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Old 08-06-2008, 02:16 PM   #1
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Default to specialise early or not?

i read something on pg17 of 'world' section in yesterday's straits times.

something about how unis in the states are offering very specialised programs, to the point where there's even a bachelor's degree in turfgrass (the grass used in golf courses & stadiums) science. it's nothing new either, the grass course began in the 1920s.

i don't think we have specialisation up to that degree yet, here in singapore.
but as it is, do you think a such a qualification will help?

i mean, if you're really totally absolutely sure of what your career is going to be like, i can see it being beneficial.

but who really knows what's what when choosing courses at 18 or so?
the potential to be too niche is great, making the degree irrelevant elsewhere.

still, there must be reasons why the unis open up such courses. i mean, why supply when there's little or no demand?

however, i think most skills are better when learnt on the job through practical experience. to me, courses like these are better if you're doing an academic track, like research into better turfgrass or how to best maintain it in different seasons or something like.

back to the question.
is it really smart to specialise so early?

Last edited by humdeedum; 08-06-2008 at 02:18 PM.
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Old 08-11-2008, 01:00 AM   #2
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interesting article. copy here for the reference who missed it:

Aug 5, 2008
More US schools offering courses linked to careers
Some experts say early specialisation hurts job prospects, but others say courses cater to demand
WASHINGTON - MR DANIEL Hughes first took a summer job mowing greens and raking sand traps at his hometown golf course in Allentown, Pennsylvania, just for the free golf.
But the temporary job soon became his college major at Pennsylvania State University.

In the autumn of 2005, he switched his major from education to turfgrass science, a four-year bachelor's degree offered through the school's College of Agricultural Sciences, said an online US News and World report yesterday.

In that programme, Mr Hughes and 200 other undergraduates study plant diseases as well as pest and weed control, along with other courses tailored specifically to managing turf, which is mostly used in golf courses and sports stadiums.

'At first, I thought it was a goofy-sounding major,' he admitted. 'I couldn't believe there was a whole field of study for it.'

For the past 30 years, career-oriented majors like turfgrass science have been popping up in colleges nationwide. An increasing number of students feel this kind of specialisation will make them more competitive in tight job markets than a broader degree in liberal arts and sciences, said the US News and World report.

As of 2004, about 80 per cent of all American four-year institutions now offer degrees in practical studies - fields rooted in preparing students for a specific vocation. Studies show that some 60 per cent of all undergraduates are enrolled in career-oriented majors, up from 45 per cent in the 1960s.

But not all educators agree on what qualities employers are looking for, and many worry students are not being properly prepared for the future.

Mr Anthony Marx, president of Amherst College, said there was a danger of overspecialising at the undergraduate level. This can prevent students from developing the critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills that they need to succeed in the job market.

'I think that if you specialise too early, you may think you're getting a boost in the short term, but you will not be prepared in the long term for the kinds of varied careers that students are going to have in this century, and certainly not be prepared for leadership roles in those careers,' he told the US News and World.

Amherst is one of 95 United States colleges with no graduate school, where 80 per cent or more students study liberal arts and sciences. These schools now make up less than 1 per cent of the total enrolment in the US, according to the latest Carnegie Classifications.

Mr Marx said pragmatic skills could be learnt on the job or in graduate or professional school programmes, but a well-rounded education would be harder to replicate.

'Particularly in a world that's changing, where students move from one career to another, where the challenges keep shifting, where the global issues confront us, those challenges you can't provide for in on-the-job training,' he added. 'I think employers recognise that.'

Others disagree. 'It's not like these universities are making up these degrees and then thinking there will be some demand for it,' said Mr Randall Hansen, founder and president of, a job search and career advice website, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Choosing A College Major.

Employers have been the ones coming to schools and asking for graduates with specific technical skills for years, he said.

Pennsylvania State's turfgrass programme, for example, began in the late 1920s at the request of golf course superintendents, who asked the college to assist with research and offer academic preparation for people entering the field, professor of turfgrass A.J. Turgeon told US News and World.

For some 70 years, the programme existed as a major in agronomy with a concentration in turfgrass and enrolled an average of 50 students each year.

When the school decided to make turfgrass its own major in 1992, enrolment boomed and would have kept rising if the school had not capped it at 200 students, Prof Turgeon said.

The spike in applicants suggests that people feel their employment prospects increased with more specialised academic training, he added.
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Old 11-16-2008, 01:34 PM   #3
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Early or late specialisation, to me, it depends on your maturity. If you really know what you want, there is no harm specialising in it early, so you prepare yourself early and thoroughly for your chosen path.

However, there is no way to be sure that you will work in your chosen field for life, right (with the exception of perhaps priesthood) No one would know that Wall Street will be in such a dire state even just 1 year ago, and not one finance professor would have the foresight to tell you "too much credit" will be the problem of the financial industry, when the whole world was loving the big credit lines and allowances.

Point is, no matter what you learn, you have to be flexible and adaptable to whatever environment you are going to be in. What's important really is the transferable skills that you pick up during studying and even when you are working. Early specialisation or not, it really does not matter too much. Flexibility and adaptation are the keys to success in your careers (and of course integrity and honesty!)

Oh, and a side comment regarding teh article - if you are in the Sgp education system, there is very little chance for you to switch majors during your course of study... The local system is not flexible and seems to be on the basis of "predicted" labor demand and supply for the particular field. So if you are in the Engineering field and later discover your passion for advertising is far greater, there is no way they would let you switch your majors, and they would probably cite reasons as your A level points etc.

US systems on the ohter hand gave students a lot more flexibility in their studies. I had a friend who switched her majors at least 4 times (4 that I am aware of... from econs to com science, then to business then to mechanical engineering) She graduated in 6 years instead of the usual 4 years, as she had to fulfill some new pre-reqs to graduate.

Point is, if you are not sure what you want to do and you are in the Sgp system - please go for a broad course of study - so that you dont get caught in a field that you hate and you cannot switch out. But if you are under the US system, and your folks are loaded and don't mind helping you explore, you can keep switching your majors till you find the right one.

Come to think of it, the Sgp system is rigid... So they can't really blame the end-products for being rigid and inflexible...
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Old 03-02-2009, 05:48 PM   #4
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Right now I believe that specialising early or late has not much difference actually. Because many people do mid career changes. Even if you are doing a very general degree, somewhere along the way, you will need to become very specialised in something. It is a matter of 'sooner or later. '
It is a good idea to pursue something you are really interested in even though it might be very specialised.
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Old 03-09-2009, 05:58 PM   #5
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Nowadays it is necessary to cover as many areas as possible. If you specialize to much it might happen that you get stuck in a business sector and can't switch to another.
Victory is sweetest when you've known defeat. - Malcolm S. Forbes
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Old 04-27-2009, 11:23 AM   #6
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i'm planning to study law. so in your opinion, is law considered a specialised or general degree? while it is a professional degree, i have heard from many friends that after studying law, you can use your knowledge to venture into other fields .
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Old 05-30-2009, 09:10 AM   #7
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yeah. I've heard that abt law too. I think that it is a specialised degree. But has diversity in the sense that you can branch out into quite a few fields in the future. Not very sure tho. Would be better to hear more opinions.
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Old 07-29-2009, 08:03 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by zeyong View Post
i'm planning to study law. so in your opinion, is law considered a specialised or general degree? while it is a professional degree, i have heard from many friends that after studying law, you can use your knowledge to venture into other fields .
In my opinion , law is a general degree.

Types of Legal Practice
The practice of law takes several forms. The ways in which lawyers apply their expertise can be broadly categorized into the following practice types:

Private Practice: involves working alone or with partners in a firm to provide legal services to clients (individuals or corporations); some lawyers specialize in one or more practice areas while others engage in general practice.

Public Interest Law: serves low-income individuals, marginalized groups and social causes; practitioners may work for advocacy groups, legal aid clinics and other organizations with the goal of advancing an interest of the public.

Government Counsel: governments hire lawyers for legal advice and representation; lawyers directly employed by the government may work for ministries, government agencies and crown corporations.

Corporate Counsel: corporations can employ lawyers as in-house counsel; an in-house counsel works for a single company to advise on legal matters related to its business activities.

Practice Areas (Specializations)
The law impacts our lives in numerous ways, so naturally the legal profession covers many fields and allows for a variety of law careers. There are many types of lawyers - some practice in all areas of the law, while others choose to specialize. Here are some areas of specialization in law:

Administrative: branch of public law dealing with the relationship between individuals and the government; regulates the power of governmental administrative agencies and ensures fair implementation and administration of laws.

Civil Litigation: involves a lawsuit resulting from a dispute between private parties (individuals or corporations); civil litigation is concerned with matters such as breach of contract, debt collection, malpractice and personal injury.

Constitutional: branch of public law dealing with powers of the federal government and the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments; constitutional lawyers handle issues such as equality rights, freedom of expression, security and democratic governance.

Corporate and Commercial: deals with the formation and maintenance of businesses; corporate and commercial lawyers handle contracts, liability, mergers, structured financings and other business matters.

Criminal: governs crimes against the public and members of the public (as opposed to civil litigation which deals with private disputes); a criminal lawyer may work for the government as a prosecutor or represent the accused person as a defense lawyer.

Environmental: legislation and regulations relating to the interaction of humans with the environment; environmental lawyers deal with matters such as air pollution, wilderness preservation and waste disposal.

Family: applies to legal relationships between family members; issues in family law include marriage contracts, divorce, child custody, adoption, wills and estate planning.

Immigration: federal laws control the entry of non-citizens into the country; immigration lawyers assist clients in applying for entry, residing in the country and becoming citizens.

Intellectual Property: intellectual property refers to the ownership rights to certain kinds of creative endeavors; intellectual property law protects ownership through copyrights, patents, trademarks and industrial design registrations.

International: governs the interactions and relationships between nations; international lawyers may be hired by national governments and international organizations, or work in the private sector focusing on the interpretation of treaties and related laws.

Labor and Employment: defines the rights and obligations of employers, workers and union members; lawyers may advise management, labor or government on issues such as employment standards, workplace health and safety, and industrial relations.

Real Estate: deals with the purchase, sale, financing and development of land and buildings; real estate lawyers may work for developers, tenants, investors, banks or corporations on matters relating to residential or commercial real estate.

Securities: regulates the purchase and sale of securities (financial instruments such as stocks and bonds); securities lawyers typically work in law firms providing services to corporations and financial institutions or for governmental commissions focusing on regulatory compliance.

Tax: deals with the taxes levied by different levels of government; tax lawyers may advise corporations on tax strategies and implications of business transactions, or counsel individuals on matters such as legal wills and estate planning.

Other Areas: in addition to the practice areas list above, there are many other fields of specialization in the legal profession (antitrust, entertainment, health, municipal, sports, etc.).

A law degree can enable entry into many careers outside of the legal profession, including the following:

Civil Service
Policy Analysis
Social Work
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Old 08-02-2009, 11:59 AM   #9
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By that reasoning, wouldn't all professional degrees be general degrees then? For example, you can list a huge myriad of different available fields for CS or even Accountancy ;P.

I understand what you are trying to get at though; even within a job scope there are still many specialized fields to choose/go into.
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Old 08-02-2009, 06:59 PM   #10
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Professional degrees such as those in engineering, medicine, law, and accountancy should be those recognised by the respective professional bodies.
'nuff said.
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