Thursday, March 5, 2009

Choosing a College Major

From a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article by Middlebury Economics Professor David Colander:

“We asked economics students to identify majors as hard, moderate, or easy, and we found that 33 percent viewed economics as hard, 3 percent said sociology was hard, 7 percent saw psychology as hard, and 13 percent thought political science was hard. Since other social sciences were the primary alternative majors that most of the economics students considered, that data is compelling evidence that the respondents perceived those other majors as too easy. Students likely reasoned that taking a "too easy" major would signal to potential employers that the student had chosen an easy path through college, thereby hurting their chances of being hired.”

“On the other end of the spectrum were math and science majors. In the survey, 81 percent saw chemistry as hard, 84 percent thought physics was hard, and 68 percent said math was hard.”

It’s surprising how much this sounded like my thoughts when I was an undergrad. Political Science and Sociology classes can be harder than economics classes, but for me science always seemed too hard. Maybe it was because of the 3 hour labs.

I think students choose their major based on the perceived difficulty and the job prospects they think they will get from it. Students will vary in their ability in certain subjects so difficulty will vary from person to person. At Towson there are about by my guess 10 times as many business majors as economics majors. I wonder if this is a result of a perception that the economics major is too hard or easy; or is that they perceive economics majors are less likely to get jobs.

If anyone would care to comment, did you choose your major based on ease or job prospects?


Bookmark and Share

7 comments:

Britt said...

I'm a big ol' weirdo, I guess, because I picked a major based on what I loved doing. :) I was interested in doing something (graduate school in astronomy) where you didn't have a lot of options as far as majors go. ;)

I guess I do have to admit that I *almost* didn't double-major with physics. I had all the requirements except for a second semester of Intermediate Lab. The first semester was traumatic enough that I wasn't going to take it again. But they switched instructors and I was willing to give it another shot. It sucked much less the second time.

So in *some* sense, easiness played a part in my choice of majors.

My husband is taking an econ class this semester, incidentally. He sez it's pretty easy. ;)

He's blogging about it:
http://www.jadettman.com/deconstructinginfinity

Jennie said...

Seriously? I majored in history because I enjoyed it. Writing a research paper wasn't easier than a calc problem set, but it was much more fun. Especially in liberal arts, if you're not going to be an academic, your major tends not to play a huge role in future career choices. Study what you love for the sake of learning. Find a subject where the hard work doesn't seem that hard, because it's just too interesting and you enjoy making the discoveries you're making.

Chinese might have given me a few more career choices than history did, not that I'm using them. Chinese was more about cultivating my image as a woman of mystery and intrigue by studying abroad in a cool place.

Seth Gitter said...

I like both your stories. If you love it the hard work doesn't sound as hard. I enjoyed making songs about economic model, and playing with data.

Thanks for sharing!

LE said...

I chose physics because it was the easy option. I was choosing between physics and theater, and it's way easier to major in physics and do theater than to major in theater and do physics.

Now I do physics all the time, and I really wish I had taken psychology and stats instead of theater and history.

LE said...

I chose physics because it was the easy option. I was choosing between physics and theater, and it's way easier to major in physics and do theater than to major in theater and do physics.

Now I do physics all the time, and I really wish I had taken psychology and stats instead of theater and history.

Ryan014 said...

Okay so I am going to be a senior this next year, and i recently started thinking about what college majors i might be interested in. After thinking I feel like i want to incorporate something business like, possibly business administration. How can i make sure i dont chose the wrong major?

Research Writer said...

I appreciate the work of all people who share information with others.

College Research Papers