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Article: Business is the most popular major but that doesn't mean it's a good choice.


Replies to: Article: Business is the most popular major but that doesn't mean it's a good choice.

  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 31,457 Senior Member
    edited February 15
    U/M classes are similar to AP classes. The program is much more standardized in Ontario or even Canada than accross US high schools.
    But Commerce programs in Canada should not be confused with Business programs in the US. You can make general statements about Commerce graduates because commerce faculties all have high admission standards. It's not the same in the US.
    ( In addition, grading is different. A 80 is considered an OK-to-pretty-good grade in Canada, not so in the US. If you think there's grade compression in Canada, try the US, where currently 53% students get A's in high school.)
    Of course it could be because US students can take classes that in Canada wouldn't be considered U/M and many students take them (CC is an exception and is not representative of US high school students as a whole). For instance, US "college prep Algebra 2" is C-classification in Ontario (at best; depending on the high school it could also be a P course). And for most "normal" business schools/business programs that's what you need to get in, with Precalculus being the first course in the math sequence. You can check a directional such as UAkron (<-picked at random) or a respected private midtier such as Saint Louis University (<- picked because well-respected and considered better level than most, especially in terms of general education requirements and expectations.)
    There's basically no relation between students in these programs and what students at Mendoza, Wharton, Stern... can do and why we can't make blanket statements about Business graduates in the US, unlike in Canada where they're typically, homogeneously, top students who've been selected from a pool of excellent students.
    That's why there's a HUGE difference between a "typical" business program graduate and a "top school" graduate in business (ie., most business students would attend a UAkron/SLU type of business school than a Stern-level school, by defintion) , and why presumably Business is one of the fields where the university you attend makes the most difference in terms of salary/career outcomes.
    Finally, there's also been a shift toward "practicality" since college costs have increased, so that what cobrat said may have been true 15 or 20 years ago for some programs which are no longer in that group; this correlates to some business schools having to "impact" or "restrict" entrance to their majors, where they didn't have to in the 90's. Anecdotally, 15-20 years ago I knew faculty who really disliked their "business majors" because they tended to be the weakest students and the least interested in learning; not so now, where business majors are evenly considered "very strong students" by the same faculty and having business majors in one's class is a positive sign.
  • barronsbarrons Registered User Posts: 24,577 Senior Member
    A key indicator of B school quality is having a well staffed placement office for the exclusive use by the B school students. They also should publish detailed placement data.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,500 Senior Member
    The premise of the thread is faulty. According to "The Economic Value of College Majors," by Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce, if one were to rank major groups by graduates' incomes, the ranking would be:

    (everyone else)

    As business is the most popular major, comprising 26% of college graduates, of course everyone will know unsuccessful graduates. In the aggregate, however, it's a very good choice for many, many people.

    Academic skills do not necessarily correlate with financial success. https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/The-Economic-Value-of-College-Majors-Full-Report-web-FINAL.pdf
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 8,053 Senior Member
    Aggregating the data like this is not helpful for the parents of a 17 year old, Periwinkle.

    Bio is a terrible major from an economic perspective for a kid who won't go on to grad school. Yet it gets lumped with Electrical Engineering-- a terrific major from a comp perspective without a Master's degree- because it is "STEM". The job markets for these two degrees are radically different, absent further education and certification.

    Finance as a career path is very different from an HR path in a discipline like employee relations. I wince when I see kids with a business degree who concentrate in HR. I WORK in HR and we don't hire folks with a degree in HR. We hire folks who studied History, Political Science, Psychology, Statistics...

    Recently our CEO had a question about why health care costs had gone up in the first quarter even though we switched benefit plan providers specifically to bring costs down to 2010 levels. We had to put together an ad hoc team to answer the question. Are you going to put an brand new HR team member on this project team who majored in HR? No, you are not. You are going to staff the team with the math major and the poli sci major (they have experience working with large datasets and can do projections) along with the experts from the Comp and Benefits functions.

    SOME business majors are fine at SOME colleges. Others are a content-heavy/analytically light major which do not lead to the type of outcomes parents think. The directional state college near me has a very popular track in the undergrad business program for event planning. Their grads end up working as concierges at the local Marriot, or equipment rentals at a catering/tent company (jobs which does not require a college degree by the way). The parents think they kid is heading to Wall Street because they majored in "Business".

    Very sad as our President would say.
  • preppedparentpreppedparent Registered User Posts: 2,251 Senior Member
    ^^^You remind me that you can't overthink or plan too far into the future. I think all we can do is help our students cultivate their interest sand talent and help them to shape themselves from the clay that God has forged. My calling was medicine, but one of my good friends at Cornell was in the hotel school. He was meant for this profession and landed a great spot after graduation in a Bermuda hotel. Success is in the eye of the beholder. I have to keep reminding myself that my dear student will have to choose her own path and as long as she is true to herself, she will grow into the person and do the job that is meant to be. How awesome is that! The world spins from many different hands. We can't all nor do we all want to be investment bankers.
  • MagnetronMagnetron Registered User Posts: 2,181 Senior Member
    Here is an example of what a career for a high-achieving HS student looks like who pursued business at Cornell's Hotel program:


    David (I met him, long ago) also had full-tuition scholarship offers from BC and Syracuse for his writing.

    S1, on the other hand, is a senior in the business college at our second-tier state U. Even though they have a freshman writing course for all students and a writing portfolio requirement , some of his almost graduated peers lack the ability to produce clearand organized presentations. The big issue, I guess, is what should we be doing with the typical upper-middle-class kid with a 21 ACT, no marketable talents, and marginal algebra skills? By the way, this scenario is typical where he is but does not apply to S1.

    We can talk all day about our genius babies, selves, relatives, acquaintances and how they succeeded in business. It's not about them. How do we deal with the scads of average kids who want a college education to help them achieve a reasonable middle-class life? Like always, encourage their marketable strengths and help remove the weaknesses. They can't all be plumbers and dental hygienists.

  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 8,053 Senior Member
    Magnetron- I meet some of the kids you are describing. Their parents ask me to help them launch. I am always happy to try, specially when it's months after graduation and the kid has no plan in sight.

    We meet; the kid expresses an interest in "business". I ask, "doing what?" and the kid is clueless. Does the kid read the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Financial Times, or any of the other top tier business publications? No. Does the kid have some curiosity about supply chain management or behavioral economics or big data or how new drugs get to the market? No, nada, zilch. Maybe sometimes the kid thinks he wants to be a day trader- great. Does he follow the financial markets? no. Is he interested in currencies/arbitrage, the history of the Euro and the EU? no. Is he (or she, but usually he) self-studying for part 1 of the CFA? no.

    I have to question what has happened in the four years (sometimes five or more) the kid has spent in a "business program" getting a college degree.

    What makes me sad though is that many of these kids HAD a big interest/passion before they left for college. No- not in business. But in becoming a chef. Interior Design. Landscaping.

    But no- kid needs a degree in something "marketable". What kind of career will a kid have in business who exhibits zero interest in business? Which of my friends, colleagues, professional contacts can I call to say "do me a favor and interview a kid with a business degree who isn't interested in marketing, operations, finance, accounting, investor relations, or any of the things your company does?"
  • GoNoles85GoNoles85 Registered User Posts: 781 Member
    edited February 15
    Not every student in the college of business (COB) wants to work in corporate America. Many want to be entrepreneurs. The key is to start with career first and then work one's way back to academic program or programs. My youngest son might study accounting or ent-ship (I tried to spell it out three times and failed). Thankfully, there are programs for both at the school he wants to go to after he gets out of community college.

    He will get the basics of liberal arts at his CC and then transfer as a junior, just like I did, and just like his older brother did. I had no trouble competing with U students many years ago and my oldest son will be out of grad school this July. Straight through, no problems, and we saved a fortune by going to a CC first.

    My youngest son's boss contacted me to get help for his business setting up his accounting system on Quickbooks. I'm going to help him and I'm going to show my son how it works step by step from A to Z before he has even had an accounting class and, obviously, before he has ever run a real business. He did do "Biz Kids" in middle school.

    A few years from now, if my son does decide to study accounting, he will volunteer for VITA to learn basic tax prep and get certified to do tax returns at that level, to emphasize whatever he learns in a tax class for individuals which can be found in the COB curriculum for accounting majors.

    By the time he gets to the weed out classes in accounting, if he studies that, he will have a leg up and he doesn't read the WSJ or the Economist or any of that heavy stuff. Ninety-five percent of business is common sense actually. Yes, I know you can go wild with math at the MBA level and in Quant Finance and Economics, but most accounting is addition, subtraction and division hardly what anyone would call brain twisting math. The tax code and regs are an absolute mess, even if the party in power right now simplifies it, it is still a mess but software has made doing tax prep manageable.

    My point is, parents and students who might be reading this, you do not have to study for the CFA exam unless you want to work on Wall Street. You could work at the local bank as a branch manager or loan officer. You don't have to be a CPA either. You could be a CMA instead or an EA.

    An accountant without a license can do anything a CPA can do except sign an audit report. Supply chain management means something different for Wal-Mart and Amazon as it does for a Mom & Pop retail business. Don't be scared if you are not the top of 1% but don't be lazy either.

    @blossom I am not sure if you are launching COB grads or high school students but when it comes to business there are plenty of opportunities even if someone isn't a stock market expert.

    Writing, speaking and communication skills are important but you do not have to be Edgar Allan Poe to be successful in business either. I studied accounting and learned 85% of what I know about stock and bond markets and investing after college on my own. I will teach that to my sons also and much of it is basic, easy to find, public company data.

    You can get fancy if want. You can use present value techniques to determine the enterprise present value and then divide by the number of shares outstanding to arrive at an estimated value per share but much of those calculations are based on guess work also including forecasting revenues and then converting that to net cash flows from operations and what deciding discount rate to use. Some folks might have you believe you need to be a CFA to work in the financial services industry, and that might be true at the big firms in NY or London, but it isn't true in Atlanta or Orlando.

    My overall point is, if a student does what he or she is supposed to do it won't matter how good the career center is or if they read the top tier journals they can find a good or great career in business in some cases based on people skills, bravado, and enough technical skills to get by and get trained. If you read this thread, you might think the majority of COB grads can do basic math or write and thus the degree is worthless or overrated. Look at the title of the thread, "business is a popular major but not a good choice" (I am paraphrasing). Business is a good choice if the student has a plan, gets practical skills, is able to do what a third grader can do in math and writing, etc., and gets an internship and works hard. Not everyone wants to wants at Goldman Sachs.
  • MagnetronMagnetron Registered User Posts: 2,181 Senior Member
    S1 would fit that mold, @blossom I agree it is not meant to be a catch-all for those who are directionless. His plan in HS was to pitch in the Major League, and, like most kids, had no real interest in business. He got injured senior year of HS. Now he is graduating from his business college with a good job offer and good business skills. Even S2, he of internships, a stock portfolio, and a business startup, is more interested in hanging out with friends.

    S1's main strength is charisma. Or maybe work ethic. Or his likability. Even the way he looks in a suit. He has a good voice and is a natural at presentations. He is highly organized and that helps too. Those are all strengths that lend themselves toward marketability in the business world provided he gains the knowledge to speak the language. We never considered whether he had done any of the things you listed. There are places for low-charisma kids who read the Economist, but without an aptitude for quant skills I would maybe steer them away from business. The job market is brutal.

    I know some chefs my kids' ages. They knew what was right for them and would have been poor business students. Interior Design and Landscaping are both college majors.
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 12,285 Senior Member
    edited February 15
    The big issue, I guess, is what should we be doing with the typical upper-middle-class kid with a 21 ACT, no marketable talents, and marginal algebra skills? By the way, this scenario is typical where he is but does not apply to S1.

    A few generations ago, such a child might have had the following options:

    1. Given seed money by parents and family friends to make a go at starting and running a small business or working as a door-to-door salesperson right out of HS or even before then. Incidentally, this was how entrepreneurship was learned a few generations ago.

    2. Apprenticeship at family/family friends's business/firm after HS or even before.

    3. Vocational school/higher vocational institute after middle school.

    4. Enlist in the armed forces. In some foreign countries such as Britain or Germany before the 1950's, the male children with such issues could be sent off to undergraduate military academies/officer training schools to make a go of a career of being a military officer....especially the infantry or if on the wealthier side, cavalry branches of the army*.

    Said child might have even attended college at some in-state U and be weeded out within a year or two due to the prevailing campus-wide weed out policies meant to weed out students who couldn't hack it...and it was allowed without the much more modern idea that this is an indictment of the institutions or that the "Profs have failed the student". Considering the expenses for in-state students were very nominal or sometimes even free, the student who was weeded out only incurred tiny, if any debt and the loss of one or two years.....something which could be made good and walked away from much more easily than the large debts now incurred even by in-state students in some public U systems.

    * Up until 1871 the British Army were the most blatant about this by mandating one had to pay exorbitant prices to purchase one's military commission which meant access was mostly closed off to those who weren't from the aristocratic and/or the upper-classes. A career as an Army officer(infantry or cavalry) was often viewed as a good vocation for second and younger sons who weren't going to inherit the family estate....especially those who were considered intellectually/academically dim.

    The smarter second sons from the upper/middle classes who didn't have access/didn't care about social status prestige based on aristocratic pedigree/perception tended to go into the Navy(No purchase of military commissions and aspiring Naval officers must pass more rigorous exams testing academic/technical capabilities).

    The German Imperial Army up until the end of WWI never required the Abitur(College prep HS diploma) as a minimal educational prerequisite for becoming a commissioned officer. While it was proposed by some concerned reformist military officers and many in Prussian/Imperial German society as early as the late 1860's, it was regarded with a mix of classist disdain and fear among many wealthy and not-so-wealthy members of the German aristocratic elite as they feared...with some justification that hiking minimal educational requirements so an Abitur would be required would increase the flood of "undesirable" more academically inclined/intelligent upper/upper-middle class commoners while shutting access to a career path they considered "exclusively theirs".
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,500 Senior Member
    Every single field of study has winners and losers. This discussion has tended to concentrate on the top of the top--Wharton and the like. That's flat out ridiculous for a major chosen by 26% of US undergraduates. When you consider the SAT averages for business majors, they are doing quite well: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_173.asp.

    On page 54 of the report, you can see a breakdown of different business majors. Hospitality management is the lowest paid, at $52,000. A whopping 2.2% of business majors major in hospitality management.

    I worry much more about the students with much higher SAT scores who decide to chase a career as a professor in the humanities, as discussed in this thread: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1963782-the-great-shame-of-our-profession-how-the-humanities-survive-on-exploitation-p1.html. I frankly do not understand why so many adults try to chase that star.
  • CanuckguyCanuckguy Registered User Posts: 1,107 Senior Member
    @MYOS1634 It is always nice to meet some foreign individuals who know more about our education system than I do. I most certainly do not know that our U/M courses are similar to AP classes. I know of the existence of C/P courses of course, but I do not know anything else about them.

    B Comm are usually awarded by older and more established institutions- names like McGill, Toronto, Queen’s, UBC etc. immediately come to mind. The BBA is a more modern name, and is usually associated with newer universities or campuses. So, naturally, commerce students tend to be stronger than BBA students, but not always.

    @Periwinkle You beat me to it. I was about to post this older version from Georgetown called “Hard Times”. I am much more interested in who are getting jobs in hard times, not when times are good. We folks of the north are practical people, and we learned long ago that survival depends on good forward planning.


    Once again, healthcare, STEM and business majors seem to do best.
    In my career experience I found those with business related degrees actually got work DONE.

    There may be some truth to that. Kid1 decided to go back to school to retool. She entered a “competitive” post-degree program at a local college and was surprised at the immaturity of her (social science and humanities) classmates . They were actually complaining about school assignments!

    She also discovered the advantages of being a big fish in a small pond, getting the best internship and later, job offer.
  • ahsmuohahsmuoh Registered User Posts: 1,343 Senior Member
    I have been an executive recruiter for 20 years. The key to undergrad business majors landing is EXPERIENCE. My son is in his sophomore year in a business major and I have made it very clear that he HAS to land an internship this summer. He ha Seto have some kind of internship this summer so he can get a GOOD or GREAT internship next summer. Too many kids don't do this. And he has worked since he was 14 so working is not foreign to him but he needs experience. Companies are already posting summer internships.
  • BingeWatcherBingeWatcher Registered User Posts: 489 Member
    I just want to say this thread is very educational for those of us who nothing about business.
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