Liberal arts major= DEATH SENTENCE or NOT?

Bull-Market's picture
Rank: Monkey | 60

I've read countless posts and threads from various finance forums and listen to a lot of people talk.

Some say a liberal arts degree is okay. Some say its the equivalent of 1-ply toilet paper.

Someone will say Soros did Philosophy then someone else will say "he did it @ an IVY".

Some say you can supplement your degree with internships, extra courses and networking, the Varsity Career Service Consultants will say its pointless, your degree is the equivalent of 1-ply toilet paper".

What is the deal? Is a liberal arts grad Fucked! Or is it all relative?

Comments (138)

Feb 10, 2013

It's too hard to answer a question like this because there are so many variables at play. What type of liberal arts degree are you planning on doing?

If you want to play it safe, you could do a double-major and combine it with something more useful to finance. Or you can just minor in the liberal arts discipline. Or just take some liberal arts classes for fun (without even majoring/minoring in it). Or you can just study the liberal arts stuff in your free-time.

Feb 10, 2013

I cringe whenever someone I know tells me his/her Communications major surpasses my "sellout" Finance major.

Feb 10, 2013
EtherBinge:

I cringe whenever someone I know tells me his/her Communications major surpasses my "sellout" Finance major.

LOL, I don't blame you. Especially since communications is not even intellectually challenging. At least if someone is going to choose a liberal arts, study philosophy, math, physics, etc. Communications is probably among the worst choice someone could pick.

Feb 10, 2013

I'd hire maths/physics/Econ(assuming fingerpainting classes are at a minimum) over a finance major any day. That said if u studied English lit or the like its going to be very tough

Feb 10, 2013

Considering many of the top universities in the US do not have undergraduate business schools, I would be willing to bet the majority of Wall Street majored in a liberal art.

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Feb 10, 2013

If you combine it with a STEM/Business degree, then you're fine. If not, it will be extremely tough but can be done. I know about one liberal arts major for every 25 STEM/Business.

Feb 10, 2013

Talking mainly about IB here, but here you go.

Lib arts is just fine if it's from a good school and you can walk them through a DCF and have a demonstrated interest in finance. In my mind IB recruiters see the rankings like this:

1) Ivy leaguer (any major) with good banking internships - especially if Harvard or Stanford or Princeton
2) Ivy leaguer (economics/quant major), maybe no banking yet, but interested in business - especially if Wharton
3) Top 10-15 (this is usually as many 'targets' as a bank needs), quant/business focus - Michigan, etc.
4) Non-target, but has shown scrappiness and managed to get a banking internship (a handful of spots per analyst class for these - mainly to fill the gaps) - Illinois, other state schools, etc.
5) Non-target, no relevant experience (1/1,000,000 shot...) - you went to Drake/Iowa State etc.
6) Duke :)

The analyst classes at BBs are often completely full halfway through number 3. Many are full even before FT recruiting because all of their summer analysts are coming back for FT.

All this is to say, your major matters far less than the school you attended, and what you do with it. I was a category 4 but managed to break in to restructuring IB but I had to grind really hard for it (wish I had researched the phrase 'target school' while I was busy chasing girls and not studying for the SAT).

Thoughts?

if you like it then you shoulda put a banana on it

Feb 10, 2013

Well I'm halfway across the world in africa. There are no Ivy Leagues over here. I go to one of the top 2 schools on the continent. But in terms of world standards, my varsity is in the 100's.

So I don't know.

Feb 10, 2013
frgna:

...
6) Duke :)
...
Thoughts?

My thought: http://youtu.be/3X1ewxVwhug

Feb 10, 2013
LoneStarDevil:
frgna:

...
6) Duke :)
...
Thoughts?

My thought: http://youtu.be/3X1ewxVwhug[/quote]

Yes, it's definitely a target basketball school.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY-iq58_oz4

if you like it then you shoulda put a banana on it

Feb 10, 2013

I would take any major, but would expect what position you are interviewing for to have some resemblance in your resume.

Feb 10, 2013

Given proximity to NYC, I'd say Trinity is the best bet of the schools you mentioned. Quick LinkedIn search shows a good deal of Trinity alums working in IBD. Would even go as far as slotting it into the nebulous "semi-target" category (as in, you can get into IBD but it will just take a bit, emphasis on bit, of hustle).

Feb 10, 2013

Of course it's possible, even outside the T10 - although if you stray outside of T20, think it will be very difficult, but of course still not impossible

I went to a LAC (though not 1 that you have listed), and believe there were 30+ guys/girls from my class who went into banking, and most of them accepted traditional IB jobs in NY (but there are plenty of regional exceptions)

Fast fwd - if you attend one of these LACs, to land a banging gig, aside from the usual advice to get great grades, prepare, etc., I would recommend exploring alumni network when appropriate. Since these colleges are much smaller, they tend to have tight knit alumni networks. Don't schmooze, but instead would use it as an opportunity to learn about different positions, firms, cultures, trajectories, etc.

Hope that helps, good luck

Feb 10, 2013
Generals2:

Fast fwd - if you attend one of these LACs, to land a banging gig

Freudian slip?

Feb 10, 2013

Went to an LAC (not Amherst or Williams but top 10) and can comment. To be honest not all LACs are created equal especially when it comes to Finance. Schools like Amherst or Williams will place well regardless because of prestige, but there are a number of other highly ranked schools like Vassar and Grinell where the placement for finance is much weaker than at other similarly ranked schools(Middlebury, Trinity, Colgate, Hamilton etc).

What it comes down to is the general feel of the school and where the alumni currently work. I know that at the 4 schools I previously mentioned, the vibe of the schools tends to be a little more preppy as kids come from wealthier backgrounds in either urban areas, or wealthy suburbs. These wealthy kids are well connected, network into good jobs, and then are willing to help kids from their alma mater. It's unlikely you'll get OCR at these places, but the alumni connections are pretty strong and can help you get you interviews at most places you would want as well as great inside advice on how to prepare for interviews.

When I was recruiting for banking I had MDs and VPs take the time to meet with me 1 on 1 to chat and who forwarded my resume. We also had a few days where trips would be sponsored into the city to meet with alums in Finance.

Conversely, a school like Vassar is more artsy and hipster so its probably harder to find 1. Alums who work in banking 2. Support for getting into Finance. It's still probably not impossible, but I wouldn't go to Vassar if you know you're going to be dead set on banking.

I think LACs are a great background for finance, you just need to put a little more legwork in than kids from undergrad business schools. Keep your grades up(major doesn't really matter tbh), teach yourself some finance on the side, network early and often, and start getting finance internships as soon as you can.

If you do the above and go to a top LAC you'll be right in line for a BB IBD internship come junior year.

Feb 10, 2013

Well I will most likely be able to get into Trinity. You include that in your post as good LAC to get into banking. It's not in the Top 20, but it's in NESCAC, so I feel like that gives it prestiege. If it was down to Babson or Trinity, would Trinity be better off in the long run?

edit: also according to the USNWR top 20 LACs, the one I could probably get into the most is Grinnell, as long as I apply ED. I have a tiny chance at Wesleyan and maybe Bates, but definitely wouldn't bet on them. As you stated, Grinnell and the equivalents seem more artsy focused to be able to get to the banks. Probably doesn't help when your classmates are protesting the companies you are trying to get jobs at. So, is trinity the best of all these? As stated if I apply ED to Trinity, I'm pretty certain I'd get in. Similar for Babson, I guess

Feb 10, 2013

Sorry just saw the part where you said you couldn't get into a top LAC. If you fall out of the top 20 or so then I'd probably just do Babson. A low ranked liberal arts school will make things tougher. With that being said, go where you fit best. You might not want to do finance in a few years. Make sure to consider everything before deciding on a college.

Feb 10, 2013

NESCAC or go home. Trinity has a good pipeline into finance related roles, and is one of the easier 'CAC schools to get into.

Feb 10, 2013

Double post

Feb 10, 2013

Honestly if it comes down to Trinity vs Babson, I'd make sure to visit both and just decide which one is a better fit. Both schools will have a different feel to them and you'll be able to become successful from either. Trinity has a very NESCAC'y feel, and by that I mean its pretty preppy/fratty. Some people will be comfortable with that and if you are it will be a good fit. I also know of many kids(especially minorities) who feel somewhat alienated because of this, which makes assimilating tougher. I also wouldn't got to Trinity if you're just trying to go to a "prestigious" school. Trinity gets beat on as one of the least academic NESCAC schools, and the general stigma associated with Trinity is that its a school for dumber wealthy kids who couldn't get into other NESCACs. Do I think this is true? Not entirely, but if you're trying to name drop Trinity as an equal to Williams/Amherst you're going to be disappointed.

While I don't know as much about Babson, it will be a bigger school with a more public university feel. You'll get to be in Boston and you'll be taking more Finance oriented classes, but you'll probably find a little more competition for Finance jobs. There will be plenty of kids who are driven to find jobs in banking/finance so you'll have to work to stand out a little more. Tons of kids will be gunning for jobs/internships so if you're willing to grind it out then this might be a better fit. I'm pretty sure Babson has an investment fund that they let a select group of students manage, which helps with feeding into Finance. Conversely, at Trinity if you major in Econ, get decent grades, and are in a frat that has connections, you could probably coast a little more and just make sure to network well.

Last thing I'd consider is money. I was fortunate to go to my LAC and graduate with very little debt. I'm in a solid job now and I look back fondly on my time at college; however, if I hadn't had my tuition mostly funded, I probably wouldn't have done a LAC, especially if you're not going to a top school. 60k a year is a lot for a school that won't really prepare you for any job.

So basically my tl:dr on this is

1) If you're preppy/fratty/wealthy/ or are just fine with hanging out with kids like this for the next four years, then Trinity should be where you focus your efforts. It will be a lot of fun, the network will be strong, and I think a liberal arts degree is most useful than people give it credit for.

2) If you don't fit the profile above, don't like partying and broing out, and are deadset on Finance for your career, then Babson is probably better. You'll be able to take finance classes, work hard all the time, and fight your way into a good finance job on the east coast.

This is all just my opinion though. Go with what feels right and don't base everything entirely on what you want to do after school. Definitely take it into consideration, but you'll have plenty of opportunities to change over the next 4-5 years.

Feb 10, 2013

Thanks for all your help.

In regards to the whole preppy thing, I am actually a minority myself with a name that comes off as blatantly Hispanic. That is one thing I have heard about Trinity. I've heard it's very hard for minorities to assimilate into the preppy cliques, which has concerned me. I consider myself to be of preppy style, but I don't really want to join a frat. Do you actually consider this a significant portion in getting into Finance from Trinity? I haven't visited them in person, but Trinity's campus looks a lot nicer than Babson's. I think I really need to visit though and decide for myself. The frat thing at Trinity does concern me, although the Trinity frat percentage is only 18%.

Feb 10, 2013

Can't speak from experience as I didn't go to Trinity and don't know the school dynamics, but I can give you my best guesses. I don't think being in a frat will be a huge part of getting into Finance, but it might have a decent influence on your social life. I wasn't in a Frat in my school and still made it into Finance just by networking. I talked to plenty of guys who used to be in frats and I didn't think it was too big of a deal.

Yup I think visiting the campus is a great idea and really gives you an idea of how the school feels. If possible, try to do an overnight visit at each school, go to some classes, talk to as many people as possible, and just really get a feel for the school. If Trinity feels right then you should go with your gut. There were plenty of minorities on my campus that fit in very well and had no issues, some who took years to become comfortable and some who never really identified with the student body at all.

It might also be a good idea to reach out to the president of the Latino/BLSU and see if they have any perspective on it. Good luck and I hope everything works out well.

Feb 10, 2013

Did you apply to Villanova? Or can you apply? Its a good choice for Finance, also Brandeis, Boston College and Bentley have had people going in Finance jobs (though mostly in Boston area)

Feb 10, 2013

So that's where my 30 cents a day goes...

Feb 10, 2013

Liberal arts degrees are fine if you're going to a top school. But for someone going to a school ranked, say, 80 on US News, why would you hire someone from there with an English major? Cool, they spent 4 years thinking outside the box. The person they're actually going to get hired by needs someone to sell something, crunch numbers, or something similar.

Feb 10, 2013

I understand that point, but the same could also be said about a STEM major. Perhaps the person with a technical degree would be marginally better off in finding a job, but if you go to (e.g.) a shit state school and get through an engineering program with a 2.4 GPA, you'll still be hard pressed to find a job.

Feb 10, 2013

I think liberal arts is a great education and would have considered it myself if I had someone else paying my way. But when you have to spend your own money or take on debt you better make sure you'll get a return on that investment. Too many people get 6 figures in debt to study something that wont command a salary high enough to repay the debt incurred.

And at the end of the day you can always be a liberal arts major on your own time. I wanted to study history and instead just read about it all the time. Still received a marketable degree and kept my hobby/passion on the side.

Feb 10, 2013

CP Snow lectures should be mentioned here, fascinating insights that the STEM preachers would learn well from.

Feb 10, 2013

All else being equal, it is arguable that any amount of education you receive in college in nearly any field could actually be learned on your own time. E.g. Will Hunting would be the epitome of this argument, and yeah I know it's not real, but you get my point.

Having recently graduated, I can honestly say that of all of my classes, Intro to Lit was one of the most difficult. Of course Calculus was quite difficult, as math does not come naturally to me but my finance classes were essentially a cake walk. The amount of knowledge that I gained from my actual finance classes has only marginally improved my professional competency, and most of what I have learned that is relevant for this field has been during internships or on the job.

I mean, has anyone actually read Keats or Kafka and understood them? IMO, it takes much more critical thinking to digest that material than it does to learn a DCF.

Feb 10, 2013

A liberal arts education is nice if you can afford it. Definitely makes sense for the aristocracy.

Feb 10, 2013

I've always been under the impression that the "S" & "M" (haha) of "STEM" are, in fact, liberal arts.

"My caddie's chauffeur informs me that a bank is a place where people put money that isn't properly invested."

Feb 10, 2013

Do both. I have a liberal arts degree and looking back I would have finished the computer science major as well (I was originally a programmer). Several of my current bosses double majored in liberal arts and business/STEM. You need to be good at numbers AND written/verbal critical thinking. It frankly annoys me when people argue one against another. When I see geeky engineers bitching about being stuck in IT roles, or liberal arts majors not having access to core processing roles, I laugh because these two groups looked often down on each other in college.

There should also be a clarification between "liberal arts degree" and "liberal arts major". A 4 year degree is by definition liberal arts. You can have any concentration, but still complete diverse basic competencies. A liberal arts major just describes the concentration. The distinction has to be made. I am strongly in favor of as many people as possible getting a liberal arts degree, even if it's from a cheap community college....but I don't think everyone should be a liberal arts major.

Actually, I believe that our primary and secondary educational systems could be upgraded to the point that everyone could be college level work in high school. The current educational system was designed a century ago and is badly in need of reform....it's a great system, just needs an upgrade.

I think people are beginning to figure this out....

Feb 10, 2013

I agree that all things can be learned on your own, but when you are interviewing it is nice to have a piece of paper showing you know accounting and finance. I mean you can read Kafka and check out some wiki write ups and get an idea on the underpinnings of his writing and then have a conversation on it. You don't need to bust out your transcripts and point to your A in Lit class to prove it.

I don't know. If I was rich I would have studied a ton of shit. Unfortunately I needed to get a job. If you are going to Oklahoma State and racking up debt for a sociology degree you really need to re-evaluate your decision.

Feb 10, 2013

Is there a shortage of people pursuing STEM degrees? Sometimes it sounds like young people are "leaving" STEM for Lib arts. Maybe it is just a case of more people attending college so more people getting lib arts degrees?

Feb 10, 2013

I'm a liberal arts major who minored in a business field, so I am a bit biased. You need enough business knowledge to get you through the technical aspects of an interview. Once you start working, I think you need to be interesting and have good communication and critical thinking skills. You can get that from a lot of places, but a liberal arts degree is one of the best.

Feb 10, 2013

You also need something to get you in the door. At most places that comes down to major, school, sometimes extracurriculars, and *maybe* GPA. And I'm talking in general btw, not WS-specific.

Feb 10, 2013

I am at LAC and sometimes I feel it's like an extended high school. Growing up in a country with decent high school education that really expects a lot from you I have to say taking all those art/psychology/religion/science classes that are super basic (and you can't even take higher level without prerequisite level 1 classes) while in college is a total waste of time. I hate the thought that I pay more than $50,000 for such easy classes that don't push me at all. No finance majors and no business school really sucks when it comes to OCR so if someone in high school asks me I would discourage them from going this route.
After American high school it might be a good choice to create a more rounded individual, but if someone went to a top notch high school in the US or abroad LAC is a waste of money.
Other than that many people have no clue about reality of getting jobs after graduation because they go to grad schools.
Overall don't go to LAC if you want to work in finance. It can hurt your skills. You will take bunch of no-brainer classes that don't even push you to work hard.

Feb 10, 2013

@ krauser - you've pretty much pinpointed one of the current macro problems with the post secondary education system. More people are going to college than any other era and more and more STEM jobs are vacant. Creating incentives to take up programming in lieu or in addition to poly sci would help colleges, students, and the general economy. I'm not sure why the gov't has been more willing to take in huge numbers of foreigners (see: China) to train and employ in these fields while copping out of promoting it at home with the "we don't want to tell you how to run your lives" bullcrap. Kids already sit in front of computers, getting them involved in programming at an early age isn't hard.

Just a side note for those who think blue collar workers don't benefit from college: I was talking to some union carpenters while bartending last week and they told me about kids who had college degrees entering the union. For low level work, there wasn't much of a difference, but the kids had a way better grasp of the more complicated projects and functioned above the level of mere worker bee.

Personally, I think upgrading the educational system could realistically be upgraded to the point where everyone left high school with an associate dgree level of education. Then colleges could shorten their programs for many majors. I do not like the European system of assigning people to professional schools right out of secondary school, as it is too rigid and who the hell knows what they want to do when they're 17? I also do not have a problem with people working in fields they didn't study. So what if a psych/engineerin degree ends up in a bank, or an bio major goes into sales? If I'm paying for my education, I'll use it how I damn well please. If the gov't or anyone else wants to pick up the tab, then I'll pay them some mind.

Feb 10, 2013

Who would you rather sit and talk to over lunch? Someone who reads about the world or a propeller head?

Trick question, you're all bankers so you don't get lunch....now back to work - value doesn't create itself.

TT

Feb 10, 2013
TylerT:

Who would you rather sit and talk to over lunch? Someone who reads about the world or a propeller head?

Trick question, you're all bankers so you don't get lunch....now back to work - value doesn't create itself.

TT

Eh, people who extol the virtues of "reading about the world" are generally pretty douchy. I'll pick the guy who's funny and likes sports.

Feb 10, 2013

I went to a non-target and majored in a liberal arts field and it was a complete waste of time, albeit at the time I had no interest in finance. I finally got to where I want to be but it took a while, deservedly so, convicing people that I could do/had a real interest in the work. If finance is the end goal, I'd major in finance/econ and minor in whatever field youre interested in provided it doesnt pull down your gpa.

Feb 10, 2013

would you consider Economics a Liberal arts major (they way colleges do) or a business major?

Feb 10, 2013

Most schools have it as a LibArts major, some have it under business. Most people see it as a LibArts major.

The difference is, it's a respected degree in business. I think this has to do with it being business-related and the closest thing to a business degree at top schools like Harvard/Princeton/etc. Lots of people who went to top schools and then went into business have econ majors, so it's a well-worn course of study.

Also, it's quantitative, unlike Eng/His/etc

Feb 10, 2013

I've thought about this quite a bit because I was a STEM major but I absolutely HATED STEM work and totally suck at it (but still graduated with a 3.6 #gradeinflation).

Ironically, I could have taken English and Philosophy in college and I think I would be able to do my job (in a CS field no less, I basically taught myself since the CS courses at my college could be pretty esoteric and abstract and were not in practical languages (who uses C++ anymore?)). But I could never have sold it to anyone.

Because companies don't make long term commitments to anyone and people no longer make long term commitments to their employers, basically we're all contractors slinging a product: our labor. STEM helps you sell that out of college.

Major in whatever you want. Just make sure you have something to sling when you graduate that isn't crack rocks.

Feb 10, 2013
MonkeyMath:

I've thought about this quite a bit because I was a STEM major but I absolutely HATED STEM work and totally suck at it (but still graduated with a 3.6 #gradeinflation).

Ironically, I could have taken English and Philosophy in college and I think I would be able to do my job (in a CS field no less, I basically taught myself since the CS courses at my college could be pretty esoteric and abstract and were not in practical languages (who uses C++ anymore?)). But I could never have sold it to anyone.

Because companies don't make long term commitments to anyone and people no longer make long term commitments to their employers, basically we're all contractors slinging a product: our labor. STEM helps you sell that out of college.

Major in whatever you want. Just make sure you have something to sling when you graduate that isn't crack rocks.

Really agree with this sentiment. I took a few "STEM" classes and the only one I found enjoyable (and it's completely useless), was Calc I & II because we learned them in a "classical" sense (pencil paper only).

Also, on philosophy, it can be a very hard major. Remember taking a phil class on logic and had to learn logic proofs for intro level. Analytical philosophy is just a whole different level of thinking.

Anyways, just remembered an interesting comment; is it true that IB analysts in UK typically study the classics in UG? I heard from a kid that I interned with awhile ago that went to school there that many of the kids in finance had done classics majors(like Latin, philosophy, etc). Does anyone else know anything about this?

Feb 10, 2013

Go to a school that allows students to have a "liberal arts" curriculum (i.e. they're not forced to only/mostly take classes in their department) to pick up all those soft skills/culture/mindset while majoring in STEM. Problem solved. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, but took still classes in economics, finance, sociology, philosophy, religion, music theory, and two foreign languages.

You can do this at pretty much all the top schools in the U.S.

Feb 10, 2013

Depends on the industry they want to go into, what their major should be, plain and simple. Personally know plenty of successful people with Liberal Arts degrees. An engineering major won't help you get a job in the PR industry, a finance degree is not going to help you get a job in human resources, etc. It really just depends on the person, what if you are terrible at math? Why would you get a 2.0 GPA in order to get a STEM major if you can get a 3.9 and major in Philosphy?

@Anihilist I agree with you, it is preposterous.

Feb 10, 2013

@ peyo212 - there are schools that don't make kids do this? Wow. I'm genuinely surprised.

Feb 10, 2013
UFOinsider:

@ peyo212 - there are schools that don't make kids do this? Wow. I'm genuinely surprised.

Not sure if sarcasm, but if not, U.K. schools don't really give you much flexibility. Also a lot of engineering programs at U.S. schools pigeonhole you into your department.

Feb 10, 2013

I was serious. I went to a huge state school and there was a laundry list of general requirements that had to be fullfilling regardless of major. Every engineer and history etc major had to take the writing, math, science, etc. They specifically didn't want 'learned idiots' who only could do one task, and the majors were viewed as a specialty within the umbrella of a general education.

Feb 10, 2013

When people know you majored in math, they assume you're really good at math even if it's not true. If you tell people you majored in philosophy, they won't really associate that with being good at philosophy. It's easier to just get by in the soft majors whereas as an average math major (as far as ability) getting by in math required me to work pretty damn hard and I still graduated with a low GPA.

Feb 10, 2013

For one to say that all liberal arts majors are critical thinkers is a joke. People who can't make the connection that their 100k plus degree will rarely get them a job that can pay that back is not what I would call critical thinking.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

Feb 10, 2013

In the new dystopia that is the modern American job market, a liberal arts degree is a proverbial useless weight while a applied STEM degree is a jet back pack w/ turbos.

Sorry guys..as someone who was a liberal arts major in college, there is no argument. Unless you go to HYP and have a WASP last name, a liberal arts degree is fucking worthless.

If you want to go backward in your career before it even starts, get a liberal arts degrees.

Shit, i've even heard of some computer science kids getting job offers half way through school because there's such a demand for programmers.

You can bury your head in the sand all you want..the STEM degree is the new liberal arts degree

alpha currency trader wanna-be

Feb 10, 2013

What about the other side of the equation? You act like stem majors do not actively read and learn about history, politics, etc. Many engineers are not just intelligent from a quant standpoint. They can also be exceptionally well versed in other subjects and have a variety of interests. When you consider that side of things, it makes liberal arts even more worthless.

You can read liberal arts BS at your local library or online. When it comes to engineering, it takes years of study under qualified professors; very few people can just check out a thermodynamics or fluid transport textbook and be ready to understand reservoir engineering. An intelligent person can, however, pick up a philosophy book or even poli sci and learn the material.

Feb 10, 2013
Aston Gekko:

What about the other side of the equation? You act like stem majors do not actively read and learn about history, politics, etc. Many engineers are not just intelligent from a quant standpoint. They can also be exceptionally well versed in other subjects and have a variety of interests. When you consider that side of things, it makes liberal arts even more worthless.

You can read liberal arts BS at your local library or online. When it comes to engineering, it takes years of study under qualified professors; very few people can just check out a thermodynamics or fluid transport textbook and be ready to understand reservoir engineering. An intelligent person can, however, pick up a philosophy book or even poli sci and learn the material.

There's a massive difference between just reading Kant, and writing a critical analysis of his work.

I'm not saying that STEM is easy to learn, however just like STEM, you cannot just pick up Hegel and understand what the hell he's talking about.

You are comparing apples to oranges.

Feb 10, 2013

The idea that liberal arts creates an intellectual society is a joke. Any mathematician completely fucking destroys some shitty liberal arts major in intellectual capabilities. Outside of philosophy at top schools liberal arts is a joke in terms of intellectual abilities of people.

Also whilst top stem guys have an interest in philosophy, politics etc... The reverse does not hold. Anyone can study history but history students can't do maths for the most part.

It depends on what ou define as lib arts, some of the ppl studying philosophy at top schools are highly intelligent but once you are at sociology at no name school (or even sociology at top schools) nearly everyone is completely retarded.

Feb 10, 2013

Yeah, you're right. Probably has nothing to do with what those individuals want to do or are interested in.

Feb 10, 2013

As a computer engineering and philosophy double major (technically it's a dual degree), I am sorry to say that purely from an intellectual rigor perspective, liberal arts is much, much weaker.

I won't comment on the value of a liberal arts degree to society versus a STEM degree because I don't think there is enough data to establish a clear answer there. But having been around people from both fields (and I go to a top school, so I am not in some mediocre liberal arts program either), I have no doubt about which group is smarter ON AVERAGE.

Full disclosure...I love my philosophy major, and believe it really does entail an element of challenging critical analysis, but I am sorry - on a pure IQ and intellectual horsepower basis, there can be no question of who is the clear winner.

I also noticed that OP is getting more and more defensive in his responses. No need for that, because quite frankly, it comes off as a bit insecure. At the end of the day this is a futile question. People should major in the subject they enjoy and are curious about - no matter what society thinks. Period. Seeking validation from other people about the strength and competency of your major is a bad idea, and if you don't want to hear something you don't like, or which hurts your ego, then it's better to avoid asking. Just do your thing, and do it well. I'll leave it here and say no more.

Feb 10, 2013
dreamer1992:

As a computer engineering and philosophy double major (technically it's a dual degree), I am sorry to say that purely from an intellectual rigor perspective, liberal arts is much, much weaker.

I won't comment on the value of a liberal arts degree to society versus a STEM degree because I don't think there is enough data to establish a clear answer there. But having been around people from both fields (and I go to a top school, so I am not in some mediocre liberal arts program either), I have no doubt about which group is smarter ON AVERAGE.

Full disclosure...I love my philosophy major, and believe it really does entail an element of challenging critical analysis, but I am sorry - on a pure IQ and intellectual horsepower basis, there can be no question of who is the clear winner.

I also noticed that OP is getting more and more defensive in his responses. No need for that, because quite frankly, it comes off as a bit insecure. At the end of the day this is a futile question. People should major in the subject they enjoy and are curious about - no matter what society thinks. Period. Seeking validation from other people about the strength and competency of your major is a bad idea, and if you don't want to hear something you don't like, or which hurts your ego, then it's better to avoid asking. Just do your thing, and do it well. I'll leave it here and say no more.

Seeking validation is what life is about. Your philosophical mind can not change this.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

Feb 10, 2013

Fair enough. I know it's hard to really convey what I'm saying, and no doubt believe that everything you are saying holds true. Simply trying to illustrate that these disciplines are good for society. The common sentiment on this sight seems to be that people should approach education as a purely utilitarian and economic decision and if you don't follow that approach, then you are somehow inferior.

Of course everyone is entitled to think what they want and I've valued the input. Not trying to ruffle any feathers and have actually enjoyed the discussion.

Regards everyone.

Feb 10, 2013

Want a liberal arts degree? The public library is free. Formal liberal arts degrees should be confined to the aristocracy who can afford to get a degree that has no financial return, or to those who want to teach at a doctoral level or who want to attend law school. If you don't fall into those narrow categories then you are literally mortgaging your future.

Feb 10, 2013

There is a great irony in this discussion, re: value of liberal arts degree in the work force.

On this finance-centric forum, I'd argue that a liberal arts degree may actually be MUCH better than a STEM degree in terms of breaking into the types of jobs being discussed on this board 99% of the time.

From my college, at OCR, I-banks, Consulting firms, and even many trading firms (S&T, hedge funds, etc) didn't really care about the applicant's major when choosing who gets an interview. They only cared about the applicant's GPA, then other crap like work experiences, etc.

An English literature student with 3.8 GPA would beat out an engineering student with a 3.6 GPA for getting interviews at GS, MS, McKinsey, BCG, etc, 9 out of 10 times. This was actually so common that many engineering kids at my school were beyond infuriated and heavily regretted their choices to pursue engineering majors. Well, that is because as many would agree, it's much more difficult to get a high GPA in STEM compared to Liberal Arts major, due to oppressive grading curves, heavier work load, and the fact that STEM majors are just more demanding conceptually. One of my roommates from senior year was an engineering major with a 3.5 GPA that got only 1 banking interview at OCR, and he cynically joked: "I should've been just a philosophy or history major and end up with a 4.0 GPA with less than half the effort I actually put getting a 3.5 GPA in my major. Screw this shit."

Ironically, the engineering dudes from my college making 60-70k a year now working as engineers all envy Poli Sci, History, and Psychology grads from my college who're making twice the engineer salary, doing more interesting work (arguably) working in I-banking, S&T, and top Mgmt Consulting.

But, yeah, on the other side of the coin, many liberal arts kids who didn't have high enough of a GPA to get those high-profile 'business' jobs got completely shafted after graduation.

IMO, STEM degree = low(ER) risk, low(er) return. Liberal arts degree = high(er) risk, high(er) return.

Feb 10, 2013
IvyGrad:

There is a great irony in this discussion, re: value of liberal arts degree in the work force.

On this finance-centric forum, I'd argue that a liberal arts degree may actually be MUCH better than a STEM degree in terms of breaking into the types of jobs being discussed on this board 99% of the time.

From my college, at OCR, I-banks, Consulting firms, and even many trading firms (S&T, hedge funds, etc) didn't really care about the applicant's major when choosing who gets an interview. They only cared about the applicant's GPA, then other crap like work experiences, etc.

An English literature student with 3.8 GPA would beat out an engineering student with a 3.6 GPA for getting interviews at GS, MS, McKinsey, BCG, etc, 9 out of 10 times. This was actually so common that many engineering kids at my school were beyond infuriated and heavily regretted their choices to pursue engineering majors. Well, that is because as many would agree, it's much more difficult to get a high GPA in STEM compared to Liberal Arts major, due to oppressive grading curves, heavier work load, and the fact that STEM majors are just more demanding conceptually. One of my roommates from senior year was an engineering major with a 3.5 GPA that got only 1 banking interview at OCR, and he cynically joked: "I should've been just a philosophy or history major and end up with a 4.0 GPA with less than half the effort I actually put getting a 3.5 GPA in my major. Screw this shit."

Ironically, the engineering dudes from my college making 60-70k a year now working as engineers all envy Poli Sci, History, and Psychology grads from my college who're making twice the engineer salary, doing more interesting work (arguably) working in I-banking, S&T, and top Mgmt Consulting.

But, yeah, on the other side of the coin, many liberal arts kids who didn't have high enough of a GPA to get those high-profile 'business' jobs got completely shafted after graduation.

IMO, STEM degree = low(ER) risk, low(er) return. Liberal arts degree = high(er) risk, high(er) return.

you obviously went to an ivy league school..the only time a liberal arts degree is worth it is if you're at one of these schools.

a STEM degree from a top tier state school is worth it..sociology and history from top tier state school..not so much worth it.

alpha currency trader wanna-be

Feb 10, 2013

Congratulations, IvyGrad. Of all the posters I've seen on this forum, you've managed to be the most disconnected from reality. If you go to an Ivy League school (or one of the sub-Ivies, like Williams or Stanford), this isn't a discussion for you. Because of on-campus recruiting and intellectual inbreeding among Wall Street firms, as long as you have a pulse and a GPA over 3.0 at an Ivy League school, your degree/major doesn't matter.

For the rest of humanity, getting a humanities degree at Georgetown, Penn State, NYU, Maryland, UCLA, Texas, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Florida, UNC, etc. is a waste of money unless you have a very narrow career focus (e.g. you want to be a professor of history).

Feb 10, 2013
DCDepository:

Congratulations, IvyGrad. Of all the posters I've seen on this forum, you've managed to be the most disconnected from reality. If you go to an Ivy League school (or one of the sub-Ivies, like Williams or Stanford), this isn't a discussion for you. Because of on-campus recruiting and intellectual inbreeding among Wall Street firms, as long as you have a pulse and a GPA over 3.0 at an Ivy League school, your degree/major doesn't matter.

For the rest of humanity, getting a humanities degree at Georgetown, Penn State, NYU, Maryland, UCLA, Texas, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Florida, UNC, etc. is a waste of money unless you have a very narrow career focus (e.g. you want to be a professor of history).

Last time I checked, STEM majors at state schools weren't getting these high-end Wall St jobs being discussed on this board, either. (Well, actually, if you go to a non-target school, regardless of your choice of major, you aren't likely to end up with a job in IB, S&T, or Consulting)

What I am saying is that provided that you are at the college that gets OCR from the Wall St firms to begin with, majoring in Liberal Arts is actually a better pipeline into these jobs (I-banking, Consulting, S&T) than majoring in STEM, for the reasons outlined before.

Even at Wharton, my friend who graduated from there confirms that a history major from UPenn CAS with a 3.8 GPA would outperform a Wharton student with a 3.6 GPA when OCR rolled around. I reiterate, for the jobs being discussed on this board the majority of time, the choice of your major doesn't matter jack. What matters is you go to a target school and get a high GPA. Now, if you actually want to work as an engineer, you'd obviously need to major in engineering. No disputes there.

Feb 10, 2013

So long as you go to a top 20 target school then your major is irrelevant. I guess water is wet, too. There's not a single person on planet Earth who doesn't get that or who disputes that. We're talking about the nation at large. I thought that was pretty apparent in the discussion.

Feb 10, 2013
DCDepository:

So long as you go to a top 20 target school then your major is irrelevant. I guess water is wet, too. There's not a single person on planet Earth who doesn't get that or who disputes that. We're talking about the nation at large. I thought that was pretty apparent in the discussion.

No actually, I didn't say that.

What I am saying is that for the coveted jobs being discussed on this forum, the choice of your major doesn't matter. Your school and GPA do.

And no, just because you go to HYP it doesn't mean that you can major in Sociology and be set for life. If you are a liberal arts major at a target school and strike out at these Wall-St jobs (IBD, S&T, Consulting), there is a very high chance that you will be completely screwed over, since the vast majority of other employers won't want to employ a history or sociology grad even from HYP.

What I am saying is that for many employers, the choice of your major is crucial, but the irony here is that the most coveted jobs (IBD, Consulting) don't care about the choice of one's major, but more about other factors.

Hence, you need to figure out what each employer is looking for and figure out the appropriate strategy to get there. My point is simply that a generic, sweeping generalization such as 'STEM > Lib Arts for employment purposes' is misleading, especially on a finance/ consulting -driven forum.

    • 1
Feb 10, 2013

whilst there is some truth to what Ivygrad writes its waaaaaay to generalized. No top HF / PE firm will take a 3.8 sociology major over a 3.6 engineering GPA further down the line, Even Trading wouldnt, banking and sales are intellectually alot less rigorous since anyone can do them, but quite frankly no-body wants to do M&A for minimum wage with very limited comp upside.

Feb 10, 2013
leveredarb:

whilst there is some truth to what Ivygrad writes its waaaaaay to generalized. No top HF / PE firm will take a 3.8 sociology major over a 3.6 engineering GPA further down the line, Even Trading wouldnt, banking and sales are intellectually alot less rigorous since anyone can do them, but quite frankly no-body wants to do M&A for minimum wage with very limited comp upside.

I don't know enough about HF recruiting to comment. But for BB S&T trading, they didn't really care about the applicant's major. I had friends who were history and poli sci majors who ended up with trading jobs at BB left and right. Granted, they all had high GPA's.

Prop trading firms - I heard they're different story. (top ones like Getco, Jane Street) These firms look for strong quant skills. But, for BB S&T, Consulting, and IBD, these employers didn't care that you majored in the hardest possible engineering discipline. If you were nuclear engineering major with a GPA lower than a 3.6, then you most likely didn't get an interview at the above mentioned employers.

If you go to a non-target (and thus likely not targeting a Wall St job realistically), STEM is better, no doubt.

If you go to a target school and you are interested in breaking into Wall St, the irony here is that you should major in something that enables you to attain highest possible GPA you can get. (as a result, Liberal Arts may be better than STEM)

Where I find the great irony is that some of the hardest- working kids I knew at my college were engineering majors who worked like dogs just to crack a 3.5 GPA, and most of them lost out to those history, poli sci, and sociology kids with 3.8 - 3.9 GPA's when finance / consulting OCR rolled around. Those engineering kids, you can bet, were pretty damn pissed off about this whole situation. (and most of them now work as engineers making half the IBD / top consulting money)

Feb 10, 2013

lol....I dare you to pick up some random quant off the street and place him into a sales or banking related position and observe his performance. Not everyone was born with social skills and that's fine. Usually those who don't possess great social skills get picked on early in school and invest their time in Engineering. And Engineering btw can easily be outsourced to India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe, you name it's coming. The key is to be above average in the future at whatever you're doing if you want to survive the wave that's coming. Not everyone was born to be Rocket Scientist, yet you don't need to be a rocket scientist to be successful. And most Rocket Scientists frankly don't have it takes to be successful.

I'm sorry to break it to you kid...but people skills are just as valuable as intellectual ability. Humans are incredibly social mammals. To be honest, through my own observations I've noticed a pretty clear correlation between happiness and an individuals sociability factor. As much as it irks autistic engineers, most of the people at the top of organizations are generally extroverted people that have great social skills. Whether it be Engineering, Banking, Marketing Administrators at Universities, or Entrepreneurs, the people who are in charge and making the decisions usually possess great people skills.

Feb 10, 2013

On this issue, I think a proper analogy is the pre-med track and how the choice of major factors into the whole equation. (in this case, getting into a med school would be the equivalent end-game compared to getting a job in finance/ consulting, just for the sake of analogy)

Again, I had engineering friends in college who were also aspiring future doctors. Yet, they weren't 100% sure that they wanted to become a doctor, and they thought that engineering major was better than something like Biology in the case that they didn't go to a med school, since they would be able to get a decent job with an engineering degree anyway. They took MCAT, took all required pre-med courses, and did everything... except that many of them had lower-than average GPA compared to a typical successful medical school admit. You can bet that a lot of engineering kids with 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5 GPA's got rejected from all the medical schools they applied to.

On the other hand, many other premed students chose to prioritize getting into a medical school above anything else, and chose to major in something much easier than engineering or physics... namely Biology (in order to maximize GPA and hence maximize chances of admission at med schools). Since medical schools don't really care about how 'hard' your major was in college but care much more about your GPA, the biology majors with high GPA and high MCAT had much more success than engineering students with lower GPAs in med school admissions.

What this tells is that life is all about the trade-offs. You gain one thing, you likely have to lose the other.

Feb 10, 2013
Feb 10, 2013
krauser:

Just found this gem : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls1YhhMHdNY

Awesome interview.

Feb 10, 2013

I'd say that though liberal arts degrees are great for the notion of learning for the sake of learning, there isn't much direct practicality for them in the work world.

Feb 10, 2013

I really regret studying Finance. Should have studied Philosophy and Physics and not given a single shit about my GPA. Or not gone to college at all. I'm gonna be like 23 by the time I finish this last semester, and then I wanna travel a bunch. And I'll probably care about working in an office even less than I do now by then..

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

Feb 10, 2013

Economics is liberal arts at my uni. So I studied a Liberal Arts degree

Feb 10, 2013

Heck, finance is a liberal arts degree

Feb 10, 2013

The case for; well rounded capable thinker. Liberal Arts is not a destination, it's a 4 year mind preparation experience that gives you a very solid foundation. Of course, you can get this at a prep school and then better invest your college years.

The case against; Liberal Arts degrees are a quaint leftover from the leisure class. If you want a job in this economy, you better look plugandplay in fields where the opportunities are. Being a goth early euro lit grad doesn't get you shit these days.

The case for both (as mentioned by someone above); It was Dagny or Galt or one of the hero's in Atlast Shrugged who made the strong case for double major in physics and philosophy, which I too think is the bedrock of all understanding.

Feb 10, 2013

I would argue that history and finance are the bedrock for all understanding.

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Feb 10, 2013

As I actually attend UCLA, I can vouch for the fact that Humanities majors are looked down upon by most of the recruiters here. The only majors that get you an interview out here (normally) are Bus Econ, Econ, Math, Applied Math, Econ/Math,or anything Engineering. And seeing as how your just transferring in now, a 3rd year actually might help you in terms of recruiting as it gives you anther round at landing a SA gig. Getting an IB gig at a BB this year with no established UCLA GPA, and on top of that, no finance work experience would be near impossible. I'd say use this year to establish your GPA and land a PWM or MO gig (pretty easy from UCLA) for next summer, and then you'll have a much better shot recruiting in the next year.

Also if your really sure you want to do Finance, definitely apply for Sharpe Fellows and UBS's Investment Banking workshop as they are the best two out-of-class programs for anyone trying to break into Finance here a UCLA.

PM me if you want more info about UCLA.

    • 1
Feb 10, 2013

ahhh the legend of UBS la

Feb 10, 2013

Sup.
UG major doesn't matter in the long run. Study what you want; if you need to know some math/CS along the way, learn it as you go. Remember that George Soros studied philosophy. So did Carl Icahn. And Peter Thiel... it's actually a long list..

Feb 10, 2013

Soros may have done Phil, but he came out of LSE.

Coming out of LSE you can do underwater basket weaving if you want and land something solid. UCLA is different.

Many successful people studied Philosophy, but they usually came from Ivys or top 10. UCLA is ranked something like 20-25 or so. I've always looked at philosophy like something of a hobby instead of a something to spend my 30k a year learning.

Any other insight?

Feb 10, 2013

Then don't study philosophy...? Imo, philosophy/math is the strongest degree out there. Add a few internships and you're a great candidate for whatever you want to do.

Feb 10, 2013

do you actually have interest in math/econ beyond its value as a signal to potential employers? if not, really don't bother - neither subject is really vocational in any sense.

Feb 10, 2013

i studied math back in undergrad, but can guarantee going it in addition to econ it doesn't really give you any edge.

If you really think it's killing your gpa, drop it and just do econ alone and you'll be just as well off as otherwise, probably even with a higher gpa. Unless of course you just really love the subject, but it sounds like thats not the case

Feb 10, 2013

Do any of the combinations (math/econ/philosophy)

Feb 10, 2013

violin performance + economics from a liberal arts college...and made it to a quasi-BB...lol..

Feb 10, 2013

Philosophy major here, got into S&T.

Feb 10, 2013

being from a small liberal arts school I agree that it's really hard to break in but it seems to be more likely for IBD than S&T positions.

Feb 10, 2013

People break in all the time. Just be able to explain why finance and why IBD. Start networking now and anything is possible.

Feb 10, 2013

Williams/Amherst are very legit, and a cut above the other ones you mention. I've heard of a decent amount of people from those schools working on the street, especially considering their size and the likelihood of students there being into finance.

Feb 10, 2013

Be aware, yes its possible to break in from these schools but you better have top grades and a very legitimate story.

Feb 10, 2013

I went to Williams and a good percentage of the students there end up on Wall Street. I think Amherst is similar in terms of placement.

Feb 10, 2013

All of these LACs that you've listed, except for William and Mary, have a decent to very strong Wall Street placement. Best of all is Williams. For eg, in JPM IBD/Cap Mkt's SA Class of 2008, Williams placed 7 kids, more than any other school, including Harvard and Wharton (both has 6 I think). Amherst is very strong in Wall Street placement too, but I still think Williams has the best placement among LAC.

But clearly, it is much more difficult to get into Williams or Amherst than William and Mary. Not to say William and Mary is a bad school, but Williams and Amherst are the top 2 LACs and are very very selective in their admission.

Feb 10, 2013

I think Bowdoin is another one with decent recruiting that you might want to look at.

Feb 10, 2013

Any comments on CMC, how does it compare with WIlliams/Amherst, and would a double major in the classics be a potential negative?

Feb 10, 2013

bump

Feb 10, 2013

CMC's placement is decent to strong. They are recruited by a few elite boutiques and MMs on campus/resume drop (HLHZ, Jefferies, Lazard). BB recruiting is mostly through alumni, and is also more focused on the west coast (LA, SF) office due to the location of the college.

Not comparable to that of Williams and Amherst, but still one of the strongest among LACs. I'd say comparable with Middlebury and Colgate.

Feb 10, 2013

where does tufts factor in in all of this? if we are talking about amherst williams middlebury etc tufts is also in the nescac

Feb 10, 2013

Williams and Amherst are the strong because of the type of kids that choose to go there. The majority of the students there are old money waspy athlete types who already have vast personal networks on the street from their family and friends. Lower LACs like Colgate and Middlebury are pretty much the same, but they do significantly worse.

If you're going to go to a liberal arts college, don't do it for wall street.

Feb 10, 2013

Hamilton is another NESCAC school that has good alumni connections on the street, resume drops for MS, Goldman, DB, RBS, Barclays SA and FT programs.

Feb 10, 2013

actually cmc is awesome given its location and ranking...

check this document out
https://www.claremontmckenna.edu/csc/employers/All...
apparently almost all BBs did OCR, which is remarkable given CMC's rank and location (plus going to CMC means they have a single internship/career fair for all claremont colleges, so you can apply to firms even if they are not recruiting at CMC exclusively, and of course as you know take courses at other consortium colleges like scripps or pomona)...do note that most of these employers were looking for people for west coast offices...otherwise if you want great OCR on the east coast and a LAC, I would go for williams or amherst (middelbury/swarthmore if you couldnt get into the first two)

Feb 10, 2013

Just comment on how you think that in M&A the main value created in is the presentation, communicating the value of the company for sale, telling a story that will maximize shareholder value. A lot of those skills come from a liberal arts background. Economics is almost utterly useless for an investment banker. Make sure on top of all that you have your technicals down cold and you'll be fine.

Feb 10, 2013

Engineering baby!!! Learn something worth knowing!

Feb 10, 2013

Thanks for all the comment. Actually I plan on double majoring in Economics and the Classics

Feb 10, 2013

Hi me. Try to get a math minor, or at least take math through linear algebra.

Feb 10, 2013

Math minor would be great since one of the questions youll have to answer is whether or not you can handle the quantitative work. If youre taking econ classes, an econ minor would also be good. What type of job are you looking for exactly? IB, PE, VC, S&T?

Feb 10, 2013
KeepYourDistance:

Math minor would be great since one of the questions youll have to answer is whether or not you can handle the quantitative work. If youre taking econ classes, an econ minor would also be good. What type of job are you looking for exactly? IB, PE, VC, S&T?

I'd like to do something like wealth management. So I guess that would fall under AM (Asset Management)?

Feb 10, 2013

A friend of mine got an undergrad degree is psychology. He worked for a couple of years full time in a non-finance field and then did his MBA. It's a bit of a circuitous route but it made up for his lack of a business undergrad.

Feb 10, 2013

try some finance courses at your business school.

Feb 10, 2013

Some kind of minor in math or something quantitative seems like a solid place to start. I think the biggest thing will be getting lots of solid internships and perfecting your "story -- i.e. why you want to do finance. Also, I go to one of the schools you mentioned and I know that they have an active finance club, so joining that is also another solid step.

Feb 10, 2013

You don't need a finance degree for wealth management. Honestly everything finance related you need to know to manage someone's portfolio you will learn on the job. What you need to know for Asset Management is how to connect with people/sell yourself. I did an asset management internship at a bb before I took any finance classes/any business classes and all I did was read up a lot on the markets and I knew more than enough. If you honestly have an interest then start by interning at a bb, make some connections, learn finance on your own, and network like crazy. You'll be fine without a finance major.