Wednesday, June 20, 2012
College Majors: Technical is Better
But in my infrequent conversations with the absent co-author of this blog, I have come up with one hard rule of thumb for young people considering college: major in the most technical thing you can stomach. It doesn't matter if you enjoy it. In fact, it's probably BETTER if you don't enjoy it.
As a student, you will have nearly infinite free time to pursue things you enjoy. These could be social activities, intramural sports, playing or performing music or dramas, or even reading about a subject you could have majored in. I can promise you that you will never use that infinite time to do something like "acquire more skills."
I personally got hired outside of my major (economics), based entirely on the skills I had acquired in my more technical minor (math). I have a very close acquaintance who is working outside her major and expressed significant regret that she lacks any tangible skills. Her major prepared her to be a college professor, but of course that career path would require another 5 years of school that she is not prepared to undertake today. So until then, she is underemployed.
Whether or not Bryan is right, my theory works. If signaling is the main function of college, it is a much better signal to have a technical major (math, statistics, or engineering) than a non-technical one (music, literature, government). If it is something else - human capital or otherwise - technical majors provide you with more skills that others do not have and make you more desirable to employers. They set you apart, which is one of the biggest battles for young people with sparse resumes.
Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty