How important is major in the UK?

Pretty short question--how much does course (Philosophy) matter at a school like UCL if I'm trying to break into London IB? 

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Comments (22)

  • Prospect in PE - Other
May 8, 2021 - 9:31am

Longer answer to your short question:

  1. Majors don't exist in the UK. Seems like a nuance, but it isn't. A philosophy student in the US at a top school gunning for IB is likely to have some coding/data skills, whereas that's unusual for it in the UK.
  2. As a general rule, subjects matter somewhat but probably less than the US. There's broadly a top category of STEM/Economics followed by Finance/Management and then other respectable non-quant subjects (History, English, Philosophy, etc.). Getting into FO out of subjects with less transferrable skills - think Classics, Modern Languages, etc. - is near-impossible outside of Oxbridge. 
  3. UCL is a target, albeit a lower one, and Philosophy is probably more respected in the UK than in the US because of the dominance of PPE in public life. I agree with the post above that UCL philosophy is better than most semi or non-targets in something relevant. Would probably say it would be comparable to STEM/Econ/Finance at an upper semi-target like Edinburgh or Durham. You'll have a chance - but to compete against STEM/Econ/Finance students (a large proportion of whom won't get FO from UCL) you'll want to get Spring Weeks. Would also advise that you try to take more quantitative modules/develop decent programming skills to tackle the "social science stigma" that exists in the UK. 
  4. Finally, UK targets - even doing Econ/STEM - are not guarantees of FO. The lack of proper OCR means that UK targets are nowhere near as strong at placing than the top US universities, and you also have very experienced continental Europeans that you're competing with. Look at LSE's placement if you don't believe me - less than 15% of graduates land FO jobs. Situation is even worse for UCL, as ceteris paribus you've got two London unis (LSE/Imperial) that will be preferred plus Oxbridge too. 
  5. Assuming you're American - based on your use of the word "major" - I would strongly consider any US T20 target over UCL. Per above, recruiting is easier, and student resources will be much better. 
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  • Prospect in PE - Other
May 8, 2021 - 10:33am

I think the target thing is very important. Even Oxbridge STEM/Econ is no guarantee of BB FO, and some people will even miss out on MM FO. It's a completely different game to going to HYPSW. You can look at the careers stats for these schools.
Oxford: 7% "Banking and Investment" (further 4% in Accounting, Insurance and Financial Services)
LSE: 22% "Financial and Insurance Activities" (15% FO was an educated, probably overly optimistic guess) - how many people are trying to break into finance form LSE? Half? 
Imperial: 13% "Banking and Financial" (further 3% in Accountancy and another 5-10% in "Other Business Related Activities", which probably includes some of the insurance sector covered by LSE's category)
UCL: 8% "Accounting and Financial Services" 
Warwick don't disclose the information to the public (need a staff log-in) and the way Cambridge classifies things is not really comparable to the other four targets. 

It's not like that many people are going into high-powered law/consultancy/engineering/tech jobs instead. Across all four of these universities with comprehensive data available, it looks like maybe 25-50% of people "make it" in terms of their first graduate jobs. There's also the salary gap between America and the UK. Highest average starting salary is Imperial at £37000, bumped up by the lack of soft subjects. No other university in the country is above £32000. Imperial's starting salary is about average for all US college grads, and two-thirds of comparable US STEM-focused schools (CMU, MIT, Berkeley, etc.). Everywhere else in the UK is well below the US median. 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
May 8, 2021 - 10:41am

It will help you stand out among a sea of STEM/finance/econ applicants which can work to your advantage. Most of the econ/finance students have very similar profiles to each other which is why many of them face problems during the application season (they end up all looking alike on paper). 

As long as you can talk about finance knowledgeably it's not a huge issue at all.

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