Dedicated to Jon Lipp – North Dakota State University – Business Administration Class of ‘16
I applaud Concordian Editor-in-Chief Sean Plemmons for his October 9 editorial, “College is Easy.” I want to continue the conversation that not all college majors are created equal. With that in mind, I have a confession. I, Zach Lipp, am a recovering business major. And I have a bone to pick.
I entered Concordia with an aspiration to study economics. When I told this to one of the overbooked advisers at my orientation session, I was shoved into a Business Major Concentrating in Economics, as Concordia had killed its economics majors and minors for students entering that semester. Thankfully, I took a wonderful economics course that year that confirmed my fascination with the field. Business, however, was not my friend. After several months of hesitation and courses such as “Internship 1” and “Internship 2” making their mark on my transcript, I transferred to Concordia’s stupendous math department last year. The change has been terrific for me, and I’m writing to encourage more people to follow suit.
The Romantic in me believes no one should earn a business major in a liberal arts college. The purpose of the liberal arts, for the uninitiated, are not to create Democrats. The liberal arts exist for a “liber” education, the education of the freeman, of the citizen. Citizenship carries with it obligations of understanding and critical thinking. I am not alone in believing courses in statistics, sociology, English and philosophy do more to emphasize the duties of citizenship than business courses. Indeed, even business-oriented academics like Henry Mintzberg of McGill University espouse “the object of undergraduate business education [should be] to educate people, not to give them a lot of functional business stuff.” But against such lofty notions, usually Practical Considerations win. After all, don’t business majors learn skills? Accounting, marketing, management, and – dear to my heart – Microsoft Excel – certainly have their uses out of the classroom. My inner idealist ceded – until I did some research.
The research agrees: a business major is a poor decision. First, it is not a good option for academics. Students studying business report that they spend some of the least amount of class hours working on coursework out of any field. The ease of business majors is an accepted cliche, but it’s worth beating a dead horse: this lack of reading has a clear effect on students’ futures. There is no better place to see this than standardized test scores. Those who study business in undergraduate routinely place near last in GMAT test scores – the GMAT being the standardized test for MBA-granting business schools. Without exaggeration, a business major cannot even prepare you to study business.
Furthermore, a business major is a bad option for the job market. Opting to build skills over building a liberal foundation is a poor decision: even Leonard A. Schlesinger, former President of Babson College, an innovative all-business school, admits that skills become irrelevant after about five years. Research emphasizes this point. Among business-oriented careers, applicants with a business major were no more likely to get hired than those studying a discipline. Researchers did identify a significant effect of having an internship, but this effect was larger for non-business majors than for business majors. Let’s repeat that: a business major empirically does not make you more hirable. Furthermore, several of the most underemployed majors in the country are in the business field. It’s easy to see why: a quarter of bachelor’s degrees awarded in America go to the field of business. In a job market saturated with business majors, studying something that makes you a well-rounded person can make the difference.
This column is a conglomeration of lines I’ve been repeating for years: there are fundamental flaws to studying business as an undergraduate. If you had any doubts, I encourage you to explore your options. Current business majors: consider a different department. If you’re certain on business, take many humanities courses, concentrate in economics, and cross your fingers that Concordia redevelops a straight economics program. As for those who aren’t studying business, don’t fret. It may not be as easy to sell Mom and Dad on that philosophy major, but I hope this column can help.
Zach Lipp (’16) is an economics geek, a wannabe sociologist, a Regents’ Scholar and a mathematics student at Concordia College. He has served in Campus Service Commission, Student Government Association, and Hall Council. Zach now divides his campus activities between geeking out at analytics club and starting a Roosevelt Institute Campus Network chapter at Concordia. His hobbies include overusing Microsoft Excel, taking Smash Bros. too seriously, and loudly talking about Twitter.