Study Whatever You Want in College

And think twice before you go into any old STEM field.



He didn't say "the natural sciences." he said "the hard sciences." So, (A) not a quote, and (B) please tell me you understand the difference.


I went to Eastern Washington state University (then called a college before the legislature changed the name for prestige purposes) and took a degree in general studies where you take classes in a little bit of this and that. One thing the degree was good for was getting a job in civil service and not much else. I do think that civil service jobs will be there in the near future though; generally good pay and benefits and retirement and you only have to do the minimum amount of work once you established and settled in a position.


I'm kind of an extreme example of what Rich is talking about. Right out of high school, I went to university for a degree in chemistry (@2 is that hard enough for you?). I figured it would lead to a good job and I'd done pretty well in it in high school (I got a 5 on the AP Chemistry exam).

Now there were a lot of reasons why the 17 year old version of me probably should not have gone straight to university, but one of the reasons I failed at it the first time around was because my heart just wasn't in it. I literally had trouble getting the motivation to get out of bed and show up to class (I had trouble with entitlement issues too, obviously).

It's telling that the only A I got that first year was in my intro to interdisciplinary medieval studies class. I really loved doing the work. I even remember the first research paper I wrote for that class...something to do with the reception of the pagan god Mars in the Middle Ages.

Anyways, I ended up on probation, dropped out, then enlisted. After the Army I went back to school and majored in what I wanted to study: medieval history.

Boom. 4.0 GPA, summa cum laude (and yeah I know what that Latin means too), Phi Beta Kappa, honors college, the whole nine yards. Plus graduate school at a prestigious university, etc.

Now, being more mature helped. Discipline from the Army helped. But studying something I really loved and cared about was a massive, massive help. The work I do now is absolutely fascinating to me. I love my colleagues, who are nerdy in the same way as me.

Thank Dog I followed my instincts, not what everyone told me to do.


This is true. As someone who's worked as a recruiter in both private and public sectors I can tell you that I have interviewed so many people with science degrees who CANNOT find a job related to their field of study. STEM isn't a guarantee for a high paying job. Study what you want and work hard at it. Let's say you study something like history or linguistics that doesn't necessarily lead to a specific career path; as long as you can demonstrate to a future employer that you worked your ass off and have something to show for it (high GPA, graduating with honors, a thesis, extracurriculars, whatever!), you're going to be better off. Understand that a career isn't usually a straight line. I've worked in HR for nearly 8 years and I've hated it. That's why I've decided to go back to vocational school to try something new. We'll see how it goes.


I worked in fulltime in IT for 4 years (early 90s) before going to college. My goal in college was to not take a single computer class because I didn't want to learn stuff I (mostly) already knew. I got a BA in English Lit from UW and loved every minute of it. It changed me for the better as a human.

Then I went right back to working in IT and currently have just over 20 years' experience as a developer. I've interviewed literally hundreds of people, a significant percentage of them with CS/CE degrees, and some of them can't answer basic questions. Anecdotally, my best interviews have always been with people who don't have a formal CS/CE background.


Definitely get educated, not trained.


If I were 18 again I'd go into a good solid blue collar industry like plumbing or electrical engineering. Civil engineers are ALWAYS in demand. Sewer lines aren't going away and they break. A lot. You don't like bad smells? So take a long hot shower and cash your gigantic paycheck and laugh at the poor slobs stuck in cubicles.