague of mine was a marketing/english major, and is now one of our tech experts)

(NTFT, I can't wait to meet you, either!!!)

Rogerio

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
If I sounded offensive (and re-reading my post, I can see how it came across that way), it's because I'm not an English major and I couldn't be tactful enough in my message Smile I do apologize, it's not my intention to offend anyone (even if I did so). In MY IGNORANT opinion, studying English seems useless. In your opinion (you, the reader) I'm probably an asshole...

Now regardless of how I put it, Annie does mention that something that I'm obviously guilty of, but I'm definitely not the only one:

quote:
I was once in an interview, where the person interviewing me asked, "Why would you major in something as useless as English."



Put it another way, is there a reverse of the coin, regarding what do English majors think of 'those' other majors? if yes, then what is it? if no, then why does Liberal Arts suffer from such stereotype?



...I could go on, but I'm afraid I've already alienated everyone with a bad post start.

Callilucy

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
Since I've graduated from college a mere year ago let me tell you this. I, as a former practical zoology major, make way less than my wacky lib. arts peers and seem to have no more job opportunities and some may argue, even less.
I changed my ideas of what I wanted to be from the beginning of college to the end and to be honest I currently don't know exactly what I want to do.
I've stayed in my field because it is the type of thing I want. It makes me happy. If I had chosen a major like business for its versatility I would have wanted to shoot myself halfway through freshman year. No offense to Business majors, its just wouldn't be right for me.
My opinion has always been to choose what makes you happy. When it doesn't make you happy anymore choose something else. Your career is not unchangeable. If you want soemthing bad enough you'll find an acceptable way to live off it, maybe not richly but hey, nuthins perfect.
I don't want to be fearless, I want to be brave.

Callilucy

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
and also it has been my observation (polling friends in various majors and discussing their coursework) that a lit major is generally a more demanding course of study than a business major. I'm sure thats all a matter of opinion but I thought I'd throw it out there.
I don't want to be fearless, I want to be brave.

Not the first Travis

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
Relax, Rogerio. We English majors were just arching our backs. We've been hearing it since we were in college....and for some of us, well me, that was 20-something years ago. Back then, if you weren't studying engineering or computer science you were considered "stupid". "Taking the easy way...." Even though, for instance, I could have easily gotten on the math/science track based on test scores, etc.

No offense, taken. Really. But skills are skills and there are a lot of different kinds that make you valuable as far as.... $

P.S. And YES....there is definitely a flip-side to that coin you tossed. You should hear how we talk about you guys!

static

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
quote:
Why do people choose (semi) useless majors in college?
Liberal Arts majors get laid more often.

Rogerio

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
quote:
We've been hearing it since we were in college....


I didn't know/think of it before. The question had only come up for me recently after knowing a French Lit graduate. She now is a dance teacher. Go figure? So I was really focused on that. English was added as an afterthought, but I guess it doesn't change a thing.



quote:
P.S. And YES....there is definitely a flip-side to that coin you tossed. You should hear how we talk about you guys!


Then here's your chance because I'd definitely would like to know!


There's always some inside things that go on in groups - just like it's a common thread here to speak out against people who choose a corporate life in exchange for their souls, and corporate people probably laugh and look down at travellers for their apparent lack of ability to settle down/grow up/whatever.

So I figure there's gotta be something going on between liberal arts and more practical majors too. I know for a fact science majors (engineering et al) look down on us business people because we really don't have to study that much compared to them. And we probably don't learn that much in terms of actual knowledge (ok, Business majors, don't come harp on my back now)

The fact is, in my view, Business isn't much of a vocation, as it's strictly practical. Some might enjoy business as a career choice, just like some might choose Accounting because they like numbers, but most are in because it pays. In that light, it's a bit hard to understand those who choose, well..French Lit.

anniebanannie

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
quote:
So I figure there's gotta be something going on between liberal arts and more practical majors too.


I wish you would stop implying that liberal arts majors are not practical. They are actually very practical, as several of us have stated. I do better financially than many business majors I know. Even with a useless degree.

You took my quote out of context; if you had read the next sentence, you would have seen that the person asking me was totally teasing me, as he was also a LA major.

You say the engineers look down on business people, and apparently you disagree. I disagree as well with you looking down on LA majors.

Rogerio

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
quote:
You say the engineers look down on business people, and apparently you disagree. I disagree as well with you looking down on LA majors.


I just brought it up as a matter of fact of what they think. I *also* mentioned that Liberal Arts students might be thinking of us Biz students as... well, NTFT hasn't come back with that yet Smile. So, LA majors are looking down as well on Business people. In that light, no, I wasn't disagreeing. I acknoledge that it happens from a group-think perspective and that it can't be avoided. We all do it. Wether you care about it (as a member of a group) or not, is a personal choice.


In my defense, to the extent that you hear me say LA is 'less practical', the flip side of this coin is that you won't hear me say 'Business is more artistic than LA' either. To me it seems like a balanced tradeoff, because I don't believe you can say they're both majors are equally useful and artistic.



P.S. - On a quick side note, your quote, even more so IN context, was still a play on the stereotype. "Why would you major in something as useless as English."? to me, that's an inside joke amongst LA because of the fact that that question is said (or thought of) straight faced by non LibArt majors.

Destiny

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2005
quote:
just like it's a common thread here to speak out against people who choose a corporate life in exchange for their souls, and corporate people probably laugh and look down at travellers for their apparent lack of ability to settle down/grow up/whatever.


Corporate life in exchange for their souls... I know exactly what kind of people you're talking about. People like ME!!! I always wanted to take major in Fine Art and become a painter. Oh, how I wanted that freedom and creation! But I cowarded out for stability and security to make sure I've got a roof over my head. Have you ever considered these people to be rather almighty courageous and brave to follow their heart, instead of "lack of ability to settle down/grow up? I know many stories about numerous painters who died of starvation for doing what they believed in. English/French lit major? I don't know what was it they are looking for but I know that they were aware what they want in their life and they follow it, instead of choosing IT field simply to make money. I mean, what is money any way? I fix computers and push papers for living but I hate it. It does provides me the security but I am condamned with doing the job that I hate every single day. I don't understand how other people envy my job. I always admired artist/travellers/writers/even singers and actors for doing what they want to do but I am too much of a chiken shit for doing the same.

And I certainly won't question them "why."
You are a Nic, a class within itself, you cannot be catagorized by anything.


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