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Choice of Major Does Impact Jobs


Replies to: Choice of Major Does Impact Jobs

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78238 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    mackinaw wrote: »
    I've used this metaphor before. A career is a 'climbing wall.' Not even a 'ladder' with well-defined and reachable steps up a specific hierarchy.

    As a climbing wall, a career is something one begins, but to advance further one may have to make a sideways move, or a downward move, or even "get off the wall" for a spell perhaps for more training, relocating, or addressing family contingencies. A good starting job might provide contacts and experience that will not only pay the rent but make opportunities for subsequent job changes.

    However, initial advantage or disadvantage can affect what starting job one can take. I.e. the first job that comes up (or the highest paying one) to pay the bills and student loans, or wait for something good for career development because your wealthy parents can support you during an extended job search, lower paying job, or unpaid internship? Also, whether you enter the job market in a good economy or recession matters -- recession entrants to the labor force tend to be disadvantaged even a decade or more later.

    Of course, your own choices can matter as well. Among those who earn significantly more than subsistence, those who live below their means are more likely to be able to make a downward move or get off the wall for some time at a later date, living off of saved money. Those who live at or above their means will not have such options because they must chase short term money at every turn (and later put their kids at a starting disadvantage mentioned above).
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78238 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    gwnorth wrote: »
    @Rivet2000 wrote:
    Additionally, many seem to take the rather elitist position that STEM curricula amount to little more than expanded trade school classes...The general education requirements are large and rich in reading, writing, and discussions/debates.
    I can't say in the U.S. but here in Canada engineering degrees in particular are extremely structured with only about 3-4 free electives that can be taken not from a constrained list. It was in large part the very strict structure of the program that led DS19 to choose Physics over Engineering. Both are STEM, but engineering being a professional program leaves very little room for exploration of other interests.

    ABET accredited engineering programs require at least 1/4 of the curriculum in math and natural science, 3/8 in engineering, and an unspecified amount in humanities and social studies (in practice, probably at least 1/8, based on Brown). That could theoretically leave up to 1/4 of the curriculum as free electives. But, in practice, most programs have more than 3/8 in engineering, and many have more than 1/8 in humanities and social studies, so completely free electives may be few or none.

    But technical course work may include technical electives, and humanities and social studies requirements often allow wide student choice in what subjects to take.
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  • scholarminscholarmin 23 replies10 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    The use of "STEM" as a general term is overly broad. There are plenty of underemployed or unemployed chem and (especially) bio majors--those degrees are seldom more applicable to higher level jobs than a social sciences degree, perhaps less so. When people talk about STEM majors that bring more automatic job prospects, they mean engineering and computer science, maybe math and physics IF those had an applied concentration and were more or less functionally engineering degrees. And even in engineering, subfields can be murky--the oil industry (which employs a lot of engineers) can be incredibly cyclical, and layoffs are often brutal in down cycles.
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  • warblersrulewarblersrule 10024 replies171 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited September 8
    You won't find too many employees in their 40s or beyond. Specialized skills may also become obsolete. It's infinitely harder to learn new sophisticated skills when you're in your 40s.
    If only this were the case in academia. The percentage of faculty over 65 doubled from 2000 to 2010, a trend that has only worsened since. My graduate department had several faculty members in their 70s who refuse to retire.
    There are plenty of underemployed or unemployed chem and (especially) bio majors--those degrees are seldom more applicable to higher level jobs than a social sciences degree, perhaps less so. When people talk about STEM majors that bring more automatic job prospects, they mean engineering and computer science, maybe math and physics
    I'dd geology as well, though the geology job market is pretty volatile, and it helps to have a MS. I graduated from college at the height of the recession, and it was my geology degree that netted me decent job offers, not my classics degree.
    edited September 8
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  • foobar1foobar1 211 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Students should study what makes them happy but the data on College Scorecard shows the median starting salaries from STEM/engineering focused schools like RPI, and Stevens are 80K or 90K while the average salary after attending Julliard (one of the best performing arts schools in the world) is $32,800.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34133 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The mention of geology raises a point- the jobs that ARE there are not always where one is willing to live.

    Ya know, not all kids, stem major or not, are qualified to work for the STEM companies that pay top salaries. As in admissions, it takes some effort to match onesself, some polishing to be the right hire. That's before the HR folks do their thing.
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  • mackinawmackinaw 3017 replies53 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would stress that It's the activity -- the type of work, how interesting and challenging it is -- that makes for a satisfying career path. Material rewards really do matter, but they're usually not the first priority in developing a career after college. And as I wrote above, most people do not make a career out of their first job. They adapt as they move along, learn of opportunities to apply their skills and follow their interests.

    For my non-stem son (BA in economics -- maybe that's sort of stem because of the quantitative skills required), salary was never a problem. However, finding an employment situation that allowed him to be creative was a problem for the first 4-5 years. He then quit his job and went out on his own, in a transition that eventually (9-10 years after graduation) not only allowed him to use his creative and technical skills but has also brought him income that is something like 15-20X his initial salary after graduation.

    In the case of my non-stem daughter, who studied design in earning a BFA at an art school, she discovered that she really liked the business side of design as much as the artistic side. After several jobs and employers she went back to school to earn an MBA at a top-10 busines school. With that degree, combined with her background in design, she has made an interesting career that is materially rewarding as well.

    Both of my kids' careers illustrate the value of being multi-talented but also flexible, willing to take some risk, and willing to change jobs to create one's own career path rather than work one's way up in a specific bureaucratic hierarchy that may be a dead-end and boring.

    (My own career is one in which I definitely have climbed a formal career ladder, but as an academic I've had a great deal of autonomy and spend most of my time working on research projects of my own design, funded through external funds [NSF, NIH, etc.] that don't come from my employer -- who, however, pays my salary and rewards me for my teaching, publications, and grant-getting).
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  • toomanyteenstoomanyteens 1020 replies61 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree that 'dream jobs' are overrated and don't happen much no matter what you love and what you major in -- having a job that you can enjoy and get satisfaction out of (which part of is making a decent living for the rest of life's activities) is a win. Major in what you wish you know, but don't be shocked when that basic major isn't lucrative right out of the gate (or in some cases ever)
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  • toomanyteenstoomanyteens 1020 replies61 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    If you take a closer look, some of these highest paying industries employ mostly young people. You won't find too many employees in their 40s or beyond. Specialized skills may also become obsolete. It's infinitely harder to learn new sophisticated skills when you're in your 40s.

    That is why, for those who get to an income level substantially above subsistence, it may make sense to financially plan for the possibility of involuntary retirement at age 40-50.

    Note that, even in the absence of explicit age discrimination, employers often expect that those with more experience are looking for upper level jobs at upper level pay, and are less likely to consider them for entry or mid level jobs. But there are fewer upper level jobs, and many of these are highly specialized (meaning that generalists and those in other specialties are unlikely to be hired).

    I don't know about retirement -- I mean I made some moves and shifts in my career over time, and as I got more experienced I was aware of market shifts and worked to keep myself marketable through continuing education and step by step position shifts -- started as a finance major upon graduation eventually got my PMP and now I am a Director in a learning and development organization for a huge consulting firm. I went from Finance to Training in steps over time making progress salary wise the whole time.
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  • hzhao2004hzhao2004 639 replies2 threadsRegistered User Member
    I believe the true meaning of STEM is a major with math at its core or as a foundation. So econ and statistics are more of a STEM major than bio and chem.
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  • thumper1thumper1 74811 replies3279 threadsRegistered User Senior Member

    I’ve never heard anything so contrary to the definition of STEM. It includes math, but you know, math isn’t everything.

    That “S” is “science” after all.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1369 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^^If you talk to anyone in STEM, who isn't a mathematician, s/he will tell you that math is just a tool.
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1083 replies2 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Funny. Others think that engineering is simply applied mathematics.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1591 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 10
    And applied maths is for those who need to write things down (or use a computer) so can’t cope with pure math ;)

    Unless pre-professional qualifications are involved, employers are mainly selecting for numeracy. So I’d pick a statistics major over a biology major (all else being equal and assuming it’s not computational Bio) any day of the week. Econ is more case by case, lots of economics students skate by without doing any hard math.
    edited September 10
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78238 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 10
    Twoin18 wrote: »
    Econ is more case by case, lots of economics students skate by without doing any hard math.

    Math requirements for economics majors vary considerably. For example, an economics major at Penn State or Florida State may not have taken calculus, but one at UC Santa Cruz had to take some multivariable calculus.

    But those who want to go to PhD study in economics need a lot more math.
    edited September 10
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  • JesusisGodJesusisGod 10 replies3 threadsRegistered User New Member
    I am not a college graduate yet nor a parent, however I will share my personal thoughts and opinions.

    Humanities and social sciences cover a wide range of subjects. I personally do not believe that all humanities related professions are not high paying - for example, I consider clinical psychology to be a humanities related fields. Regardless of how much money people make working in humanities and social sciences related careers, humanities and social sciences are still relevant in many areas - in schools, in trying to understand today's society, in museums, in children's development, in hospitals, in institutional care, in foster care and adoption, in the care of elderly et cetera. Also, many careers that are not high-paying are extremely important - for example, child care workers and infant care providers do not necessarily earn very high wages, but are crucial in today's society.

    I definitely agree that choice of major affects what jobs one is eligible to apply for. For example, to state the obvious, a secondary school teacher needs to have strong subject knowledge in order to teach that subject at secondary level. However, thinking about this makes me think of at least 2 things: if a prospective college student had a specific career in mind, if he or she had the resources to do so wouldn't he or she already have done research into what would be the best course of action? Also, is there are a rule saying college graduates must aim to get a job that is high-paying, and must aim to get a job that either requires a degree or is directly related to the subject that he or she got a degree in? Personally when I was considering whether to go to college or not, though a career path I though I may be interested in after college was one that definitely does not require college, I thought that knowledge in a specific subject at college level would be very useful for that vocation.

    I think that making enough money to have basic needs met - food, clean clothing, clean and safe shelter, healthcare access, feeding and taking care of one's family et cetera - is good and important, but one makes enough to meet those needs and those needs are met to be that is good enough. I think that it is better for a student to study something he or he has interest in and concern for, and can use to contribute to society, than for a student to get a degree in something he or she had little interest in even though it makes him or her eligible to apply for several very high-paying jobs. Honestly I think that if a student tries to get a degree at college in something he or she has little interest in for the sole purpose of getting a job, that might lead him or her to be unsuccessful in passing degree course requirements, and even if he or she does pass the degree course in this hypothetical situation to me it seems questionable his or strengths were utilised well.

    Personally, while I do not believe that college should be mandatory for high school graduates even for those with the opportunity to attend, I am now a college student out of my own choice. I definitely did not decide to go to college simply to get a high-paying job. Rather, I have decided to attend college because I want to acquire knowledge during the course of my college study that I can use to help others, regardless of what my future occupation ends up to be.
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