Best and worst majors

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by dukebound85, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    In your opinion what would you say they are?

    I realize that people should pursue what they like but there is a line between hobby and profession. For instance, I view and art or music major as something better suited as a hobby more than a profession as those fields do not require a degree to succeed

    When I started college, I debated on my major on many criteria
    1) Am I interested in it?
    2) Are the job prospects good on graduation?
    3) Does the job prospects have decent demand that made going to school a good investment?

    For me, I settled with mechanical engineering and am glad i did. However, I still do not quite understand what people think when they go into history, phych, theater or english, etc. I mean unless you get an advanced degree or want to teach, i dont see the demand in the workplace in a sense

    as ive graduated and seen my friends lives unfold, I find it interesting how many of my friends got jobs in the field they majored in. in my experience, most of the ones who did history, or theater, what have you are now working for a hotel chain or best buy, etc. completely unrelated

    to them i ask (esp the best buy friend), why did you invest soooo much into an education for a job that didnt need it?

    i feel many say college is for learning and broadening the mind. well it is, no argument there. my argument, is why pick a major thats not very useful in terms of getting a job, as thats arguably the #1 reason people go to college (so they can get a good job). instead, why not pick a technical degree somewhat and take loads of electives or classes you find interesting? i know thats what i did and feel it was the best experience

    i bring this up as i find myself thinking do people have any foresight on what they are doing in college? i feel many students just go to college because its expected and just pick relatively easy majors because they are unsure of what they want to do and then ask why am i having a hard time finding job prospects upon graduation

    even with a techincal degree, i initially had a hard time finding jobs but then i ht a streak of receiving many offers so in that sense i was lucky. i couldnt imagine how id be feeling with a degree in hand but no one wanting to hire me

    what are your thoughts. im curious as to what you say as i realize many here have degrees in a multitude of areas. i didnt mean to offend anyone with my idea of "not too useful" degrees but i do feel some are not as enticing as others

    so heres my opinion

    any science field

    no as useful
    speech communications
    most non tech ones (once again just my opinion)
  2. Kamera RAWr macrumors 65816

    Kamera RAWr

    May 15, 2007
    I'm where I need to be
    You forgot to add Philosophy to that "not as useful" list.

    In the words of the well known Kent Brockman "Scott, things aren't as happy as they used to be down here at the unemployment office. Joblessness is no longer just for Philosophy majors - useful people are starting to feel the pinch."

  3. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Are we talking about grad or undergrad degrees? If we are talking about undergrad I'd move "science" into the "not as useful" column. As I understand it undergrad science degrees will typically only get you peon level work. If you want the ability to advance you need a Masters or a PhD.

    As far as what degrees people pick... I do agree that many people kinda coast thru college w/o really thinking about the ramifications of their decisions because they feel like they are supposed to go to college and they are away from home for the first time and party their brains out. They are living completely in the moment and not thinking at all about what happens in few short years when college is over. For people that end up spending a lifetime bouncing from one dead-end job to the other I don't think it really matters what they majored in as the problem is w/them not their major. If that makes sense.

    I knew people in school that were history or theater majors because that's what they loved but they weren't delusional about it. They knew what typical career paths were available and were fine w/that. Heck, I majored in radio and TV production and that is pretty much that. I'm not qualified to do anything else, but I kinda like that sink or swim situation. :D The only thing I probably would've done different while in college was I would've taken a business minor (or at least some basic businesses electives). Someday, when I get older, I might like to teach at a college but that would require me getting a masters. Ugh.

    Even though a degree isn't required to get a job in my field I always recommend people to go college for the education and experiences. There are things I was able to do in college, or because of college, that I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise (or at least not do as easily). Also, as the saying goes, "write what you know" and getting a well rounded education expands your horizons and knowledge base.

  4. 7on macrumors 601


    Nov 9, 2003
    Dress Rosa
    Hey hey, I have a BFA! ;)

    I got it because I enjoy it and want to make a career out of illustration. Saddly I'm stuck doing the design for a corporation's website atm because of A) Location and B) Economy. I need to put more of an effort out, but I have a pretty cushy job and make a decent amount of money. If I found an illustration gig right now I'd most likely be bringing in at least $5k less a year in KC.
  5. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Depends on where you're from. If you're from the UK, a history degree will get you a job. After all, it's all about the skills you gained while you were at uni.

    In America, it's a bit different.

    Anyway, worst degree is "Film Studies". No idea why you'd take it. I have many friends who have graduated from a similar major, and one friend has made it into the film industry. She's lucky, and she's resourceful.
  6. ejb190 macrumors 65816


    I would put almost anything in Agriculture under useful right now.

    I have a degree in horticulture and find myself working as an entomologist. Not too far of a leap, but I wish I had taken a few different classes in college now (or payed more attention in the ones I did take).

    I was talking to a friend of mine about getting an MBA. (His wife was head of admissions for that program.) I was told I had better have a plan for using that degree or it was a waste of time.

    The degrees I don't get are pre-med, pre-vet, pre-law, or pre-anything. What do you do with a pre-med major that doesn't get into medical school? (And don't say vet school - I know my share of doctors who went to medical school because they couldn't get into vet school...)
  7. blackfox macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2003
    Doesn't anyone go to school to just learn?

    I understand the utility of parlaying the time and expense of College into a lucrative career, but considering the focus-level of many undergrads, it seems ridiculous to look at it as specific job-training.

    I have always been under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that undergraduate degrees relevance to the job market is largely in the implication that you learned certain broad skills - such as organization and critical-thinking - rather than specific skills tailored to a profession.

    In further higher education, however, things become more focused.

    As a case in point, the much-maligned Philosophy degree became quite attractive to certain businesses (over a business degree), as it implied critical-thinking skills and a certain broad understanding of the human-condition.

    Certain skills can be taught easily by employers - the template you put those upon cannot.

    Perhaps I am biased, as I never worked in a field related to my BS...I guess experiences may vary...

    So the worst Degree to take?

    The one you feel you should take for external reasons.
  8. benbondu macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2004
    I don't think it makes much sense to go into a lot of debt for a "not so useful" degree, but for many people it really doesn't matter what they major in.

    Especially in a slow economy, the workplace is so saturated with college degrees that you're at a large disadvantage if you don't have one, regardless of what it is. My friend a few years back looking for work in the IT field where he had a number of years experience. He didn't go to college and he lost a lot of positions to similarly qualified candidates who had "not so useful" history and psychology degrees. If you're an employer choosing between 2 people who could probably do the job equally well, you'll probably choose the one with the degree.

    My girlfriend was a history major and now has a job working with disadvantaged kids at a shelter. The degree probably didn't do anything to help her career, but it was a life enriching experience and well worth it in my estimation. Then again, she went to an inexpensive school and was nearly debt free when she graduated.

    Some people are going to enter and finish college without any great career prospects. I think that's fine in that it doesn't mean college was a "waste". You just want to make sure you're not $50,000+ in debt at the end of it unless you've got a very well paying job waiting for you.

    But to get more on topic; I think you can add Economics to the "sort of useful" column. You may not use it everyday, but having a grasp of basic economics terms is appreciated in several fields.
  9. adroit macrumors 6502


    Sep 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC
    I think it's not really technical vs art degree that determine what is or is not useful. I think the problem with most arts degrees taught in universities is the lack of real life application.

    Someone who likes fine art and good at it, can always go to a design school can become an interior designer, graphic designer, fashion designer etc etc. There are lots of good paying jobs in those areas (some of them even make more than engineers).

    IMHO, undergrad science degree is just as useless as arts if you don't have a plan to do something else with it.
  10. P-Worm macrumors 68020


    Jul 16, 2002
    Salt Lake City, UT
    I think my experience is pretty relevant to the question.

    I have always loved making movie. I wrote my first screenplay when I was four (though it was only about a page and written in Crayon) and used my dad's videocamera to make a movie. All throughout school, I would make movies whenever an assignment would allow me to. I loved getting together with my friends and directing them in front of the camera.

    My interest grew in high school. I made both a blue screen and a green screen setup in my basement to try my hand at compositing. I read a lot of books on the subject and continued to try new things.

    So naturally, when I graduated and went to school, I picked a major I thought would be best for me: Mechanical Engineering.

    I have always been really good at math and physics and out of fear of getting a degree that would be 'worthless' to me, I decided to get a degree that would actually help me find a job.

    Now I'm in my senior year working on a senior design project of robots built from scratch. It's pretty cool, but now I don't know what to do with myself. I'm good at mechanical engineering, but I don't have a passion for it. There are plenty of classes that I hated going to, not because they were hard, but because they were boring.

    I'm not really sure what to do with my life. I still have the desire to be a filmmaker. Whenever I finish my homework, I scour books or websites I find to increase my understanding of filmmaking. Sometimes I ask myself, "Why am I in the major that I am in when I study another topic in my free time?"

    I've decided that I'm going to try and give filmmaking a shot after I graduate. I'm either going go for a Masters in film or take time off to make my first feature length movie. If it doesn't work out, I have my Mechanical Engineering degree to work with. If I don't at least try to follow my dreams, however, I'll live with that dreaded "What if?" question the rest of my life.

  11. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Unless you plan on teaching film studies at a university don't waste your time w/graduate film work. All it does is take up time and money that could be spent working on your film or someone else's film. Stay resilient and don't give up if filmmaking is where your heart is. It will suck at first, and it will take years before you start gaining any real traction but I've met 'woulda, shoulda, couldas' over the years and, like you said, I'd rather fail miserably going after my dream than What If myself later in life. And at first I did fail miserably but after a few years of misery, debt, and "this is not where I thought I would be 2 years out of college" things started to click for me. I never lost sight of the big picture, never lost sight of my goals, and kept moving towards them. Sometimes w/baby steps and sometimes w/huge leaps of faith. It hasn't been easy, and I've still got many goals to reach, but if it was easy it wouldn't be nearly as rewarding.:)

    Many people, including myself, routinely work on side projects while working a day job. Our day job pays the bills and the side project is something we hope to parley into a day job down the road. So even if you have to get a mechanical engineering to pay the bills keep up w/filmmaking on the side so that when opportunity knocks you'll be ready, and willing, to answer.

  12. Xfujinon macrumors 6502

    Jul 27, 2007
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Pre-med, pre-law, and the like are more categorical majors. Generally it is possible to latch them on to other similar majors that have nearly identical course requirements. For me, I was a biology/biochemistry double major, but I added the "Pre-Med" stamp to my education by filling out some paperwork, taking the MCAT, and doing a few other miscellaneous things. The course differences between "biology" and "pre-med" were nonexistant.

    Majoring purely in pre-med is ridiculous unless you know without a shadow of a doubt you will end up in med school, pharm school, PA school, professional psychology, etc. I wanted to go to med school. I did. I don't consider my major useless, although some of the best people in my med school are English majors and music majors.

    My other "major" was philosophy, although it does not count because I could only technically have two majors on file. I also did not finish the thesis. Overall, I can't say why I did it, other than to simply have something to do instead of taking useless electives.

    More often than not, I feel like my college "majors" were a waste of my time, as they have not turned out to be of any use in med school, or even when I want to grad school. I SHOULD have "majored" in art and music so I could have my (now practically useless) college degree, as I have seen plenty of times that these people get into medical school anyway and do just fine. By being one of the pre-med tools, I squandered chances I had to make art and enjoy myself.

    College is not about job skills, although the argument is valid that it probably should be. More or less, college is a four-year hiatus from being an adult that most American kids take after High School.

    Anyway, my own list of the most useless and most useful majors, based on keeping tabs on hundreds of colleagues, friends, family, etc. I base this on the employable nature of the graduates, the utility across various job fields, and the frequency with which these people seem to work in decent jobs without much additional training needed beyond elective advancement through graduate degrees.

    1. Engineering
    2. Economics
    3. Computer Science
    4. (honorable mention) Accounting

    1. Theater/Film
    2. English Literature
    3. Psychology

    While there are a multitude of jobs for psychology, most of the pure psychology undergrads I meet ended up working in a Starbucks tier job upon graduation, which makes it hard to pay back their $50k or more of loans. I know of not one single theater major with a decent job, although I know of at least one film major working as a production house specialist of some sort. English literature majors vastly outnumber those among their ranks that actually go on to produce anything written that is worth reading. I know of several who are copy editors working minumum wage, several that work for local no-name newspapers, and several that work alongside the psych majors at Starbucks.

    But, go to college to explore yourself and to find what you actually want to do. Grad school is becoming the de novo standard for employability and assessment of dedication in many fields. Most of my med school class has master's degrees or advanced training.
  13. P-Worm macrumors 68020


    Jul 16, 2002
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Oh believe me, I have thought long and hard about that. The problem that I have is that getting a graduate degree is something I feel I should do even if it is a waste of time. I don't know, I guess it's just one of those things that I want to do for myself so that I will always know that I did it.

    Nevertheless, I have not yet decided what I am going to do. I'm going to apply for the Masters program, but I haven't decided whether I will go through with it.

  14. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    If it's something you want to do for yourself, awesome. I just wanted to make sure you knew it wouldn't be something that would really help you career-wise in the industry.

  15. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Nov 19, 2007
    Portland, OR
    I'm dual majoring in Health Promotion & Education and Biology. I'm also a pre-med, but that just means that I want to go to medical school, since there is no pre-med degree here that the University of Utah.

    I like my program, I've learned a lot of very practical things while completing my undergraduate education. I've taken courses on stress management, death and dying, chronic diseases, etc. As well as become EMT certified. My degree program will have me EMT (I) certified before I graduate, with stamps for wilderness medicine and Back-country rescue. I think I won't have too much trouble finding work after graduation if Medical School doesn't pan out. And Paramedic training would be a 6 month program if I decided to take that route.

    I think that the old saying, "pick something you love and run with it" has a lot of value. Yes your average engineer will make more money than your average english major. But if the engineer hates his/her job then it's all worthless isn't it?

    We can all find ways to be happy on any income, and a college degree will help make the most opportunity for income in the field we want to work in. The trick is to find a field that suits you and holds your interest.

    I know that I could never major in Chemistry. I hate my Chem courses with a passion. And if I could be making 6 figures as a chemist, versus making $60,000 or so as a Paramedic, I'll take the Paramedic job every time. You gotta do what makes you happy.

  16. mactastic macrumors 68040


    Apr 24, 2003
    I find it interesting that y'all consistently rank English Literature on the useless end of the scale. My wife has managed to make a pretty good career for herself with an American Studies BA and an English Lit MA. She's (IMHO -- and yes, I'm sure I'm biased) easily one of the top 10 lit teachers in her entire district. The kids love her specifically because she has such a broad background and such a passion for literature that she inspires them to be passionate. She got an entire class of normally apathetic seniors to go see a local production of Hamlet, fer chrissakes.

    Failing being a teacher, she would have been more than capable to do technical writing, editing, freelance work or one of many other possible outlets for her passion for the written word.

    It's all about what you do with your degree, not what your degree is in.

    Personally, I was always drawn towards a more practical education. My BArch is really only useful for one thing -- being an architect. And that's ok with me. I love building stuff. Always have, since I was a kid with Legos and Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys. I love getting into the nitty gritty of expansion joints, and connection details between steel framing members, and the inner workings of an electrical substation, while at the same time being in charge of a symphony of consultants and contractors who help bring your vision to reality. It's a hell of a rush, if you ask me.
  17. gonyr macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2006
    Niagara County, NY
    Best: Master's at Augusta National
    Worst: Australian Open Tennis
  18. ZiggyPastorius macrumors 68040


    Sep 16, 2007
    Berklee College of Music
    Theology is easily the most worthless degree you could want. "What do you do?" "Oh, I study the nature of a [non-existent] (if you're atheist) / being that is unstudiable by its nature (if you're religious)." What a load of bollocks.

    Anyways, I am planning on getting a Doctorate in composition, and I require it to become a college professor. Plus, I'm sure I could learn all the stuff I want to learn about music easier going through college than I could hoping I get lucky in music and trying to teach myself.
  19. rhsgolfer33 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 6, 2006
    She sounds like an excellent teacher, getting high school students to go to a play is almost impossible.

    I don't think English Lit is a useless degree, but I recall reading that there was an overabundance of students graduating with degrees in English and English Lit. At the least it teaches you how to read critically and write well, all key in any profession and certainly key to many graduate programs. Personally, I wish I could take more English Lit classes, even the boring English Lit reading is far more entertaining than my Intermediate Accounting textbook.

    I do love Accounting however. I think it is an extremely useful major. There are so many jobs out there for Accounting degree holders, even in the current economic situation recruiting from bigger firms is still happening quite a lot. Job offers are good, usually in the $45-$55,000 range with quite a few bonus opportunities ($5000 if you earn your CPA in the first year you work there) and decent benefits. Additionally, if you make it to partner at a midsize to large firm you are looking at some pretty nice pay checks (estimates I've seen are about $400,000 on average for a partner at a Big 4 firm). Lots of hours during tax or audit season though, 100+ hours a week aren't uncommon, but some places pay time and a half to their salaried staff accountants.

    Least usefully is tough, Philosophy is up there, science degrees and psych, pre anything, especially if you don't intend on going to graduate school.

    Of course, usefulness is a pretty relative trait, is Philosophy really not useful if thats what you love? Hard to say.
  20. Kamera RAWr macrumors 65816

    Kamera RAWr

    May 15, 2007
    I'm where I need to be
    I would think a B.S. in a hard science would be useful as long as you weren't so intent on working in the research or engineering field. I mean if you love science and want to study it, but don't mind a career in an unrelated field, say business, I'd think you'd be fine. At least with a science degree it shows you're an intelligent, problem solving, analytically thinking, etc. person. Although I'm not saying that those who don't study hard sciences don't have those traits, of course.
  21. abijnk macrumors 68040


    Oct 15, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Engineering disciplines (and I include CS in this as well) teach you to think in a certain way which, as far as I've seen, is the most valuable thing you get out of the degree. I think that's why they are so useful.
  22. iShater macrumors 604


    Aug 13, 2002
    Didn't we have a thread like this a few months ago? :confused:
  23. wadejc85 macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2008
    Engineering or business, in my opinion.

    I graduated with an Environmental Engineering degree. There are plenty of jobs in this field. I was offered 3 positions in 3 different engineering disciplines right out of college. Just a thought. ;)
  24. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    The idea is to be creative with the philosophy.
    Major - Chemical Eng.
    Minor - Philosophy


    I think the most worthless major would be Art History. What can you do with art history, you could be a curator at an art gallery. So that's would be like 1 or 2 openings at a time at best.

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