The Degrees Most Students Are Seeking Aren't Even The Most Rewarding

by Xavier Husser

When I was a sophomore in high school, I wanted to study American history because I always enjoyed the subject and aspired to be a historian.

My father always told me to follow my dreams and encouraged me on some of my pre-major ideas; however, he didn’t want me to study something in which I wouldn’t find employment.

When I was a senior, I decided to study English because I realized my passion for writing, loved to analyze texts and relate to the themes of the stories. A good portion of my friends decided to study either business-related or STEM-based subjects.

When I got into Boston College, I told adults I would study English and economics as a double major.

Although my high school didn’t have an economics course, my world history and American history professors had us examine key moments in history from an economic perspective and the societal effects of economic decisions.

A common question people ask those who study English and other humanities-based majors is, “What are you going to do with that degree in order to get a job?”

Since college tuition has skyrocketed in recent years and the economy is only slowly bouncing back from the recession, there has been more pressure on students to study something that will get them high-paying jobs.

The emphasis is on paying back student loans, financially standing on our own and moving up the socioeconomic ladder.

As a “low-income” minority and a first-generation college student, I decided to study economics alongside English to ensure I remain marketable in such an uncertain economy.

I conformed to what society says will lead college students to the almighty dollar and registered for microeconomics and calculus courses in order to become an economics major.

Though I never took a formal economics course and struggled to pass pre-calculus, I moved forward with economics thinking I would improve as I went along. I assumed I would come out on top, like I did in high school.

As you might imagine, as an English major, calculus and I did not mix, so I dropped the class.

Trying to tackle both economics and calculus was not only a fall semester, freshman mistake, but also academic torture, since I forced myself to push on with calculus, even though I hated the class. I spent long hours studying, only to end up dropping the course.

As I studied for my midterms and conversed with my academic advisor about the semester, I wondered why so many students put themselves through the gauntlet of an economics major for an uncertain future.

After all, even if you have a BA in economics, or any business-related degree, there’s no surefire guarantee you will have a well-paying job or a job at all in this economy.

Many students fail to realize that once you graduate, competition for high-paying positions becomes stiff. From the many students studying economics and other business-related fields in Boston College, I would then have had to compete with economic geniuses, who spent years perfecting their skills.

Multiply that by all other applicants from every business and undergraduate school across the United States, and the probability of finding employment if you’re not a high-scoring student is even lower.

Even if you're one of the lucky applicants to find employment, the likelihood of you defeating everyone on your way to the top and becoming the CEO is low. Frankly, you're likely to just move from one cubicle to another.

While the allure of money attracts people to study business-related majors, the study involves a lot of math and numbers.

The United States ranks below average in mathematics compared to other developed countries, like Singapore, China and even Canada, according to Business Insider.

If the majority of the country can barely tackle high-level math courses, like calculus, then why are so many students studying something in which the United States does not have a comparative advantage?

Even the best American economics or business-related student would pale in comparison to the best students in China or Switzerland.

Though society tells us to choose majors that lead to the highest pay, there are other courses of study that lead to high pay in which the United States needs more workers.

Computer programmers, engineers and other STEM-based majors give way to careers that the US needs, as technology becomes more complex and infrastructures need to be built and maintained in order to expand.

Neither economics nor business is the highest-paid entry-level degree; STEM degrees are most sought after, according to Forbes.

The whole point of college is to receive an education and become an intellectual thinker. While I’m not advocating for everyone to drop the business suit for a hard hat, I want to help those who are struggling to stay above water in their economics or business classes.

There are ways to exceed without entering the fiercely competitive business world.