OT: What is the most marketable degree at LSA that's also not super intense?

Submitted by chuck bass on June 13th, 2018 at 11:06 AM

Strange question, I know. A non-immediate first-generation college student family member is sort of struggling at LSA. Parents are lost, they emailed wife last night for advice on major. The kid seems to lack a passion, is eager to be nudged towards what's perceived as marketable and will position for decent career. Not very outgoing, seems intimidated by aggressive peers, had a great SAT but now college GPA is mediocre. Obviously LSA Computer Science comes to mind - but I'm skeptical he can handle it. What about just completing General Studies (BGS) as quickly as possible - but pairing it with a Ross minor or an MAcc from Ross? Transfer into College of Engineering for Industrial & Operations Engineering (IOE)?


snarling wolverine

June 13th, 2018 at 11:11 AM ^

Honestly, your major doesn't matter that much for a lot of jobs and grad programs.  Most of the time the bigger thing is just having a degree from Michigan to put on your résumé.  I don't think mine even mentions my major.

Walter Rupp

June 13th, 2018 at 11:57 AM ^

"Matters in this world", peculiar denouncement of likely half of my peer group living quite successful lives working in areas such as commercial real estate with (lower status) degrees from places like Denison with majors in English or Art History.  They're not curing cancer, and they're very happy about that.  The best advice is always the most natural.  Don't shape your college experience or notion of a major to what you envision as being "marketable".  Take enough variety of classes to see what might excite you.  The major truly will mean nothing other than helping to better shape and exercise your mind toward becoming the individual you were intended to be, who can fully think and learn from any environment your placed or become.   And, yeah, if you're gung-ho to being an oncologist, then you're not the kid struggling for an identity at Michigan in this discussion.


June 13th, 2018 at 12:10 PM ^

as I said, if you have a degree in the soft sciences, then youre actual major doesn't matter all that much.  If you want to be an economist, engineer, scientist, doctor, etc, then your major certainly does matter.   You can't get an interview at NASA just because you have a Michigan degree in art history.  

Also, your friends with degrees in art history and english and then go to work in real estate, wasted their money.  They are the quintessential millennial problem. Kids that went to college just to go to college, or their parents forced them to, or whatever.  Rack up $50k+ in student loans for a degree they will never actually use.  

Walter Rupp

June 13th, 2018 at 12:30 PM ^

Again, you seem to be ignoring the original post and providing thoughts geared toward your own bias about the purpose of college.   The poster was looking for advice regarding a kid struggling with direction at Michigan.  My thought is that he's getting all of the wrong advice if trying to match his passion to something the adults in the room find "marketable".   Moreover, education is never wasted money.  There is infinitely much more learned at Michigan than what Shepherd taught in Micro-Economics.  And you might want to check on degree paths at schools like Princeton.  You'd likely be very disappointed by how many end-up at Goldman Sachs with majors in History or Philosophy.   These are all majors/degrees that we use and that enrich who we've become.  Although, your situation sounds a bit different, maybe you did not go to Michigan, or were strictly in engineering and now sitting at NASA?   Personally, I would not deride "soft sciences" which now yield an individual a 7 figure annual income.   


June 13th, 2018 at 12:44 PM ^

I would not be disappointed if anyone ended up making 7 figures at Goldman Sachs.  Good for them.  It didnt change my life in any way, so why would I care?

My point was that I dont see how a degree in Art History prepares oneself for managing other peoples wealth.  


June 13th, 2018 at 1:37 PM ^

A large number of employers want employees that have learned to think in particular ways (sorting and assembling diverse information to make original arguments) rather than being trained in discrete technical skills that are going to be specific to their industry. Most employers expect that recent college grads will need extensive training in the things specific to the particular job they are hiring them for.


June 13th, 2018 at 2:03 PM ^

Here's how an Art History major prepares someone to manage other people's wealth:

1) First, you have to convince people to hand over their money for you or your team to manage.  Sales is a big part of Private Wealth Management.  The people doing the selling are rarely allocating the portfolio.  So if you have a basket weaving degree from Michigan or Princeton or Harvard or an expensive, elite University, you are immediately pretty attractive to a bank because you probably have friends with rich parents or family members or fellow country club members, etc. And your friends are more likely to be rich when they get older.  You will be part of a higher income social circle than if you didn't go to college.  And that has tremendous value if you're in sales (of wealth management, real estate, etc).

2) I used to work at American Funds, the huge mutual fund company that manages trillions of dollars of wealth. They specifically targeted humanities majors from elite colleges to start their careers as research associates.  So they hired a surprising number of History majors and Philosophy majors from Williams, and small liberal arts colleges. 

I thought that was weird, but this is why they did it: The most important things they were looking for in candidates were curiosity, work ethic, and intellectual horsepower.  None of that is taught in any degree program but all of it is required to graduate from an elite university that encourages intellectual curiosity above all else.  They found that economics and business majors were more likely to just want to get rich and weren't as committed to the intellectual rigor necessary for researching companies.  They knew that they could easily teach these really smart kids how to read financial statements.  What they wanted was intellectual curiosity which is harder to teach.


June 13th, 2018 at 2:26 PM ^

Yeah fuck teachers, low income housing experts, most people who work in non-profits that work with people who are struggling in society. 

Also of course you can get an interview at NASA for a variety of non engineering or physics degrees. You can be a communications major and wind up being one of the most important people at the organization, you could be an artist who helps design program and marketing materials that are key to messaging what NASA does which is necessary to get the funding support to keep NASA's doors open. You can be any number of degrees and work in a governmental affairs office of NASA working to keep it open and funded. Sorry you have such a shitty trash world view.


June 13th, 2018 at 12:07 PM ^

You 100% can be a biologist with a humanities degree if you can get into grad school, which will rely more on MCAT, other application materials, etc. In fact, a lot of places would prefer someone with a humanities degree because they often look to solve problems differently and add new perspectives from the herd.


This is doubly true for places like consulting firms.

Bando Calrissian

June 13th, 2018 at 12:23 PM ^

Not many people are going to become a "biologist" with solely a BS. Professional degrees (MS/PhD/MD) are what put you in the field, not an undergraduate degree.

To wit: One of my best friends at UM was an English major. They got an MA in computer science, and now they're a top-flight web designer. Both graduate programs and employers want people who can think in a variety of ways, not tailored specifically and solely to their job. You can, and maybe should pursue a major/double major in something other than your intended field if you know you're going to have to get a professional degree anyway.


June 13th, 2018 at 12:34 PM ^

My degrees are in engineering, but I am basically a biologist.  I study plants much more than I do math.  The place I work for mostly hires people with an MS or higher, but we certainly have people with a BS.

But my point wasnt about future degrees.  It was that your current degree should be in something that you want to pursue, unless you just want a generic degree to get an interview because it says Michigan on it. And that a generic degree is fine if you dont actually care what your future career will be in.  But if you want a career in the hard sciences, then you will need a degree in the hard sciences. 

Clarence Beeks

June 13th, 2018 at 1:00 PM ^

" But my point wasnt about future degrees.  It was that your current degree should be in something that you want to pursue, unless you just want a generic degree to get an interview because it says Michigan on it. And that a generic degree is fine if you dont actually care what your future career will be in.  But if you want a career in the hard sciences, then you will need a degree in the hard sciences."

That's such a professional school mentality (which makes sense, given engineering degree - truly, no offense intended by that, but rather engineering programs are structured morel like professional programs) that totally discounts the value of a liberal arts education, which is what LSA aims to provide (if you haven't seen it recently, the home page for LSA states it this way: "an unrivaled liberal arts education").  The whole point there is that you can study a multitude of different things and then go on to do a multitude of different things with that degree, irrespective of major.  It really, and truly, is just not true (not universally or specifically) that you can't do X, Y, or Z without a degree in X, Y, or Z.


June 13th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

I respect that, and I have admitted my bias on it.  I dont begrudge anyone for pursuing a passion through education.  

But I think we've gotten off of my first comment. I responded to "Honestly, your major doesn't matter that much for a lot of jobs and grad programs.  Most of the time the bigger thing is just having a degree from Michigan to put on your résumé."

I just dont agree with this philosophy.  This is very ivy league school mentality, that you need to know someone, and you'll be handed a job.  An Education at Michigan should be about educating yourself.  Not just getting your foot in the door with the alumni base.  

And yes, maybe that strategy does work for a lot of thew soft sciences.  But it does not work for the hard sciences.  

thats all I was saying


June 13th, 2018 at 11:13 AM ^

Becoming a general studies major would be incredibly ill-advised. That's a football player major (sorry, but it's true). He also won't get into the Ross minor without a good GPA.

Would tell him to look at the econ program or try out an into econ class if he hasn't yet. Statistics could be somewhat challenging but if he's a quantitative thinker it could be a good fit. Also, look into transferring into the school of information to get a bachelor's in information science. I know a couple info sci grads from my year that are doing well.


June 13th, 2018 at 2:34 PM ^

I disagree with your assessment of a BGS but its true that this isn't the right decision for him. A general studies degree can be used for people in sports who want to avoid academic problems. It can also be used by students who have a diverse array of interests across a variety of fields and are willing to put in the time and effort to create a cohesive course of study that builds towards a goal. To do the second option successfully you need to be a driven person with a goal in mind. Maybe you are looking to go into public policy (I know there is an undergrad public policy degree now but there didn't used to be) and want to take high level course in history, philosophy, political science, sociology, and econ. You could double or triple major and because of individual major requirements have to cram your schedule or stay longer, or you could use a BGS to take all of those courses. It then also becomes about how you sell the degree post graduation, being prepared to talk about why you made the course decisions you did in college and justify them.  Its a terrible plan for this kid but it gets shit on and can be a completely legitimate course of action if its well thought out and not just a, I want easy classes experience.

O S Who

June 13th, 2018 at 11:20 AM ^

what is he currently trying to major in? IOE or LSA Computer science are probably already harder than what he is doing if he is in LSA


June 13th, 2018 at 12:23 PM ^

I don’t know much about IOE (did aero myself) but even getting the prereqs to transfer into the engineering school is a bear. I did much better in my engineering courses than the physics and math classes I needed before getting in. Granted, I started working a lot harder after I transferred in but getting in is not easy if he’s struggling in LSA.





June 13th, 2018 at 11:20 AM ^

If their not hacking it in LS&A, what makes you think that they'll be successful in IOE?

I think that they need to address what you describe as the lack of passion.  Even with a marketable degree, this person probably isn't going to successfully market themselves without a passion for what they're doing.  I know plenty of people with very shiny degrees that aren't successful.  I know that there's a feeling out there that colleges degrees are the gateway to meaningful careers, but if your approach to college isn't about acquiring the skills that you need to be successful in the thing that you care about, then I really think that you're leaving an awfully lot on the table.


June 13th, 2018 at 11:51 AM ^

Agree. Sounds like a work ethic / life application issue. That was my problem at that age, and no change of major would have fixed it. I don't know the kid and I don't know the situation, so I could be wrong, but on the surface it sounds like a kid who isn't really putting in the effort and doesn't have drive to do something. 

There's a small chance that there's a major that could excite their passion, but if they're looking for the "most marketable easy degree" I don't think they'll find it there. 

But it doesn't have to be permanent. I caught fire a couple of years later in life. It's fine.


June 13th, 2018 at 12:08 PM ^

I agree 100%, and was in a fairly similar situation.  I coasted my way through three years in AERO and had a 2.7 GPA.  As a senior, I figured out what I wanted to do (jet engines), worked as hard as I ever have and barely scraped out with a 3.0.  That was enough to squeeze into a decent grad school program and I haven't stopped pushing since.


June 13th, 2018 at 11:28 AM ^

I went the route of communication studies.....Wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do, and that seemed very broad.  The degree provided what I wanted, which was the sought after interview.  Have had a successful sales position now for 5 years in an excellent company.  

Did the degree itself prepare and push me towards the position?  Not in my opinion, but it was the conduit for the interview.  

My advice is that the family member needs to identify what they like to do and drive towards that.  That will ultimately motivate them more so than trying to find the "most marketable" LSA degree.


June 13th, 2018 at 11:30 AM ^

Getting into Ross is extremely difficult even with a passion well thought out attempt.  Is the kid naturally good at any one or two things and interested in those same things?  That's what he should pursue.  It's all really difficult, so the kids desire to actually do what he's doing is pretty damn important.


That sounds like vague advice, but Michigan trains everyone who sticks it out to be a big success.  You just have to get into something that inspires you to plow through the difficult parts, which are many.


June 13th, 2018 at 11:31 AM ^

This is a tough situation. I don't have a good recommendation, but I don't think you can go wrong with a math major. 

I don't think Ross would be good if the struggle is fitting in with "aggressive peers." Ross is the campus center for aggressive douchebags, as a double graduate I think it's okay to say that. I think it would be even harder to try that than finding something where there is an interest in LSA.

Best of luck

Mike Damone

June 13th, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

I know a lot of passive douchebags who stayed in LSA, and made fun of us aggressive douchebags at Ross.  Most of them are in a business setting today - and whether they admit it or not, wish they would have had the sense and/or the grades to go to Ross.  Would have changed their careers for the better...

Beyond that - I would encourage any kid, whatever degree or program at Michigan, to 1) Show Energy and Passion To Your Employer, 2) Find Something You Enjoy Doing, and 3) Work Hard To Be Good At It.

The world is unkind to those who are not decisive.  A little aggressiveness never hurt anyone...


June 13th, 2018 at 11:35 AM ^

I got a BGS degree from M and looooved it. People knock it as being easy because many football players choose it, though that is mostly because it avoids the foreign language proficiency requirement. It can allow you an easier path if you opt for that, but for the most part it is designed to be more intensive than a typical LSA degree.

It encourages students to attend a disparate range of classes in different schools, without having to necessarily concentrate in one or two. I took classes in chemistry, computer science, cosmology, film, literature, poli sci, law school courses, business school courses, math, statistics, american culture, communications, history, psychology, creative writing, etc. etc. Beyond allowing for a much more varied curriculum, it also requires that 60 credits be completed in 300/400 level courses, which are typically more intense than the 100/200 level prerequisites. The upper level courses are typically not huge lectures and are more focused and interesting by far than the intro courses. 

As far as how it benefits me career-wise, I work in SF/Silicon Valley tech/media start-ups doing strategy, product and business development work and I use all of it. Writing/communication skills, some law, computer science and an understanding of technology, etc. Way more useful (to me) than getting a computer science degree (was never going to be a programmer) or something like a literature degree. 

Bando Calrissian

June 13th, 2018 at 11:37 AM ^

Honestly, this sounds like someone who would not thrive at a school like Michigan, but seems intent on sticking it out because they see their education as a transaction: I pay money, they give me the degree to get the job. Michigan is a world-class institution that draws highly competitive and motivated people. It's themselves, and not solely their major which makes them marketable. Just having the degree isn't going to get you the job.

All of the majors you listed, aside from BGS, are competitive programs filled with people just like that. If that isn't a good environment, cowering in the corner because Michigan is too Michigan is just kicking the can down the street.


June 13th, 2018 at 11:40 AM ^

Depends what they want to do.  If you can get something along the math / stats / IOE lines that is quantitative but doesn't have "bell curve" classes then I think the kid will be fine. 

So many jobs will accept applicants with any kinds of quantitative degrees it keeps things open.  The job board through LSA is a bit harder than probably at Ross or College of Engin but there are opportunities a plenty. 


June 13th, 2018 at 11:41 AM ^

If he/she doesn’t mind calculus and advanced algebra, Econ is a fairly marketable degree. I was surprised how much math was involved in the upper level courses compared to 101 and 102, but I managed to slog through. If not a big math person I would try a foreign language. If the student can major in a marketable foreign language, there are doors open in multiple industries, even if only as a translator/interpreter. But those jobs will often require travel or moving to a major city IME.  Could also join the peace corps with a foreign language degree or work for the state department of grades improve.