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Friday, February 9, 2007

Post-Tribune
Merrillville, Indiana

Educated Advice Columnist
Gerald M. Bradshaw

Global economy changes rules for choosing a major and career



My role as a college admissions consultant is increasingly taking on a career advising role as students want to know what to study-not just where to study-in preparing for a career.

The globalizing of the economy and the shifting of our manufacturing base overseas means many students who are left behind in the wake of this transition are worried about their futures. The 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.

Often, students here have limited opportunities 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 them link their educations to careers.


Related fields

Few know, for example, that in a global economy, a banker or money manager needs to have a broader understanding of political developments in order to compete. Students interested in politics and history may not realize that a major in political science and foreign languages will help prepare them for one of these lucrative careers.

Today, events taking place in China determine everything from bond prices to interest rates in a global Economy. 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.

Harvard professor Niall Ferguson writes in the Feb. 5 Wall Street Journal that Chinese manufacturing is making even greater gains in price competitiveness, making their products more competitive on the world market than they were last year. This is certain to boost pressure on American engineers as they struggle with job security and outsourcing.


Advisers need insight

The anxiety increases as Ferguson points out that global markets are booming and initial pubic offerings of stock in China last year reached all time highs. Indeed, Ferguson warns us to expect prices to increase in real estate and even the art markets. The astute career adviser points the way to unique opportunities for fine arts and business majors.

The WSJ also reported recently that employers plan to hire 17 percent more graduates from the Class of '08 than from '06. One employer said accounting and consulting firms are leading the demand.

Still the best bet for students with strong math ability is to follow the lead of Steve Ballmer of Microsoft Corp. He in one of the world's 800 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.

At he opposite end of the job market, the auto industry is suffering, and counselors need to caution students expecting to major in fields related to it.

Dale Miller of Miller Consulting Group in Indianapolis reports, however, that jobs for engineers specializing in medical and surgical instrument design often go unfilled. Counselors must do their research to stay informed. Even within engineering, there are opportunities, but you must dig deep to find them.


Going beyond math

What about parents who say their son or daughter is not interested in math or is as quantitatively gifted? Because of the ever-expanding world economy, there are significant opportunities for other majors.

Oriental studies degrees built around foreign languages are in demand by virtually every top employer. A degree in the classics-perhaps because they involve moral judgments-are rare degrees and that puts the holder in an excellent position for a career in business and law.

The tie-in is that once students prove themselves over four years of study to be capable of producing sound essays on all manner of difficult subjects-quantized or argumentative and historical-many employers will assume that ability can be transferred to trading bonds or writing a marketing plan.

The key is not to limit your choice of majors.

Contact Gerald Bradshaw, The US States Top college consultant. One-on-one college consulting. Get help with the college application essay. Make you dream of being admitted into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania a reality.

Toll Free: 866-687-8129
gerald_bradshaw@post.harvard.edu

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