Study Whatever You Want in College

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

Comments

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

7

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.

8

Definitely get educated, not trained.

9

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.