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Old 10-21-2008, 04:31 PM   #1
賢狼ほろ
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Default Does your major/course really matter?

The thread title is slightly misleading, I ask rather, besides specific degrees like Engineering, Law, Medicine, Biology and Computer Science that tie you into a specific line of occupation, will your choice of major matter very much in terms of finding a job?

I've heard that Physics and Mathematics degrees are very versatile for one, and even Engineering, depending on the specific Engineering degree. However, what about a Liberal Arts degree? Something like Anglo-Saxon and Norse studies, Anthropology, Philosophy, etc. I assume as long as you studied at a top university, career options not in academia shouldn't be much of a problem either?
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Old 10-21-2008, 06:29 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 賢狼ほろ View Post
The thread title is slightly misleading, I ask rather, besides specific degrees like Engineering, Law, Medicine, Biology and Computer Science that tie you into a specific line of occupation, will your choice of major matter very much in terms of finding a job?

I've heard that Physics and Mathematics degrees are very versatile for one, and even Engineering, depending on the specific Engineering degree. However, what about a Liberal Arts degree? Something like Anglo-Saxon and Norse studies, Anthropology, Philosophy, etc. I assume as long as you studied at a top university, career options not in academia shouldn't be much of a problem either?
I think thats wrong. Simply put, companies hire people that are relevant to them. I don't think a bank will hire someone who knows a great deal about anglo-saxons. Or a philosopher. Maybe philosophers can find jobs in HR. The thing is, your knowledge and skills being relevant to the job is more important than graduating from a top notch university with an irrelevant skill.

It is true that maths, physics and engineering are very versatile because almost every industry requires these, one way or another. Its just quite unfortunate that Liberal Arts degrees arent as welcomed in Singapore. Yet.
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:55 PM   #3
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actually, investment banks do hire people who study philosophy but they graduated from top target schools. if you're not from such a target school, then it's probably best to study something relevant, like Ashearo sid.
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Old 10-22-2008, 12:17 PM   #4
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I guess you're talking about employment within Singapore? That's a shame; even in the UK, Liberal Arts degrees seem to be fairly useful, at least if you're from Cambridge:
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How useful is this degree?
This unusual and challenging degree enables you to develop your powers of argument, to refine your appreciation of literature, and to sharpen your powers of analysis. This means that like any other arts subject it equips you for a wide range of careers, where importance is attached to your intellectual and analytical skills. Many employers regard the ASNC degree as a promising sign of individuality, and former Asnacs (as they like to be called) can be found in a wide range of careers. Many go on to take advantage of the specialist opportunities open to them and do research and teaching in schools and universities, or work in museums and libraries. But most go on into other careers including journalism, banking, law, the Civil Service, industry and business.
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Old 02-21-2009, 11:45 AM   #5
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A realistic answer is both yes and no.

To put it very generally, professional jobs (ie Accountants, Audits, Engineering etc) that require you to have specific technical knowledge will require specific degrees. In fact, sometimes the degree itself is not enough. They look at the specific courses you have done and the specific grades you got in those courses.

Whereas in other careers, all degree backgrounds are possible - because its the other skills that are important - your analytical skills, your people skills, your soft skills in general, and of course how keen/passionate you are for that field of work. Good working attitude too.

Recruiters will definitely take a look and even call the Oxbridge Arts grad up for interview. Whether he or she can get the job however is another story. It's really how you perform at the interview and if you can demonstrate and convice that you can do the job well and you can fit into the company culture.

I had the honor of interviewing a summa candidate from one of the Ivy's for my position; however I did not offer him in the end. Very simple reason - the candidate has the intellectual capabilities for sure, he however could not demonstrate the empathy, people and negotiation skills that we require for the position.

I remember watching some reality show on babes and geeks - there was this Harvard grad (geek with some engineering degree) who was supposed to have very high IQ, but his job for the past 5 years had been customer support for some banks. The point is, you could have a great degree from a great school, but more important is that you know that a job/career requires more than the degree certificate. YOU as a whole package counts more than the piece of paper.

And I am just talking about getting the job here... we are not even at the stage on how to do well in the career yet

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Old 02-21-2009, 12:20 PM   #6
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Hey pheurie, would it be possible to reveal what kind of companies, or what line of work, do you recruit/interview for? And thanks so much for the insight!
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Old 03-08-2009, 04:33 PM   #7
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I think for US, especially if you graduate from a top school, your major/course doesn't really matter. This is especially so because many US schools adopt a liberal arts education in which students are exposed to a wide spectrum of courses beyond their major anyway and employers know that students from the top schools like HYPMS are a talented/motivated/intelligent/diligent lot.

As for Singapore, i think your major/course matters quite alot. But the biggest employer, the government, seems to be quite flexible with the courses that its scholars are taking...
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Old 10-27-2010, 11:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashearo View Post
I think thats wrong. Simply put, companies hire people that are relevant to them. I don't think a bank will hire someone who knows a great deal about anglo-saxons. Or a philosopher. Maybe philosophers can find jobs in HR. The thing is, your knowledge and skills being relevant to the job is more important than graduating from a top notch university with an irrelevant skill.

It is true that maths, physics and engineering are very versatile because almost every industry requires these, one way or another. Its just quite unfortunate that Liberal Arts degrees arent as welcomed in Singapore. Yet.
I second to that. I think your skills and knowledge must be relevant to the job you are applying for. For an instance, a bank will accept applicants with an excellent skill in banking and finance.
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Old 12-10-2010, 08:26 PM   #9
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What's Liberal Arts?

Not well known in Singapore. So local employers may not be keen to try.
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:49 AM   #10
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Liberal Arts is, essentially, an education in how to think. Though it has the word "arts" in its name, you actually learn a bit of math and a bit of science as well as a bit of arts & humanities. In the course of all that, you learn to how to learn and absorb different things, as well as how to think for yourself and not be perturbed by complexity.

That is not to say that specialized professional education (e.g. finance, accounting, business) doesn't teach you how to think, simply that it teaches you how to think in one particular discipline. That may or may not help you when you try to think about problems outside your field of specialty.

Lib arts grads, on the other hand, have to work extra hard in their first few years to catch up in terms of technical know-how. But after those first few years, I believe lib arts grads will have a long-term advantage as moving up the ladder requires not just technical knowhow, but also the ability to synthesize, debate clearly and deal with complexity.

I don't know if local employers really distrust lib arts grads, but if they do, one can always start at MNCs (many of which, being American, appreciate the lib arts system). Then, after establishing your worth there, you can try to move to a local employer if that is still your interest.
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