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Did college prepare you (or your kid) well for your job?

eiholieiholi Registered User Posts: 278 Junior Member
I asked a recent top few ranked college graduate who works competently for a top few ranked tech company this question and the answer surprised me. There is no direct link. I didn't ask any follow up questions but wonder if top colleges prepare their graduates for any challenges threw at them. What colleges are the best that prepare their graduates well, tech schools, liberal arts schools, etc? Is college major really that important?
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Replies to: Did college prepare you (or your kid) well for your job?

  • MidwestmomofboysMidwestmomofboys Registered User Posts: 2,479 Senior Member
    edited April 21
    As a lawyer and professor, I think the most important skills (for a non-STEM kid) are the ones developed in traditional liberal arts education -- critical thinking, reading, and writing as well as effective oral communication. Throw in the ability to manage long-term projects and work with a group, and you are in good shape to compete in the workplace.
  • BunsenBurnerBunsenBurner Registered User Posts: 29,711 Senior Member
    Is college major really that important? Possibly. If you want to be a medicinal chemist, majoring in political science is not wise. And vice versa - majoring in mechanical engineering will not be helpful for getting into a PhD program in English lit. That said, there are many majors that provide sufficient transferrable skills for other fields.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 58,785 Senior Member
    In theory, graduation with a bachelor's degree should indicate that the graduate has a reasonable level of proficiency and knowledge in:

    A. Non-major-specific skills, such as thinking, reading, writing/communication, math/statistics, and research skills. In theory, these skills are taught and practiced in a wide range of college courses, and colleges' general education requirements may be designed to ensure that students have a course selection that includes teaching and practice in those skills.

    B. Major or course work specific skills and knowledge.

    Arguably, (A) is important in all jobs where a bachelor's degree should be expected for reasons other than credential creep, while (B) is important for specific types of jobs where one's major or course work is relevant (e.g. engineer, teacher, research), but less so for some other types of jobs (e.g. many "general business" jobs).

    Whether a given college actually does prepare a new graduate well for jobs with respect to (A) and (where relevant) (B) may vary.
  • eiholieiholi Registered User Posts: 278 Junior Member
    I'd think the most important skills @Midwestmomofboys listed apply to STEM kids too unless they are lopsided STEM. As for picking colleges, I wonder if CMU is really better than Brown for a CS person in the long run.

    The importance of college major is a recent casual topic in my house, between parents of course (son's young), and I'm not convinced it is that important as long as a student can do the job, e.g., coding not being a CS major (maybe a minor).
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 58,785 Senior Member
    CMU will force a CS (or other) major to take more courses in other subjects than Brown, so if you are concerned about the student getting practice in general skills more heavily practiced outside of major, CMU may be preferable if s/he would not choose such courses on his/her own.
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    edited April 21
    I think my school did a reasonably good job of teaching technical skills. It did not teach me how to write for a non-technical audience. Maybe it's the school or the major, but mostly I think colleges don't do a good job of teaching business writing to undergrads. Writing a 1-page memo on why your team needs $X more dollars to complete the project on time or a 2-page executive summary for a contract bid is very different than a college assignment of writing a 30 page doorstop on the history of the French revolution, where you have to cite everyone else's ideas that you incorporated without exception or else get charged with plagiarism.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 27,666 Senior Member
    Our S seems to be thriving in his job. I can't tell how much of that is hard-wired "him" vs what he learned from getting EE in college. Whichever, we are glad he's found a good fit and making a decent living doing things he enjoys.
  • 1Dreamer1Dreamer Registered User Posts: 297 Junior Member
    Agree on critical thinking, time management skills, etc., and would add people skills you just can’t get with limited exposure to various types of people outside the bubble many of us are raised in. I believe I learned more outside the classroom than I did in it from my dorm and apartment experiences in college, living in close quarters with and around people of various races, religions, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds I’d never had such an up close and personal view of before, sharing limited space with these virtual strangers, but finding common ground and building common bonds, discovering that we really are more alike than we are different, and learning the art of compromise. Priceless IMO. I drank it all in and think it helped a great deal in preparing me for the working world.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 58,785 Senior Member
    1Dreamer wrote:
    would add people skills you just can’t get with limited exposure to various types of people outside the bubble many of us are raised in. I believe I learned more outside the classroom than I did in it from my dorm and apartment experiences in college, living in close quarters with and around people of various races, religions, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds I’d never had such an up close and personal view of before, sharing limited space with these virtual strangers, but finding common ground and building common bonds, discovering that we really are more alike than we are different, and learning the art of compromise. Priceless IMO.

    However, note that most college students commute to a community college or local university, rather than live on their own at the college. Although even commuter-based colleges and universities tend to be more diverse than high schools (due to having a larger region to draw students from), usually resulting in somewhat greater exposure to diversity, it should not be assumed that a college graduate has had the same residential college experience that seems to be commonly assumed on these forums, and note that some residential colleges are not particularly diverse.
  • 1Dreamer1Dreamer Registered User Posts: 297 Junior Member
    @ucbalumnus , true. No argument there, but I wasn't making assumptions. I was merely responding to the question in the thread title based on my personal experience.
    Did college prepare you (or your kid) well for your job?

    I fully realize how fortunate I was to have that opportunity, and I can't deny feeling it better prepared me for certain people challenges in the working world than if I hadn't had the experience. For others, it may not make that much of a difference. I can only speak for myself.
  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom Registered User Posts: 3,111 Senior Member
    edited April 21
    My first job out of college (English major) was a tech writing position with a software developer. My soon-to-be new manager said, "You're hired. I can teach you the technology. I can't teach you to write." I have had a very successful career and have found that:
    ...critical thinking, reading, and writing as well as effective oral communication.
    are just about everything. I have been in technology for 35 years and those are still the first skills I look for and value most in new hires. All the rest is on-the-job training.

    As an aside, among our senior management, we joke that what we are really looking for are "those we'd hang out with in a bar anyway." Specifically, we're looking for a particular sense of humor, hard to define, but we know it when we hear it. This has nothing to do with where a candidate went to school or what s/he studied but has been the best predictor of success in our company.
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    Here's my take on the skills Midwestmomofboys listed.

    Critical Thinking - Everyone says they want critical thinking, but how do you define it and measure it? It often seems to come down to Justice Stewart's: I know it when I see it.

    Reading - The only way to truly understand an engineering journal paper is to have a deep understanding of the underlying technology. The most dangerous person on a project is a non-technical person, who reads a technical document, and "thinks" he understood it.

    Writing - Writing well is important. However, as I alluded to above, what's considered good and bad writing can be very application specific.

    Oral Communication - Everyone should take some classes in public speaking.
  • kjofkwkjofkw Registered User Posts: 664 Member
    I majored in Architecture. I was even told (way back then), it was not necessary to learn how to draft…it was necessary to learn how to think. The department was often proud of the number of students who found careers outside traditional Architecture. When I graduated, I thought I was woefully underprepared, and that the reason for all the outside careers was partially dependent on that belief. Looking back, however, it did teach how to assess a problem, brainstorm ways to solve it, create a solution from nothing but an idea, communicate visually and verbally to defend (or sell) it to others. It also taught us how to work with teams, which proved invaluable. I still think most architecture students spend too much time in their studios, however, and need to work with other majors (who will more often than not become their bosses and clients). Along that end, I also think architecture curriculums embedded in Liberal Arts programs have a leg up on those in Engineering programs, because they allow or force students to experience the world outside of studio.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Super Moderator Posts: 28,499 Super Moderator
    I majored in structural engineering - actually, architectural engineering, which meant we concentrated on buildings. I had to take a couple of semesters of architectural design - I was terrible at that, ha.

    I think it's very hard to fit enough classes in a four-year program to be prepared to design buildings. There's so much to learn! Analysis, construction methods, design of materials including concrete, steel, wood, etc. Getting a master's degree helped me learn more of the theory behind the building codes, but I was still pretty lost at my first job. I asked an older engineer how long it took to feel halfway competent, and he smiled and said, "Oh, about five years." And he was right!
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 27,666 Senior Member
    I majored in sociology and went to law school. I was pretty good at legal research and writing legal briefs but didn't LOVE it. Critical thinking and problem solving was very useful--that was learned in Girl Scouts (which I did grades 4-12), as well as my many summer and school jobs, as well as throughout schools. Lots of law is "on the job" training.
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