What Would You Study Now?

Not that you’d want to be graduating or soon to graduate right now, times are terrible for newly minted and recent graduates, but still, if you were in college, what would you study?

I suppose you’d have to apply your current experiences (wisdom?) to the decision, so this is a Back to School exercise.

Would you pursue the same degree? That’s a bit like wishing for more wishes, but I’ll allow it. Would you get more or less schooling, i.e. do or not do post-graduate study?

I’ll go first. I graduated with a degree in economics, which nicely combined subjects I like (psychology, money, history, math) into a easy to digest package. I also dabbled in computer science toward the end of my collegiate tour. The two combined nicely into my current profession, product development.

If I could go back to school today, I’d focus on design and computer science, fitting nicely into a new area of interest for me, data visualization.

Your turn.

Find the comments and let us know what you studied the first time around and what you’d study in this second chance at college.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

21 comments

  1. I did a BA in Systems Analysis, with aspects of Computer Science and Business. I’d say I am ‘over-papered’. I learned a lot that I could quickly forget without any real impact. I’d like to see more ‘quicker’ qualifications that are better able to keep up with changing technology and practices (business/legal/government) and people’s career goals/paths, and don’t leave graduates with a massive debt.

    I’d be tempted for a course related to computer security. More data, more connectivity, more data breaches….

  2. Intriguing question… I studied economics with a major in information management and graduated in 1993 – before studying abroad became the norm (at least in the Netherlands).

    Now I’d probably look at the learning environment as much as the subject itself. I wouldn’t do formal lectures with stale presentations (doesn’t work for me). Definitely an international setting. And then I’d choose an area that would help develop my critical thinking and problem solving skills – philosophy, history, literature, medicine, or economics? Then I’d look to work in different fields at different stages in life.

    Trouble with me is that I have quite diverse interests…

  3. Nice one, security. I wonder if that would be lost on younger minds though, what with the hubris, inexperience and risk tolerance of youth 🙂 It also might be a breeding ground for black hats in disguise. Still, I’d take it.

    I like where you’re going with quicker qualifications for IT skills. This would be akin to vocational training, which carries an unwarranted stigma here, or did in my day anyway. It would further differentiate between development and IT though, which might be a bad things. Good idea though.

    We do have some schools that do this, e.g. ITT Tech, University of Phoenix, but if larger schools began to offer similar programs, it would definitely spread quickly.

  4. Diverse interests aren’t a bad thing 🙂 That’s one problem about the university/college experience, i.e. you’re financially constrained to focus on one thing, even if your interests are broad. The liberal arts education aims to avoid this, but over the last half century, the need to find a career path, if only to pay the school bills, has stunted that course almost completely.

    Unfortunately, that problem is only getting worse, especially as the current recession continues.

  5. I spent the first 3.5 years of college studying to be a pharmacist but woke up one day in class (yea, really) looked around and thought “I don’t want to spend most of my adult life working with people like this.” So I changed to Computer Science and graduated a couple of years late. Since it was a state school and I had all of my “general education” stuff done it didn’t cost me all that much more in the long run to backtrack.

    If I had to do it over again I don’t know that I’d do anything different. I’ve gotten a lot out of my biology, chemisty, physics and other medically related subjects, and then plenty of math and physics for my CS degree. Plus graduating in four years is like leaving a party at 10:00 – you can but why would you ever do that?

  6. I spent the first 3.5 years of college studying to be a pharmacist but woke up one day in class (yea, really) looked around and thought “I don’t want to spend most of my adult life working with people like this.” So I changed to Computer Science and graduated a couple of years late. Since it was a state school and I had all of my “general education” stuff done it didn’t cost me all that much more in the long run to backtrack.

    If I had to do it over again I don’t know that I’d do anything different. I’ve gotten a lot out of my biology, chemisty, physics and other medically related subjects, and then plenty of math and physics for my CS degree. Plus graduating in four years is like leaving a party at 10:00 – you can but why would you ever do that?

  7. Why would you ever do that? Um, because it’s super expensive and feels like mortgaging your future. I couldn’t wait to get out of school and get paid to work rather than pay them to work. Now, maybe I’d feel differently, but that’s a function of age.

    Interesting that you had an epiphany moment and acted on it. Again, on the cost issue, it’s good that you were able to make that change. If you did it over, I assume you’d skip the pharmacy, but maybe still dabble in science.

    I wonder how education would pan out if money weren’t such an issue, i.e. cost of the education and ability to earn applied to the course of study.

  8. If I could choose again, I would get into forestry / conservation / or something to do with working with people – maybe paramedic, or the police.

    I did a biology degree, then 5 yrs later an IT Msc.

    I agree with Gary that a lot of “learning” is more like “remembering” – cram stuff in to get it out in the right format in the exams, and then lose it all permanently as it was only ever in the short term memory.

    I’ve learnt a lot more from doing stuff than reading about stuff – probably most people have I suppose.

  9. Oh man, now you made me feel bad for not choosing something less selfish. Incidentally, I toyed with the idea of firefighting when I graduated, but it was never financially feasible. One good thing there, modern fire suppression has dramatically changed the role of firefighters. They now do as much or more EMS, which would not suit me at all.

    You (and Gary) are spot on about doing vs. memorizing. This is one reason why I think the vocational school should make a comeback. Practical application of knowledge immediately makes it stick; this is not something that classic education can provide unfortunately.

  10. I was talking to a couple of relatives, one in charge of computer security at a major medical uni and the other working on a NASA project, and they both were relating stories about how they get overwhelmed with resumes for code monkeys and how difficult it is to find anyone with the basic math and logic abilities to get such jobs done. I work in an IT environment, in which vocational schools are more relevant, except you still need to have the basic skills, which are amazingly rare, and in my case (of db and enterprise apps, as well as a ridiculous spread of skills) anyways, not well taught anywhere. There’s always been quite a variance in vocational schools, of course, and the vast majority tend towards mediocrity. From what I’ve seen going back 30 years, the stigma isn’t unwarranted.

    I do regret not staying with my BSc. in Physiological Psychology, I’d stick with it if I could do it over again. I also was sick of school and wanting to get out and work (egged on by a girlfriend, of course). I think if I had stuck with it (it being neuroscience research) I might very well have wound up in informatics. Or I might have been too irritating with university politics, and left to go to vocational school…

  11. I guess the difference between IT and development isn’t taught well enough? I dunno, or maybe the job market is tough, forcing them all to compete. Pretty different skillsets, although there is a lot of overlap. I’d say disposition is as important skills if you want to do IT vs. development.

    With the emphasis on getting a job after college vs. learning while in college, I just wonder how vocational schools haven’t cleaned up their images and filled that gap.

  12. I kinda had that experience. I went to school for Journalism. Found NO open door. After a few years, I went back to school for Computer Science. Very happy with that decision.

  13. You must watch with interest as the interwebs and citizen journalism continue to marginalize official journalism. I’m amazed that there are still attribution kerfuffles when blog content is reposted by media outlets without link love, or stolen outright as “public domain”, as we saw earlier in the month.

  14. Health Science Education. Yeah, all jock back then. I don’t think I ever thought about it during my first stint of college. I just wanted to play baseball and assumed I would keep going after college. Naive/ignorant wouldn’t even begin to cover it.

    After failing out and taking a hiatus for 3.5 years (yeah, I had to pay now), I finally took it seriously. Mid 20’s at this point and didn’t feeling like dawdling any more. I finished up what I had started to get the monkey off my back. Amusingly, I began to really like school and was really pissed when they made me stop.

    If I could go back…math, engineering, physics, economics, chemistry, biology…I’d want to do all of those. First would probably be Engineering though. Just promise me no more 16 week semesters, I don’t have that kind of attention span.

  15. Probably some ICT-related thing plus German. To be honest, if you’re interested in ICT there’s some many enablers out there now, but the paperwork is handy. German? Well, coming back from Berlin, the place is alive with innovation in the tech space.

  16. Interesting combination. Re. Germans, they seem to have some ambivalence about Google, i.e. blocking Street View, egging the blockers, etc.

    The sport some great designers, e.g. Bauhaus.

  17. Yes everything, but not for 16 weeks. I want shorter semesters, like 8 weeks or 4 weeks. 16 weeks is too long. It’s fine if the content is appropriately broken up too, just feel like 16 weeks is way too long.

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