Friday Question of the Day – If You Were in College Today, What Would You Study and Why?

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I’m stealing this question from a friend of mine who posted it on his facebook page because I think it’s a brilliant question. I studied political science but if I were in college today I think I’d study geography or architecture. I’m not sure I have the drawing skills for architecture but I think I’d find it fascinating. I’m also not sure what the job market is for a geography major but I can stare at maps for hours. Hmm, I guess I’d like to study more history too. You see this is a great question. What would you study? Would you study for the sake of finding it interesting or for the sake of getting a future job? Would anybody decide not to go to college?

87 Comment

  • I got my degree in International Relations. If I could do it all over again, I would have taken a year or two off to work and travel, then gone to college, and probably studied history. Le sigh…to be young and unawares again!!

  • I studied English and Psychology as an undergrad – now I’m drawn to learn more about agriculture/natural resource management/forestry. My inner farm girl is coming out!

  • I was a poli sci major also, but if I could go back I would study econ/statistics – both because they’re interesting and because they’re useful for the work I’d like to do. Instead I’m working part-time on master’s degree #2 (Econ) which will be done in 2 years, 15 years after graduating from college. 15 years? Damn I’m getting old.

  • My degree was in graphic arts. If I could do it again I would have taken two years off after high school and traveled my butt off. Then, I would have studied mechanical engineering and interned abroad every summer.

  • tonyr

    I studied Math and would do it again in a heartbeat; the beauty, the symmetry and the intellectual challenges live with me forever. Second choice would be Geology.

  • What I studied – poli sci/film undergrad; IR/econ – masters

    What I should have studied – statistics and computer science

    • Though, if I totally had a re-do in my life, I would probably have done a pre-med track and then tried to go to med school. Both of my parents were blue collar, no one in my family had ever gone to college, and we had no family friends who were doctors. I really had no idea what it meant to be a doctor.
      Now that I’m an adult and have friends who are doctors, it really is a great job. Well compensated, recession-proof, portable (you can go ANYWHERE in the world and have a job), well respected in your community, both creative and analytical, and – most importantly – you’re doing a great service for mankind. Yeah, the hours are long and it requires a lot of hard work, but so does any career in which you want to be successful. I just think being a doctor really is a “complete package”. I also am very much a “people person”, so I think I would have great bedside manner. Le sigh.

      • Really, I’ve heard being a doctor is not nearly as great as it sounds (great pay but shitty job).

        • Like I said, it’s a very tough job but all my friends who are doctors find it to be personally rewarding and fulfilling. If you don’t like interacting with people, I could see how you wouldn’t like being a doctor.
          Can’t say the same for many of the lawyers I know. I know so many who absolutely hate their jobs. But they’re stuck with a career decision they made at age 22.

          • If you have to choose between doctor or lawyer (as many Asian parents still stubbornly push that agenda) doctor’s definitely the way to go these days. But if I had to go back to school for something lucrative I’d do IT security. I know a kid who’s already pulling 6 figures in that field, and he’s only been out of college 3 years!

  • I majored in sociology, got a masters in information science. Do over, do a gap year, live in europe then study history, art.

  • English. I get paid way the hell too much to edit 90-word sentences from functionally illiterate Business, Stat, and Poly Sci majors.

    • And yet you are abbreviating it “Poly” instead of “Poli”

    • Yes, thank you. Liberal arts degrees teach you how to think and write which is much more useful than preparing for a specific career, especially at a time when most people change their careers more than five times during their life. I was a history major and my first job was director of marketing because I could write well, unlike business majors. Full disclosure: I am now a professor who also does some real estate entrepreurship on the side.

  • My degree is in Communication Studies but if I could do it all over again I would study health and nutrition. I would also study abroad any chance that was thrown my way. I tried to be conservative and work during the school year and summers to help pay for tuition, but looking back I would much rather have enjoyed the experience and pay a little more on my student loans now.

  • binpetworth

    While my Women’s Studies/MFA in Creative Writing degrees have taken me surprising far, I find the new field of human geography incredibly interesting. Ditto urban planning.

    • binpetworth

      I mean surprisingly…yes, I are a editor 🙂

      • Man, it’s rough out there for us writer/editors! I find that once people find out what I do for a living, they’re much less forgiving of the normal mistakes and typos that human beings tend to make. Of course, I’m also much less forgiving of myself when I make those errors! 😛

        I always tell people I studied English so I could learn to talk real good. I did my Masters in English at a British university, and people would always smile and say, “Oh, so you’ve come to learn the language, have you?”

  • Quotia Zelda

    I studied history and German and went on to get a couple of graduate degrees in history. I would absolutely do it again. I loved graduate school, and I love the work I’m doing now.

    I might take more science classes (I loved geology and wish I’d taken genetics), and I’d probably also take more math/statistics/economics. I hated math at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate it more, and I think a good grounding in statistics is never a bad thing. It’s hard, though, to fit in everything that looks interesting plus the requirements for two majors.

    I’d also like to take some forestry classes, but my LAC didn’t offer that, and there’s no way I would go back on that experience. My college was a really great fit for me.

    Really, I just need to be an eternal student.

  • Undergrad Major: Economics
    Revised: Would have double majored or at least minored in Math and/or Computer Science.

  • I studied Environmental Policy in my undergrad, and just finished my Energy Policy master degree. If I had to do it all over again, I’d go into veterinary medicine or enology 🙂

  • Math / Comp Sci all the way.

  • Wouldn’t change a thing. I majored in religious studies at a Quaker college based on the cool course offerings and my inclination towards the subject. The experience taught me how to think critically and write good :0 I never thought for a second that I’d have a career in religion. I became a journalist and then a PR dude.

    I second the sentiment about taking a little time off. Then again, I sort of needed the structure of college.

  • Naval Architecture… and I would do it again, but work harder…

  • I studied mechanical engineering and I’d do it again.

  • the Caine-Hackman Theory: No matter what time it is, 24 hours a day, you can find a Michael Caine or Gene Hackman movie playing on TV

  • Call me lame (I call it practical!) but I probably would have just studied accounting.

  • I might just pay attention. I pretty much boozed and frolicked my way through school, rarely attending class, and even more rarely consulting anything other than somebody else’s notes. Now that I have an appreciation for the capacity of a young body to do all of that and still do the work I think that would be my plan. I would change schools though, go somewhere warmer and bigger than where I went.

    • Yes, I don’t know if I would have changed what I studied, but I would choose a school in a warmer and more interesting place than St. Louis.

  • On reflection I’d like to amend my answer. I would change my major to some foreign language. The one thing I can’t do that I really wish I could, is speak another language.

  • I studied Civil Engineering, and if I had to do it over again I would still study Civil Engineering. I love what I do. It isn’t the highest paid field, but I love that everything Civil Engineers do impact everyone everyday even if they don’t know it. I might add a Transportation Planning degree, either through a minor or a duel program if I went back.

  • gotryit

    My degree is in engineering physics, but if I did it again, I would go for a double major in mechanical engineering and systems engineering / operations research and do it over 5 years instead of 4. The higher level math / physics is neat and I can do it, but I don’t have any interest in going into research, so a more practical engineering major would have been better.

  • Wouldn’t change my major (economics, which I enjoy and is useful) but wish I’d played a sport. If you don’t use your metabolism, you lose it.

  • I was torn between social sciences and biology. Choose biology and wound up with a MS in environmental science. If I could do it over I would pick geography which from my perspective seems like the perfect blend of the social and physical sciences and there are actually jobs in geography. Another possibility is urban planning.

  • i take the question to mean what would i go back to school for today.
    I think if i were to go to college today, I would get an MBA, possibly economics.

    • Scrillin

      Yeah I think you’re the only one who got it.

      • oh well. ; )
        i do like the idea of a redo time machine. but i’d love to hear what people would go back for mid career. possibly a change, possibly furthering what they already do.
        far more interesting to me.

        • gotryit

          I don’t think you could pay me to go back to school for something academic. If I were to take additional classes now, they would be community college classes: shop, welding, cooking. Maybe foreign language classes too.

  • Undergrad in math. Masters in stats. Wouldn’t change it for the world. Being a statistician is the total package: no long hours, complete autonomy, diverse works problems and killer pay.

  • pablo .raw

    Archaeology and Anthropology. And Art History.
    And I’m sure if I did that, I would be wishing I was an architect and a photographer. 🙂

  • I’d study the same thing (engineering’s been good to me) but maybe take an extra year to minor in one of my other interests (languages or art history or photography). Although I would have loved culinary school!

  • I studied public health and I still love public health, but if I had to do college over again I would first take a year off in between high school and college, then study urban planning or nursing.

  • I’d study something more science-related, instead of my actual major in Law & Society. Maybe biology with a minor in statistics so I could go into epidemiology, which I find fascinating

  • For undergrad, I started out as a Psych major and ended with Public Health. If I were doing it for fun (or if I didn’t have to worry about the likelihood of getting a job out of the deal,) I would study film with a minor in sculpture.

  • Funny. After getting my BS in Latin American Studies, I traveled around the world for a year (South America, Europe, Africa, Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia; came back and got a job as a high school Spanish teacher; then traveled back to Brazil for Carnaval; resigned from my teaching job, traveled all of South America, and then moved to Brazil; came back taught high school Spanish again; then got a job leading high school students through Latin America; decided after five years of traveling and teaching to apply to law school; took the LSAT, applied to law school, and moved to Mexico City for 8 months; came back and decided to lead one final trip to Peru but traveled across China first; started law school 7 years after graduating from college and loved every minute of being in school.
    I kind of wish I would have gone to law school right away and by now I would be making a lot of money . . . just to look back and write a post about how I wish I would have traveled more when I was younger.

  • I had a double major in English and Psychology. If I had it all to do over I’d study English and Geology.

  • I majored in China Studies and history and would do the same again. Even though my current job and life don’t involve China, the experience was incredibly valuable. I started college at age 23, which left tons of time for boozing and travel before college. I might start college a bit sooner, but at that point in my life, it was the right thing to do. A few years after graduating, I went back for a BFA in photography, also a valuable experience that I would do over again, even though I never became a professional photographer.

  • Like half the people reading this, I majored in poli sci. More specifically, I graduated from UMD in 2010 with the hopes of landing a postion on the HIll or in government affairs. But, like everyone knows, the DC area is over-saturated with qualified, talented politicos, and there are only a limited number of available positions at any given time. Although I still love politics, I had to tap out of the field due to other pressing concerns – for instance, I really like working, and I very bad at being unemployed. I now work in finance.

    If I had to do it over, I’d possibly consider accounting, mainly since I’ve found out that I’m quite comfortable working with numbers. If I still wanted to go the political route, maybe I could have interned more, but trust me, I think I already did my fair share of working for free.

  • I did Information Systems and I would do it again in a heart beat. Definitely best work/life balance for the money that you can get without needing a graduate degree.

    I would want my kids to do technical majors (ie comp sci, math, engineering, info sys).

    Best bang for the buck.

  • The key would have been to get thrown out of college (a second time, in my case), run off and do a campaign or two and — apparently — prove your competence to people who are going be in a position to hire you in the months and years afterwards. A plus — campaigns offer all the booze and sex of college while providing hands-on experience with all the stuff poli sci majors just read about. (Minuses: irregular paychecks and living conditions that can be squalid and haphazard even by undergraduate standards).

    I have a LOT of friends — many of whom never bothered to graduate — who’ve had this career strategy work well.

    Another plus: I’m dating someone who was my boss both on a presidential campaign and in a Senate office. I guess I proved my competence.

    I remember being at my first “real” job flipping through the resumes of Ivy league grads with honor role grades who wanted to be my intern, and arbitrarily trashcanning them for minor typos, idiotic addenda (“well-traveled”) and having been a college Democrat. Heh.

    (Of course, they may now be running the agency where I’m a mere courtier, but hey, I’m making a living doing what I like).

    FWIW, I told my son that if he was going to do campaigns, to major in something other than political science, so that if he was ever on a winning campaign he could maybe use his connections to get a policy job.


    • This is meant to be a reply to Petworth Dude.

      • Thanks, Irving Streete. In retrospect, my internship focus in college was definitely lopsided. All of my internships were focused on Congressional offices and one government agencies, but I barely have any field or campaign experience.

        • There are a lot of people who make that route work. But my academic record was so awful that it frankly wasn’t an option for me. And, when I started on campaigns, I had no idea politics would become a career — that my fellow “Road Warriors” would eventually make their mark and hire me on (I never worked for him after he grew up, but Martin O’Malley was a drinking buddy for a while, a campaign issues director I had beers with a couple of times gave me my first real job and later hired me for six figures at a consulting firm he started — probably felt guilty about the $22K he paid me the first time around) it was just something I wanted to do, and I could (initially) fit around my schedule as a waiter.

  • Mandarin Chinese & Mobile Web Development

  • I don’t know if I would change majors but I wish took advantage of all that was available on campus, lectures, interesting electives etc., things that I don’t have time for now. Also my dad served in the Navy but steered me away from military service. Many of the men I have come to admire in my life served in the military. ROTC and maybe four years in the Navy might have given me the structure and discipline I needed as a young’un. I too often took the easy path not the best path for me long term, I finally got myself together but it took a minute.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I would study the same things (Sociology and Library & Information Science), but I would try and do study abroad, and not futz around with the crappy classes. I eventually found substitutes for the crappy classes, but I should have found those substitute and not even tried with the crappy classes. I’d also take every class the professor who studied cults taught. He was great, and I loved his subject.

  • I majored in Political Science and Communication, with minors in Philosophy and Women’s Studies. If I could do it over again, I’d probably either major in one of both of my minors or go a completely different route and major in Art History or English. Like others, I also would have paid attention more/studied more/actually tried in college, rather than coasting through and doing the bare minimum in every class. (Despite taking a lot of credit hours, I kind of coasted by.)

  • Basically, anything other than what I did study (accounting)!!! LOL!!!
    Until recently, I’ve been happy in the field, but lately… not so much.
    There’s so much out there to explore! I think I’d study architecture or fire journalism.
    Too many choices! LOL
    So curious to see what others say…

  • Majored in philosophy undergrad. Fortunate enough to graduate into the dot com boom so was able to use computer skills to get into management consulting. Recently went back to get an executive MBA which was incredibly valuable and interesting. No regrets.

  • I majored in Government, and have found steady, decently-paid work in my field since graduating, but I find the work boring and unrewarding. If I went back I would study science. Either to go pre-med or enter a physical therapy grad program. My friends who are newly-minted physical therapists really love their jobs and get to work with people every day. I’m jealous!

  • on this topic generally i think its good to remember “the grass is always greener”

  • I took a gap year between high school and college to do AmeriCorps and it was the best decision I made. I’m glad gap years are becoming trendy now! I think I was the only one in my graduating HS class who took a year to do something else before going to college.

  • I studied chemistry but would rather study Meth

  • Great to see a fellow geography buff, PoP! I’m a geography school dropout–was doing a part-time master’s program at CUNY, but halfway through had to move down here for work, unfortunately–and I think that field is really misunderstood. I can’t tell you how many times people said thing to me like “So you’re getting a master’s degree in…what, learning the capitals of all the countries in the world, or something???” Geography overlaps with a lot of other disciplines, so I think the job market can be pretty good, depending on your focus area: physical geography is very science/environment-based, there’s GIS with all the technology and mapping/surveying stuff, and human geography overlaps quite a bit with urban planning and development. I thought it was fascinating and would love to pick up my studies again, but haven’t gotten around to it (and it would need to be in a part-time program that could accommodate working students.)

    • Oh, and as for the original question…I was actually really satisfied with what I studied in college (urban studies/polisci), but my “time machine” subject of study would probably be either nursing or physical therapy. Over the years, I’ve seen, from loved ones’ health situations, what a difference an amazing nurse can make, and same with physical therapists. (The sports-related injury rehab stuff for average folk is pretty cool, but I’ve always thought it would feel incredible to be able to help people like stroke and brain injury victims walk again.) Of course, this is all in a fantasy world where I’m good at science–unfortunately, I have the type of brain that really struggles with science currently as well as when I was in college, so I kind of took myself out of the running for a healthcare career. Going back to school now…I’ve always been intrigued by law school, but probably more for the legal issues explored than an interest in actually practicing law. And if I did practice law, I would want to do public interest, which is just not financially feasible given the cost of law school. (Maybe if I’d gone straight from undergrad, but at this point in my mid-30s, I have too many family and financial obligations to want to go back to school full time, and I’ve come to value my work-life balance too much, anyway.) Undergrad-wise, there’s nothing else that I necessarily wish I’d majored in, but lately I’ve been on the look out for “add-on” types of credentials, like non-credit courses or professional certifications in my field–options that will allow me to keep learning some discrete new skills, but without the time and financial commitment of a degree program.

  • I double majored in Political Science / History and I don’t think I would have changed either of those. They put me in a good place to have the career/job that best suits me (even if has not much to do with either very directly).

  • I’d skip college and start a blog

  • I studied fine art. If I could do it again I’d go into medicine.

  • Quincy St Neighbor

    I was a molecular biology and biochemistry major and I still don’t know why??? I guess it was because I came into college with a bunch of science credits and was a bit of a research whiz kid in my early years so I only had a few credits to complete to fulfill that major, leaving me plenty of time to romp around pursuing a broad range of interests: english lit, postmodern theory, art, art history, religion, javanese gamalan, African American studies, Italian – the whole liberal arts spectrum. Today I use 0% of my major but use every bit of my electives in some form or another to inform me and make me adaptable. After all, I’m working in a field and in a position that did not even exist when I graduated college!

    If I could do it again I’d probably study music and computer science. Or maybe pursue a creative major, like dance, and pad it with a bunch of certificates/minors in quantitative analysis, cultural theory, and perhaps an area study like South Asian Studies. We need more adaptable thinkers who are makers in this country, I think a liberal arts education will prepare you to be that person!

  • Money permitting, I would drop everything today and enroll in a nursing program.

  • Urban planning / infrastructure / shipping logistics – shuffling solutions into place. Getting things to hospitals, grocery stores, recycling centers.

  • I would do it exactly as I did. GEOGRAPHY!
    PoP- The market for Geographers is huge…GIS (digital mapping) is growing every day. It didn’t even exist when I was in college (yea…a long time ago).
    It’s never too late.

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