Monday, April 30, 2018
Choose a major in line with growing global industries
My role as a college admissions consultant has increasingly become that of a career adviser. Students today want to know not only where to study but what to study as they prepare for a career. The globalization of the economy and the shifting of our manufacturing base means that those students who are left in the wake of this transition are concerned about their future. They want to know where they fit in.
Just being smart and ambitious is not enough anymore, especially if one grew up in one of the older industrial areas of the economy, such as Northwest Indiana. Students here have limited opportunity to learn about professional careers outside the area. First-generation college students from blue collar families are particularly vulnerable. What is chronically lacking is professional advice and information that can help these young people link their education to careers. Few know, for example, that in a global economy, a banker or money manager needs to have a broad understanding of political developments in order to compete. Today, events taking place in China can determine everything from bond prices to interest rates in a global economy. Students interested in politics and history may not realize that a major in political science and foreign languages will help prepare them for a lucrative career in this area. Academic advisers should counsel students accordingly.
Gone are the days when counselors simply scheduled classes and handed out college brochures. Today's counselors must have a solid understanding of where job growth will occur in the future. Niall Ferguson, Hoover Institution Senior Fellow and globalization authority, cautions that Chinese manufacturing is making huge gains in price competitiveness, making their products far more competitive on the world market than they were even last year. This is certain to boost pressure on American engineers as they struggle with job security and outsourcing. The anxiety increases as Ferguson points out that global markets are booming and initial public offerings of stock in China is reaching all-time highs. Indeed, Ferguson warns us to expect prices to increase in real estate and even the art markets. The astute career adviser will point the way to unique opportunities for fine arts and business majors.
Still the best bet for students with strong math ability is to follow the lead of Steve Ballmer, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and former Microsoft CEO. He roomed with Bill Gates at Harvard and is one of the world's elite billionaires. His major was economics and applied math at Harvard. Although these are difficult subjects, they require little more math ability than the standard mechanical engineering curriculum. Yet, starting salaries are usually double or triple those of engineers. Dale Miller of Miller Consulting Group in Indianapolis reports that jobs for engineers specializing in medical and surgical instrument design often go unfilled. Again, counselors must do their research to stay informed, because opportunities in engineering fields exist but you must dig deep to find them.
What about parents who say their son or daughter is not interested in math or is not quantitatively gifted? Well, thanks to the ever-expanding world economy, there are significant opportunities for other majors. For example, degrees built around foreign languages are in demand by virtually every top employer. A degree in the classics, perhaps because it involves the study of moral judgments may be rare, but it can put the holder in an unique position for a career in business and law. Once students have proven themselves over four years of study to be capable of producing sound essays on all manner of difficult subjects — quantized, argumentative or historical — many employers will assume that these abilities can be transferred to trading bonds or writing a marketing plan. The key is not to limit your choice of majors.
Gerald Bradshaw is a top US college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
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