Is a business major in college the right move?

5 Apr

Periodically some group or another comes out with a list of the top colleges and ranks them according to their methodology. One of the newest lists is from What Will They Learn. They use the following criteria:

What Will They Learn?SM rates each college on whether the institution (or, in many cases, the Arts & Sciences or Liberal Arts divisions) requires seven core subjects: Composition, Literature, Foreign Language, U.S. Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, or Natural or Physical Science. The grade is based on a detailed review of the latest publicly-available online course catalogs. The fact that a college has requirements called Literature or Mathematics does not necessarily mean that students will actually study those subjects. “Distribution requirements” on most campuses permit students to pick from a wide range of courses that often are narrow or even outside the stated field altogether. To determine whether institutions have a solid core curriculum, we defined success in each of the seven subject areas outlined as follows: Composition. A college writing class focusing on grammar, style, clarity, and argument. These courses should be taught by instructors trained to evaluate and teach writing. “Across-the-curriculum” and “writing intensive” courses taught in disciplines other than English do not count if they constitute the only component of the writing requirement. Credit is not given for remedial classes, or if students may test out of the requirement via SAT or ACT scores or departmental tests. Literature. A literature survey course. Narrow, single-author, or esoteric courses do not count for this requirement, but introductions to broad subfields (such as British or Latin American literature) do. Foreign Language. Competency at the intermediate level, defined as at least three semesters of college-level study in any foreign language, three years of high school work or an appropriate examination score. U.S. Government or History. A course in either U.S. history or government with enough breadth to give a broad sweep of American history and institutions. Narrow, niche courses do not count for the requirement, nor do courses that only focus on a particular state or region. Economics. A course covering basic economic principles, preferably an introductory micro- or macroeconomics course taught by faculty from the economics or business departments. Mathematics. A college-level course in mathematics. Specific topics may vary, but must involve study beyond the level of intermediate algebra. Logic classes may count if they are focused on abstract logic. Computer science courses count if they involve programming or advanced study. Credit is not give n for remedial classes, or if students may test out of the requirement via SAT or ACT scores.Natural or Physical Science. A course in biology, geology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, or environmental science, preferably with a laboratory component. Overly narrow courses and courses with weak scientific content are not counted.

The question of what colleges are teaching is more relevant as both students and this society seek to compete in a global economy.

Daniel de Vise in the Washington Post article, College Ratings Ignites Debate Over Core Requirements reports:

Today, only a handful of national universities require students to survey the span of human knowledge. Two schools, Columbia University and the University of Chicago, are known for century-old core programs that have managed to survive. They cover enough subjects to earn each institution a B from the advocates of general education. “If you tried to start a core curriculum today, the battles you’d fight would have to be enormous,” said John Boyer, dean of the college at Chicago. “Once you have it, you don’t want to lose it, because it’s very hard to get it back again….” The schools awarded “A” grades by the raters are an unusual bunch: highly structured military academies, a few public universities with unusually deep general-education lists (the University of Texas at Austin), tradition-minded Christian institutions (Baylor University) and the “great books” schools. All require at least six of the seven “essential” subjects. Harvard, meanwhile, got a D. Only a few of the nation’s top national universities and liberal arts schools fared better. Not by coincidence, the group released its ratings – expanding on a smaller effort a year earlier – to coincide with the popular college rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Georgetown University received a D for requiring just two of the seven prescribed subjects, composition and foreign language. The College of William and Mary, which requires foreign language, math and science, drew a C….

Because of competition in the job market, many students are pursuing a business degree. The question is whether that is the right move?

Melissa Korn has a provocative Wall Street Journal article, Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of a Business Major:

Undergraduate business majors are a dime a dozen on many college campuses. But according to some, they may be worth even less.

More than 20% of U.S. undergraduates are business majors, nearly double the next most common major, social sciences and history.

The proportion has held relatively steady for the past 30 years, but now faculty members, school administrators and corporate recruiters are questioning the value of a business degree at the undergraduate level.

The biggest complaint: The undergraduate degrees focus too much on the nuts and bolts of finance and accounting and don’t develop enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills through long essays, in-class debates and other hallmarks of liberal-arts courses.

Companies say they need flexible thinkers with innovative ideas and a broad knowledge base derived from exposure to multiple disciplines. And while most recruiters don’t outright avoid business majors, companies in consulting, technology and even finance say they’re looking for candidates with a broader academic background.

William Sullivan, co-author of “Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession,” says the divide between business and liberal-arts offerings, however unintentional, has hurt students, who see their business instruction as “isolated” from other disciplines….

Top College Degrees Bachelor’s awarded by field for the 2008-09 academic year

• Business: 347,985, or 21.7%

• Social sciences and history: 168,500, or 10.5%

• Health professions and related clinical sciences: 120,488, or 7.5%

• Education: 101,708, or 6.4% • Psychology: 94,271, or 5.9%

• Visual and performing arts: 89,140, or 5.6%

Source: National Center for Education Studies

Along with more than 20 other U.S. and European business schools, those institutions met last month at George Washington for a conference to discuss ways to better integrate a liberal-arts education into the business curriculum. It was organized by the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit group with an arm that studies management education and society. Other participants included Franklin & Marshall College, Babson College and Esade, a business and law school at Barcelona’s Ramon Llull University….

Such changes should appease recruiters, who have been seeking well-rounded candidates from other disciplines, such as English, economics and engineering. Even financial companies say those students often have sharp critical-thinking skills and problem-solving techniques that business majors sometimes lack.

Business degrees have been offered since at least the 1800s, but they were often considered vocational programs. Some experts argue that the programs belong at trade schools and that students should use their undergraduate years to learn something about the world before heading to business school for an M.B.A. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304072004577323754019227394.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_editorsPicks_2

As the environment becomes more unstable and uncertain, those graduating in a time of flux need to be adaptable.

Career Management quotes the Bureau of Labor Statistics at their site:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is frequently asked for data on how many jobs the average person holds in a lifetime. To determine the number of jobs in a lifetime, one would need data from a “longitudinal” survey that tracks the same respondents over their entire working lives, and so far, no longitudinal survey has ever tracked respondents for that long. However, a survey begun in 1979 has tracked younger baby boomers over a considerable segment of their lives.

A BLS news release published in June 2008 examined the number of jobs that people born in the years 1957 to 1964 held from age 18 to age 42. The title of the report is “Number of Jobs Held, Labor Market Activity, and Earnings Growth among the Youngest Baby Boomers: Results from a Longitudinal Survey.”

These younger baby boomers held an average of 10.8 jobs from ages 18 to 42. (In this report, a job is defined as an uninterrupted period of work with a particular employer.) On average, men held 10.7 jobs and women held 10.3 jobs. Both men and women held more jobs on average in their late teens and early twenties than they held in their mid thirties.

From ages 18 to 42, some of these younger baby boomers held more jobs than average and others held fewer jobs. Twenty-three percent held 15 jobs or more, while 14% held zero to four jobs.

One limitation of the NLSY79 is that it does not reflect the labor market behavior of people who are not in that particular cohort; that is, people who are older or younger than the baby boomers in the survey or who immigrated to the United States after the survey began in 1979. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Frequently Asked Questions http://www.clearmgmt.com/careers.htm

Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.
H. G. Wells

Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.
Marcus Aurelius

Each generation’s job is to question what parents accept on faith, to explore possibilities, and adapt the last generation’s system of values for a new age.
Frank Pittman

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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