Should I major in liberal arts or hard STEM?








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Comments (18)

Apr 20, 2021 - 3:31am

thats a tough question and things change. try out your classes first and see what interests you. 

path less traveled

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Apr 20, 2021 - 2:11pm

Econ and English sounds like a combo for ER, but you could go many paths with that including consulting. CS and math probably good for quant roles. Up to you.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Apr 20, 2021 - 2:15pm

If you're a CS/math/physics major, I immediately assume you're very smart. If you're a English major, I don't. Take that for what you will.

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Apr 20, 2021 - 7:09pm

Thanks for the snark, chief. I'm an associate 2, just haven't changed the tag because I don't care enough to do so. But have fun analyzing literature and immersing yourself in the humanities; I'm sure that will get you really far in finance.

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Apr 20, 2021 - 3:12pm


I will be attending a T10 US News school this fall, and I'm conflicted on whether I should major in the liberal arts - English lit, creative writing, history - or in a STEM field like CS or physics. Difficulty or workload isn't an issue; I'm confident that I can handle even a dual STEM major--I solve physics and CS problems regularly in my free time, and in high school I was at the top of my class despite taking the hardest classes in both STEM and the humanities. But my long term dream has always been to, following a stint in finance, consulting, or even law, become a novelist and write literary fiction and maybe even teach at a college, and I feel like it would be a huge waste of potential to slave away at STEM subjects that I feel no passion for. If I were to study English, would my lack of a quantitative background preclude me from certain roles? I read in another post (https://www wallstreetoasis com/forums/an-english-major-with-minimum-businessquant-stuff - I can't post links yet so I removed 2 periods) a user jeering "Have fun in consulting lmao" towards an English major who pursued his passion for English over business -- obviously the comment is intended to be snarky and degrading, but how much truth is there to it? Do humanities majors at targets naturally gravitate towards consulting because that line of work is more about ideas and qualitative discussion and analysis, as opposed to the quantitative number-crunching and modeling of banking? And based off that line of reasoning, can consulting be considered a more "intellectually stimulating" profession? The economics major at the school I'll be attending is considered fairly quantitative, so would an English and economics double major set me up for the best of both worlds, or should I just forget my immature dreams of being a writer and pursue a braindead double major like computer science and econ? Or--and I know this is unlikely--would a pure English major be fine for finance?

Former attorney here. PM me about law if you wish.  You're young and have tremendous potential based on what you posted, there is no reason for you to go to law school under any circumstance. Best of luck with your college years. 

Apr 20, 2021 - 6:57pm


I understand that on an absolute opportunity cost/ROI basis, law school isn't the most optimal choice, but has the industry really gotten to a point that even those who are truly passionate about law and litigation (and capable of getting into HYS/federal clerkships) should consider another career path?

Yes.  There are too many checkpoints where you can be forced off this track, whether 1L, 2L interviews, the midlevel associate years, firm deequitization in your early 50s and you become unemployable, law has become as risky as high finance. 

very, very few people intending to enter litigation have a full understanding of what the career entails absent parents who are litigators or multi year paralegal experience. Even then, they need to realize how little of what they will do entails time in a courtroom. 

Apr 20, 2021 - 8:01pm

Physics grad here, I wouldn't go into this subject unless you really like it.  I also took a fair bit of upper level math (topology / analysis), and would say that most people I knew who did this stuff with me were like pretty into it.  If you don't enjoy it or see the beauty in it, you'll probably train wreck your GPA (probably goes without saying, but avoid doing that at all costs) unless you're super gifted and can power through the theory without being interested in it. 

I can't comment too much on Engineering / CS programs as I thought they were for nerds, but generally, the employment prospects were much better for those grads, and on surface level, I knew quite a few that claimed to just be in it for the job, not a passion for the field.   

Shop around, freshman year is a great time to take a bunch of different classes and see what you like!

Apr 20, 2021 - 8:26pm

You're calling CS people nerds and you majored in Physics? Lol the lack of self-awareness...


Apr 21, 2021 - 9:11am

What school are you attending? If you're at Harvard / Yale / other liberal arts target it really doesn't matter what you major in. The most successful person I know majored in philosophy at a NESCAC school. 

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:55am

I mean, that's the benefit of being at a target, right? You can pursue your academic interests and still get a top job in finance, because they don't care about your major. It's not like being an Econ or physics major will help you pass technicals anyways. I was in a fraternity full of idiots who were economics, history, creative writing, engineering, women gender studies, etc and anyone who wanted finance, got jobs at MMPE, MFPE, BBs, EBs, MBB, etc. If I had to recommend something, I'd recommend doing a quant major + English.

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:55am

My guess is that you're going to be bitterly disappointed with the quality of liberal arts education at one of those T10 universities. It may not be the passion project that you envision. 


Apr 22, 2021 - 3:54pm


Thank you for your comment. Can you please elaborate on why you think that -- is it that my vision of the liberal arts as a whole is too idealistic, or is there some particular aspect of the climate of these universities that prevents students from realizing the vision that I described?

Instead of reading the classics, learning about the pre-World Wars (Napoleonic wars, French and Indian War, etc.), and having healthy and open debate and discussion, you're going to be fed a healthy diet of 21st century woke garbage and ethnic hatred. You will walk away from an Ivy League (or other) degree dumber than when you entered.


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