What's the most valuable and versatile Undergraduate Degree nowadays and looking into the future?

thefinancekid's picture
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As a Senior HS student looking ahead not just 5 years from now but 15 years down the road, it scares me. I've been always interested in studying finance/business for my undergrad. Seeing the stagnating finance industry and the increase in automation (or atleast intentions to do so), I am having doubts. Unlike most of you monkeys, I still have a chance to switch up my choices before its late!!

It seems to me that a CS degree will be the most valuable degree down the road. A CS undergrad could easily learn finance or get an MBA, but rarely do you see a Finance undergrad getting a Masters in CS. Moreover, from what I see, if I get a CS degree, I can work at goldman or google. But if I get a Business degree, Goldman's the only option. IMO, the only benefit of attending a target b-school undergrad is that it will propel me into consulting/finance right after undergrad. After that, I feel like the degree itself is useless.

Should I get a undergrad in business/finance at a semi-target/target school if my passion is in business? Or Should I look into the future and realize CS is best option (even though i'm not fan of coding)? How about other degrees like Bachelor's of Science (in physics, biology, psychology), Bachelor's of Arts (Economics, etc.)? Hell, what are you thoughts on Liberal Arts degrees going the future?

Comments (105)

Feb 15, 2017

If you don't like coding, you will blow your brains out long before you ever get a job at Google. If you like finance go with that. It's not like all the finance jobs are drying up over night just because some mega banks are automating out positions. There are still plenty of opportunities, and there are still plenty of industry's that have no where near enough money to automate. Goldman is not the only option.

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Feb 22, 2017

This. Computer Science really isn't for everyone. I got terrible grades in my first few programming classes (C's and B-'s) before it "clicked". For people who think in a more "intuitive" way vs an algorithmic way, you kinda have to completely rewire your brain to be a good programmer.

Mar 4, 2017
MonopolyMoney:

If you don't like coding, you will blow your brains out long before you ever get a job at Google.

So not true. I did a math degree and was trying to get into IBD or trading for ages. Got lots of job offers for software engineering roles and at the end joined as a quant at a BB. I hate coding so much.

Feb 16, 2017

I was in your shoe few years ago, but It's more like you get versatile by going to Harvard, and nobody cares about your coding smarts (although at times useful) in the long-run.

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Feb 16, 2017

Interesting! So you are saying it's not the degree that's valuable but the connections and credibility namesake!

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Feb 16, 2017

life is all about your network and not making people think you are an idiot.

Feb 16, 2017

Mechanical Engineering at good school. You can pretty much do anything you want with it.

Edit: It's a bit harder to keep a 4.0 GPA, but you can go into banking (Engineering degrees look better than bullshit degrees IMO), go design planes at Boeing, go work for an Oil major as an engineer, go be a patent attorney, go into sales at a big corporation, hell even be a doctor. The options are limitless.

Anything else you are limited. MechE for some reason has an enormous base of options.

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Feb 22, 2017

I wouldn't suggest Mech Egg. Versatile as it may seem to be, the field's completely saturated - unless you want to learn about gears, nuts and bolts (literally).

Banking - internships>>>>>degree
Boeing/Big Oil - Masters>>>>Undergrad
Patent Attorney - Big Law, Big Schmaw
Sales - Any degree, literally. GPA doesn't count
Doctor - Above, except GPA counts, and unless you enjoy studying for ten more years after your peers have graduated.

GoldenCinderblock: "I keep spending all my money on exotic fish so my armor sucks. Is it possible to romance multiple females? I got with the blue chick so far but I am also interested in the electronic chick and the face mask chick."

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Mar 4, 2017

Mech Eng undegrad major here and completely agree. As a summer intern, I worked at a defense contractor doing project management over a summer intern (Mech Eng was not relevant to this role) and transitioned into mgmt consulting (Mech Eng was less relevant here).

Anecdotally, my closest Mech Eng college buddies got into Big Oil, actual Mech Eng position for a satellite company, and wealth mgmt role at a BB.

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Mar 6, 2017

The real versatile degree is Industrial Engineering. My school, the University of Oklahoma, is moving towards Systems Engineering/Data Science. This degree is literally understanding the concepts of engineering (took 50% ME curriculum as an IE), while pairing in Data-Driven Decision Making (3 courses in Undergrad). They have hired on multiple Data Science professors already. Also, Industrial Engineering is as broad as it gets.

I worked in IT for the school, for a Defense Contractor as a Software Engineer (moved to Systems Integration for the challenge as a EE), and am now in an LDP after grad school. IEs make the company more money than most MEs because we drive process improvements as a sub-function, not redesign things or update tolerances/drawings (most of my experience with MEs so far). My class had 45 grads: ~23 went to Manufacturing/Process/Operations (many in O&G services), 3 went Software, 3 went Defense, 3 went Oil & Gas, 8 went to F500 LDPs, 1 went VC, 1 went IB, 2 went Consulting, and we had multiple stay/go to grad school (I was defense/grad school at the same time).

I did notice that the grad school students went 50% Consulting/LDP and 50% hard engineering, anecdotally.

Feb 16, 2017

Math

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Feb 16, 2017
5 million:

Math

You're setting this person up for unemployment.

Unless you're truly passionate about science, stay away from all STEM. In my experience, most of the people who tell others to get STEM degrees are non-STEM people. If you want to understand why you shouldn't get a STEM degree, then all you need to do is observe the majority of engineers: they all work in business and/or sales -- not engineering. In fact, most engineers never use what they learned in university; it ends up being a waste of time.

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Feb 19, 2017

If you can pull a 3.5+ in Math and have an interest in it, then that. In my experience it is seen as a positive by pretty much all employers, and you can definitely build on top of that (e.g. finance, business, engineering).

Overall, I would recommend doing what interests you over what "positions you well."

Mar 7, 2017

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Feb 22, 2017
5 million:

Math

This. Is. The,. Most. Versatile. Degree.
Just don't do theoretical math - do a program that's a hybrid of Math and Comp Sci.

GoldenCinderblock: "I keep spending all my money on exotic fish so my armor sucks. Is it possible to romance multiple females? I got with the blue chick so far but I am also interested in the electronic chick and the face mask chick."

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Feb 19, 2017

And add some financial math/quant econ if you're interested in a finance-related career.

Feb 23, 2017

^ This. Listen to this kids; I wish I had. Contrary to what other ignoramuses think, Maths is it.

Feb 16, 2017

Not many people will care what type of undergrad degree you have after 15 years of working. If your passion is business do a Finance degree and back yourself. Being in high school as well it is very easy to get yourself worked up about the lack of finance related jobs in the future, but you've just got to have faith in your work ethic and determination

RIP LEHMAN
RIP MONACOMONKEY
RIP THEACCOUNTING MAJOR

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Feb 16, 2017

Communications

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Feb 17, 2017

Liberal Arts degree.

Learn how to read history, write prose, and consider big-picture questions.

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Feb 16, 2017
Cosimo de' Medici:

Liberal Arts degree.

Learn how to read history, write prose, and consider big-picture questions.

Appropriate username.

Feb 17, 2017

Backed.

Throw in a little cosmology, theology, and alchemy and you are all set. Study bloodletting or phrenology so you have a trade to fall back on.

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Feb 22, 2017

You are high, the best degree for the future is gender studies with a minor in social justice.

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Feb 16, 2017

I didn't know there were people like you WSO haha. You must have studies classics and medieval history at Dartmouth/Williams/Amherst.... I like history and I agree that it can be valuable indicator of critical thinking. Though from what I see, unless you went to a liberal arts school like the ones I mentioned above, a lib arts degree is pretty undesirable in business...

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Feb 16, 2017

No it's not. I like my coffee brewed by history majors in the morning.

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Feb 24, 2017

I'm pretty sure that was sarcastic...unless it went completely over my head

Feb 18, 2017

Engineering is the best foundation for industry. Ayn Rand said it was a mix of physics and philosophy which I came pretty close to in my liberal arts undergrad. But you've got to be entrepreneurial to make that work. Engineering is a highly respected foundation which can learn finance in 2nd gear and has a safety net of secure employment.

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Feb 19, 2017

CS or applied physics is something I would go for. Finance is easy to learn but studying those two gives you great problem solving skills with good technical abilities. Anyone can read basics of corporate finance, valuation and investment management and then he/she has same knowledge as an undergraduate with finance concentration.

Feb 16, 2017

Mark Cuban just said that he believes liberal arts will be more valuable than finance and CS in the future. An interesting thought. http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-cuban-liberal-...

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Best Response
Feb 15, 2017

A word of advice, don't read business insider.

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Feb 22, 2017

A word of advice, don't listen to mark cuban

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Feb 22, 2017

I did doubled in mechanical engineering and material science. I currently work in the automotive industry but will go to B-school this coming fall. If I could turn back the clock, I would have studied either physics or math and double in philosophy.

Engineering has helped me because it allowed me to analyze a problem with different variables. However, I think physics or math would have even been better (ie. Elon Musk). As for philosophy, I think this will come in handy because the future is changing with artificial intelligence and automation. Eventually robots will perform all the essential functions of a programmer or engineer. Knowing how to navigate human thoughts and morality and make logical decisions will be more beneficial in the next 20 years in my opinion.

If your goal is to end up going to B-school, pick a major that you will enjoy and do well in over the course of 4 years because your GPA matters a lot. I wish I were more like you when I graduated high school. Great way to start off your college journey. Good luck!

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Feb 22, 2017

+1 for Physics & Philosophy, probably the most well rounded education. Oxford has a program that combines the two that I would have liked to complete.

Feb 22, 2017

Do anything with a quantitative focus. It could be engineering, math, statistics, econ (take a lot of econometrics courses), could also be bunch of other areas I won't bother to look up. Data science is going to blow up and this kind of background will set you up nicely to take advantage. Not only professionally, but academically as you will have a strong base for grad school.

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Feb 22, 2017

Now: CS
Future: Avoiding $200K in debt and letting machines just run everything

Seriously, I fear that even for college students today, many careers will be shortened by automation. If you live in California, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, or Maryland, you have the opportunity to pay $5K/semester for a better engineering degree than most Ivies can offer.

Obviously if you get a full ride to MIT or Stanford or Princeton, take it. But in the face of the future cashflow uncertainty, the safer and more conservative bet is to stay thrifty and spend $20K/year on school rather than $65K/year. UIUC and Berkeley create more successful tech startups than the average Ivy, place better at Google, Amazon, and Facebook, and simply have stronger programs. And they're cheaper, leaving you with more money and freedom to participate in the tech revolution. And if automation happens faster than people expect, you'll have paid off your loans sooner and be in better shape.

If it were me, the safe bet right now is in-state engineering. If you don't have a good state school where you live, ask your parents to move to California. :-)

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Feb 22, 2017

The ivies, and similar prestige schools, give fantastic financial aid. The only people who are paying 65k per year to go to Princeton are those who's parents make in excess of 250k/year. I come from a middle class family and my cost per year came out to like ~16k/year. It's a complete myth that top target private schools are unaffordable. This is only the case if you have wealthy parents who won't pay for your undergrad education, which I would say is pretty rare. If your parents make under 100k per year, you will get a massive amount of grants from any ivy or similar university.

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Feb 22, 2017
DeepLearning:

The ivies, and similar prestige schools, give fantastic financial aid. The only people who are paying 65k per year to go to Princeton are those who's parents make in excess of 250k/year. I come from a middle class family and my cost per year came out to like ~16k/year. It's a complete myth that top target private schools are unaffordable. This is only the case if you have wealthy parents who won't pay for your undergrad education, which I would say is pretty rare. If your parents make under 100k per year, you will get a massive amount of grants from any ivy or similar university.

Yes, but if your family earns between $250K and $1mm, $250K over four years is still a huge burden for your family. Furthermore, most state schools offer scholarships to bring the cost down to in-state pricing for stronger candidates. (IE IU, UW Madison, UIUC)

I'd look at the actual cost for you. I'd also not go crazy with applications. Focus your efforts on five or six schools, make sure at least one of them is in-state, one or two of the others are Berkeley, UIUC, or UT Austin, and then if you have a lot of time left, throw your hat into the ring at Princeton, Harvard, or wherever. Just know that the application is more complicated and will often require SAT subject tests, and there's a byzantine financial aid formula specific to each school that you have to figure out-- there's no guarantee your final bill won't be $25K/year, $50K/year, whatever.

If you live in one of the states that have excellent CS and engineering programs (CA, WA, TX, IL, WI, IN, MI, GA, VA, MD, NJ, PA), which covers about 50% of the US population, your #1 most important application is in-state. Get that one perfect, get that one in first, (personal statement, SATs or ACTs), and then decide if you want to take the SAT IIs, write a bunch of essays, line up teacher recommendation, and get everything in by the December 1st or January 1st deadline to see if you can go to a weaker program that's at an Ivy. Then, once you get the admit from Berkeley or UT Austin or Illinois or UW Madison (and some of these schools can get back to you before Thanksgiving if you submit early), you can relax and enjoy senior year.

Me personally, for the same price, or even a slightly higher price, if I was fairly set on CS, I'd take Berkeley CS over any Ivy's CS program. Even Harvard or Princeton, (I went to Princeton and they have an excellent CS program, but Berkeley's is simply much stronger). I did not mention MIT or Stanford, however. Berkeley is just a much better education with more opportunities for graduates, and the best tech jobs outside of finance are on the west coast (the best tech jobs in finance are in Chicago, which is sort of the country's HFT capital).

If you want to do something very tech-focused, which is what I'm recommending for the economy over the next 15 years, the correct answer is Berkeley (or Caltech or Stanford if you qualify for enough financial aid grants to get the cost even).

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Feb 22, 2017

Anything that puts you in a position to avoid this: http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academi....

Feb 22, 2017

Tbf you seem like you'd nail an undergrad in philosophy... some big questions here

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Feb 22, 2017

SE / ECE/ SYDE (software/electrical&comp / systems design). I'm a Canadian STEM university and these guys are getting jobs almost anywhere, Quant finance/ CS / fin-tech / S&T / data-science / tech... It's a bit rare but there are definitely engineers in banking.

Feb 22, 2017

Re: Business degrees & Google

That's not true. Google hires plenty of business majors for the sales and operations side of the business.

Economics is actually is very versatile degree, provided it's of the "mathsy" variety and comes from a reputable institution.

Feb 22, 2017
surferdude867:

Re: Business degrees & Google

That's not true. Google hires plenty of business majors for the sales and operations side of the business.

Economics is actually is very versatile degree, provided it's of the "mathsy" variety and comes from a reputable institution.

But the best-- and also cheapest-- way into Google is a CS degree from a strong state school. Starting developer salaries have roughly doubled over the past decade, and they'll go up even faster if Zoe Lofgren's H1B reform bill passes.

This will come to an end eventually in about 15-20 years as everything gets automated. But right now, engineering is the field to be in, and a cheap, highly ranked $10k/semester state school is the place to study it at. As we say in banking, you can teach finance and economics to anyone just about anywhere, but algorithms and math are harder to teach.

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Feb 22, 2017

I never said it wasn't. I simply said that a non-technical major does not preclude one from working at Google (I worked there on the sales side for a time).

If I could go back in time I would have tacked on a double major in either CS or statistics (probably CS and then done a masters in stats) o you're preaching to the choir, but I'm still making over $200k per year working from home in the tech space with a liberal arts degree.

Feb 24, 2017

I do not think an econ degree has to be math-sy. MS me or whatever, but linear algebra and econometrics are 100% useless when you consider the most complicated thing you'll do with an econ degree is index match and maybe nested if statements if you are a real amateur.

Feb 22, 2017

Why would I MS you?

It doesn't have to be mathsy, but the more mathsy the more versatile the degree is.

Feb 22, 2017

If you are less passionate about STEM than you wish you were, and are thinking about business but don't want to take intro business classes BC you plan to get a MBA maybe this.

I don't know about 15 years in the future, but a decade ago and maybe today an enjoyable education path was Sociology (undergrad) and Accounting (masters) at a state university. I know two folks who did that and they work in real estate development and consumer brand management. Both started in the Big 4 after college. Both are "weird" (good thing).

  • Sociology: study of people/groups, trends, lots of writing and research, can be super enjoyable
  • Accounting: masters degree, two years but part time, you can work. You get that technical skill, campus recruiting, beta alpha psi, and internships. No waste of time intro biz classes that you will later retake at a top MBA with a six figure price tag.

Why both? I feel like business majors at a lot of schools don't place a lot of emphasis on hard core research. What undergrad biz schools do have is connections for you to get your first job. Sociology (or the humanities; I also love history) helps you think about your world view and communicate it (but the career placement is much to be desired). Later that world view could be an investment thesis or new platform. I would take upper level classes from a variety of subjects (urban planning, history, organic chemistry maybe) and try to graduate in 3 years (but no more than 4 years).

Spend the summer between your UG and MAcc taking summer school classes at a more prestigious university. Often times, summer school instate and outofstate tuition are same. You might even get your MAcc at this school if you think about working in that city.

I don't know about the future of accounting / audit but if you are at no-name state U and have little interest or can't get great grades in STEM, this is what I'd do to at the baseline to have a middle class life with an interesting academic experience. Don't forget the social aspect. College is a good time to find out what you are good at.

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Feb 22, 2017

From a corporate career standpoint, generally the most useful subjects to learn are programming, statistics, probability, accounting, and psychology. These can all be applied to a variety of fields. However that doesn't necessarily mean you should major in them...

Major in the most difficult subject that you can get good grades in and have interest in. Aside from that, take whatever classes you want

Feb 22, 2017

Any of the following:

Harvard
Oxford
Yale
Princeton
Stanford

Feb 22, 2017

Why are majors like art history or music not getting any loving on WSO? They are great for careers in BB IBD...

Feb 22, 2017

Robert Duval said you need to eat, sleep, and breathe LBOs. Music or Gender Studies will make you into a Crazy Bernie fan.

Feb 22, 2017

RDuval is starting to really get some traction on WSO. He's here to stay!

Feb 22, 2017

Based on what you said it seems like you are open to a few different paths whether it be in technology or business. With that in mind I think a degree in Economics is one to consider. Economics as a major gives you flexibility to work in different industries by tailoring your education to fit a given field. Economics has the liberal arts aspect that finance does not, and also has the quantitative aspect that most social sciences lack. Essentially you open up a broader set of opportunities for yourself post-graduation. However I will caveat this by saying it is important to have solid on-campus activities and internships on your resume that show an interest in particular fields so that when it comes time to do recruiting you have evidence of being a good fit for a given industry. For example, if you want to go into IB, an Economics degree is not enough. Combining it with experience in an on-campus IB club or a related internship is important for getting your foot in the door. My Economics classmates ended up in law school, IB, Capitol Hill, consulting, etc.

I got my BS and terminal MA in Economics and ended up in M&A, where I am very happy. The good thing about my degrees in Economics is that I had many options across multiple industries.

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Feb 22, 2017

EE / Robotics.

Feb 22, 2017

First off, go to the best school you can, Ivy, Public Ivy, Semi Target, Top LAC, etc. I would argue that school brand matters more than what you major in. This is evidenced by the number of Harvard Liberal Arts majors doing big things in the corporate world

AFter achieving number 1, I'd advise basing your studies off of a combination of a few things, you're own personal interests, what will be "useful" and can help you get a job, and lastly, what you get can decent grades in.

For all the people telling you to do CS or EE or Math, even if you love those subjects, if you get a 2.3 GPA that's going to make it tough to standout. On the other end of things, if you love...let's say Sociology or English or something that is less directly related to industry, that's completely fine(given you're going to a good school), but make sure to supplement it with some STEM, CS, Econ etc so you can at least point to the fact that you're well rounded.

If grades are a issue, try and pass fail the tough classes, take easier classes, or just make sure to take a mix of easy and hard each semester.

Most importantly, have fun in college, don't stress too much about the future, trust me it'll come faster than you want it to.

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Feb 22, 2017

I recently spoke about undergrad majors and masters degrees with a few directors at my company (aerospace / defense). Engineering degrees are extremely valuable in the market place, but they are not all equal. The response I received when I asked what major do they think is most valuable to our company was Electrical Engineering. The reason being that there are electrical components involved in every single product we make, and will continue to make for the next 30-40 years. Mechanical degrees are great and versatile across functions, but they are more common so supply and demand starts to kick in.

What some people may find interesting was the value these people placed on finance degrees. At the end of the day, engineering people can come up with the most technologically innovative idea of all time, but if there is no one there to budget, forecast costs, determine RoI, etc. then these engineers are useless. More so, many who had masters degrees in engineering (often with a quantitative / engineering undergrad), wished they did not do an engineering masters, but instead got an MBA (for the finance course load).

I would say the best combination was listed above and is rather general.... Something numbers based (statistics, engineering, finance / economics) with something along the liberal arts scheme (philosophy, poli sci, english, etc.).

...

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Feb 22, 2017

Considering what you said, no you shouldn't do CS. For CS to be valuable, you need to be good at and have a passion for coding. Just because you graduated from CalTech or MIT with a CS degree, doesn't mean you'll make it through the technical portion of a Google interview. If you do end up getting a job as a programmer, how will you survive if you dislike what you do?

Overall, this discussion seems somewhat moot. If you get a business, economics, or liberal arts degree from a top institution, you will do just fine in an automated world. If you get an engineering, math, physics, statistics, or CS degree from a top school (note: the Ivies are not necessarily the best schools in these areas), you will also do fine. Just focus on something that you like and will be good at.

Feb 22, 2017

It's actually insane to me that you are so a) aware of the different options available to you at your age and b) so career oriented at your age. I am honestly impressed, I was trying to figure out which shirts make me look the coolest at your age.

I would go into a engineering field (electrical/mechanical or preferably something like biomedical engineering). Here are the reasons:

1) No one will question your analytical & quantitative skills.
2) You get exposure to programming.
3) You have field expertise other than just "finance", which could help you stand out in a line full of finance professionals.
4) If you decide you hate finance, medical schools love engineering backgrounds as well.
5) Top MBA programs love engineering backgrounds.
6) MBB and other consulting firms love engineers, and this trend is only increasing as the consulting industry becomes more and more specialized.
7) During school you will get opportunities to do things that most people NEVER get to do (i.e. build a fucking go-kart from scratch for your senior research project and race it against other teams in your university and other universities). Honestly, these opportunities are often overlooked, but they are some of the best memories & experiences you will have in your life cause they are so unique.

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Feb 22, 2017

You should pursue something you are passionate about. I had scores of friends who went into STEM and failed out, ultimately to go to a Masters in Computer Science from ivy leagues after working for Google in a non-technical related position. They learned programming as a side benefit to help their jobs, and it provided a form of curiosity that made their work environment easier to work in. A good friend mine was a business major at a target, took a CS as an elective, switched, and worked directly under Bill Gates for 8 years before her startup.

I read an article online, in where Mike Rowe gave advice to my generation (millennials), in which he said that, look where people are going, and go the other direction.

Source - NPR News - http://www.npr.org/2016/05/20/478733784/mike-rowe-...
In point - do what you love, money will follow.

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Feb 22, 2017

Physics and Philosophy. Just ask John Galt.

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Feb 16, 2017
coopman:

Physics and Philosophy. Just ask John Galt.

Who is John Galt?

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Feb 23, 2017

you must be a commie

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Feb 22, 2017

Engineering or computer science.

Feb 22, 2017

Naval Ravikant talks about this in one of his podcasts with Tim Ferriss. I believe he was an Econ, Comp Sci double major, or switched majors at some point in school. Anyways, his takeaway was that Micro Econ was super useful (how people make decisions, game theory, etc.) and Macro Econ was useless (top economists can't agree what is best for the larger economy). And actual coding languages etc. isn't super useful (since languages change, the tech is always changing, etc.) but understanding the logic and how computer science in general works was very useful. Go find the actual interview, but he's a super smart guy and his insight made a lot of sense. I was an Econ major and wholeheartedly agree, although can't comment on the comp sci side of things.

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Feb 22, 2017

Comp Sci is all about understanding the logic behind algos. Who the fuck focuses on the languages in Comp Sci? The coursework is difficult enough that most programs focus on the former. Pretty obvious statement.

GoldenCinderblock: "I keep spending all my money on exotic fish so my armor sucks. Is it possible to romance multiple females? I got with the blue chick so far but I am also interested in the electronic chick and the face mask chick."

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Mar 7, 2017

-

Feb 22, 2017

Assuming you have equal interest/skill in finance/CS, I would go:

CS if you go to a non target school or
Anything you want as long as you can get a high gpa from a target school for banking.

Feb 22, 2017

I was (am) CS/Math at a top target school and I'll say this: Give computer science a try first before taking a deep dive in. You are going to realize that it's either so mind-numbing you could never do it or you will feel those small gratifying events that the small successes bring and then maybe it is for you (my experience).

Also give Stats a try. Even taking just a probability class (with calculus) and mathematical statistics is worth it. Stuff like time series and machine learning are super useful and heavily tied to probabilistic/statistical thinking. Treat your freshman year as a chance to explore the different STEM subjects and see where you fit. I tried physics/math/stats/CS/EE before settling on CS/math with a decent amount of stats classes.

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Feb 16, 2017

Wow! Thanks for all the responses! Definitely a lot diff. perspectives and opinions to consider. Taking a closer look at engineering & CS, it doesn't seem like something i would enjoy doing for 4 years (even though I'm recognized as a top Physics student in my school region). I'm considering a few Ivy school and some Canadian universities atm (i'm Canadian).

Feb 23, 2017

Your undergraduate major is irrelevant 10 years post graduation. Tailor your major for the field you want to work in and go to the best school you can (for the network).

Feb 23, 2017

Study classics. Only the man with Latin and Greek is truly educated. When the Goldman interviewer asks what the heck you were thinking, majoring in classics for a finance career, you can reply Homo doctus is se semper divitias habet (A learned man always has wealth within himself).

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Feb 23, 2017

Industrial Economics, or some degree with about 50% Engineering / 50% Economics. Where I went to, they called it Industrial Economics. It was mainly a Engineering program, but with around half or one third with typical economics and business classes.

Businesses today LOVE people with solid quantitative skills, good knowledge of how a business works, and technical expertise. If you plan on grad school: Engineering + MBA.

As for what Engineering? Software, Electrical, Computer, Data Science, or something like that. Something that gives you a really good understanding of computing. Specialize in something AI related. I have school buddies that went to study Machine Learning, got tons of job offers, then got their MBA, and are still swimming in job offers and headhunters. You can use your MBA to springboard into management of relatively young tech firms that work heavily around data.

Feb 24, 2017

Intersectional Queer and Gender Studies

Mar 5, 2017

I would like to second that. And, if it doesn't work out, at least you learned who's at fault.

Feb 25, 2017

If you're interested in business/finance, you should study business/finance (or econ if your school doesn't offer business). I came really close to majoring in pharmacy instead of business because everyone kept talking about how lucrative the field is, but I realized I would never be happy if I didn't at least give finance a shot. Ultimately having a sought-after major will never compare to truly having a passion for it, because the kids who are the best all have an intellectual curiosity that's driven by passion.

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Feb 26, 2017

Depending on what you're interested in, I'd choose from some combination of CS, Engineering, Statistics, and Finance

Feb 27, 2017

Personally, I'd recommend exactly what I did - Economics major with a double minor in CS and Philosophy.

Anyone who doesn't take at least 1 CS course in college today is wasting their money IMO. Even if you never program anything in your life, learning how to think systematically and care about every minute detail are important skills - not to mention that it is now expected to have at least 1 CS course on your transcript for B-school, and knowing how to read/understand code/technical specifications is becoming increasingly valuable in today's world.

I don't think majoring in CS is a particularly horrible idea, but I also think that it is a highly overrated concept. CS classes are some of the most time-consuming classes you can take in college. Time spent staring at your code is time not spent having fun with your friends/developing yourself outside of class/working on your other classes. The reality is that unless you go to a top CS school like Stanford/Harvard/CMU, being a CS major won't lead to the big tech companies knocking on your door. Most of the people who end up working in tech - CS majors or not - are in large part either self-taught or took part in programs for CS outside of school - which a CS minor (or even a few classes) will open doors to anyways. It does teach you how to think a certain way, which has a lot of value, but in my experience, it is not the best bang for your buck/time/GPA.

To be educated is to know at least a little bit of Locke/Hobbes/Kant/Machiavelli/etc. The modern concept of university was born out of teaching philosophy, and it would be a waste not to have at least some of the classic university experience if you're about to spend a ton of time and money in college. More importantly though, like CS, philosophy is a subject which really teaches skills - different skills, but equally if not more important than CS. Philosophy teaches you how to write, how to argue, and how to analyze - all things that will continue to be important no matter what year it is or what profession you are in. For example, Philosophy is the highest scoring major on both the GRE and the LSAT, and is top 5 on the GMAT. My university also claims that philosophy majors earn the 4th most overall, after economics, engineering, and math.

Overall though, I would say that economics wins the title for the best possible major. It is generally not time intensive (relative to anything STEM). Outside of the upper-level econometrics classes (which some people find ways to avoid taking, but are also very interesting/quite practical), it is a generally easy/intuitive/less time-consuming subject. It also gets you a fair amount of respect - much more than is probably deserved - in the professional world. Personally, I enjoyed learning about economics on my own outside of class far more than in class, but being an econ major freed up my time for other, more valuable things in college, while maintaining respectability on my resume. In the end, that is the real value of an econ degree - learning just enough from the books to rightly call yourself educated, while being able to network and enjoy yourself.

I would advise against business/finance. Much moreso than CS (where having a good instructor and tons of time matters) or Philosophy (where being around similarly minded people to discuss matters) or really most other majors, you can learn most of what you will eventually use in those majors in the real world, and the rest of it can be easily self-taught on your own time. Other than Wharton, undergrad business/finance degrees are not especially respectable, and are much less intellectually stimulating than most of your other options in college - you can do better with your time. Not to mention that these sorts of systematic, easy to learn professions will be amongst the first to be automated away.

STEM degrees are respectable, interesting, and valuable. But unless you really love the subject you're studying, it will not be worth the time investment / likely GPA hit.

Also, your major WILL NOT limit where you will be able to work at the high end. So long as you go to a respectable school and have the grades, the world is (+/-) your oyster. I know CS majors at GS/JPM, Art History majors at MBB, and at least one religious studies major at Google. Certain majors WILL make your life easier - STEM/Econ/CS majors get (in my opinion undue) respect in today's world, but it is far more important to develop skills and yourself, while maintaining some semblance of respectability - ie don't be a dance/studio art/film major (not because those are not respectable professions, but because college is not the best place to learn them, they limit your options, and you will be wasting your time and money).

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Mar 3, 2017

Agree completely with the last point. You can pivot most anything into something useful. Just don't be an ass, and make sure you can speak intelligently about why you made the choices you did. Likeability and aptitude go a long way.

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Mar 4, 2017

"Other than Wharton, undergrad business/finance degrees are not especially respectable"
You have to be kidding me. So UVA Mcintire, UMich Ross, and Georgetown McDonough graduates aren't respectable? Be it so, they are making a hell lot more $$ than you.

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Feb 27, 2017

You're right. UVA, UMich, and Gtown have respectable Bschool programs - I'll take that back. My point was that majoring in business administration at, say, the University of Georgia is probably going to do you less good than majoring in a STEM field at the same school.

Feb 27, 2017

I think a major distinction we have to make is the difference between the major and the skills developed. We see examples of liberal arts (art history, history, philosophy) and also STEM majors in IB, trading, etc. and likewise non-CS-related majors like mechanical engineering in software development.

It's not so much the major as the skills you develop over those four years. The major is just a vehicle that tends to provide those skills you associate with it, and also serves as a signal to employers of your aptitude. Banking isn't looking for finance majors specifically, and quantitative positions like those at tech firms or algorithmic trading shops aren't solely looking for CS students. They want the skills those majors tend to provide (analysis and detail for the former, numeracy and logical creativity for the latter).

The major just happens to provide a lot of direct exposure to the skills you associate with it. Computer science majors write a lot of code, but so do electrical engineers and applied mathematics majors. Being a certain major doesn't prevent you from taking courses that can help you develop those skills, and it's the repeated practice and development that allow you to become stronger at it.

I'd focus more on the skills you want to build over the major itself. While the two usually go hand in hand, don't stress yourself because you have the flexibility to take what you want in school. You'll have to persuade Google you know what you're doing if you're a liberal arts major, but they won't look down on you if you can prove you know the data structures and algorithms and have a passion for development just like the other candidates.

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Mar 5, 2017

Thanks for furnishing such well put together articles

Mar 3, 2017

A computer science degree is pretty valuable - if you are good with computers and like to code

Don't do it for the money though, do something that you enjoy.

I've taught computer science at a number of places from entry level commuter schools to Stanford. People who get into the field because it is high paying but who lack aptitude or desire will totally suck at it and will not turn it into a lucrative (or enjoyable) career.

I had one student who switched from Bio to CS during the 90's dot-com boom because he wanted to be rich. He was a terrible coder. I failed him (deservedly).

However, even if you take a business degree, or physics degree, or applied math degree, or history degree, or whatever, you should take a coding class or two -- it will help you down the road.

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Mar 5, 2017

In order to understand this properly you have to know all the players in this market namely:

1. Market Makers
2. Promoters
3. Lenders
4. Corporations

College or University is a business first and an institution of higher-education second. A college cannot sustain operations in the red much like any other business therefore there must be promoters to elevate the brand, create a sense of purpose and urgency, and maintain the necessity of going to this institution so that the market makers can feast on the innocent souls of future generations.

Promoters can be anyone like your parents who've gone to and are indebted to Lenders from this process and people like your friends or teachers who encourage you to soak up that clout by going to the best target or top school to have the highest probability of success in order to "make it" in life. Promoters makes a market for the Market Makers who are Professors, bloated Administrators, and other Staff that work and feed off of this institution. They trade you, the ignorant, through X amount of credits for a Y degree so that you may graduate in Z years. Sales cycle is typically four years til maturation at which point you are either marketable or not to Corporations but certainly almost always indebted at this point to Lenders.

School is a stage where the game is played and done effectively your four years will be filled with many good stories of parties, late night cram sessions, and tales of getting laid. Enjoy it while it lasts because the real world isn't as chill in comparison and hopefully, because it is not the duty of Institution to prepare you for this, you also made time sufficient to network and connect with decision makers or friends of decision makers to get yourself locked into opportunities so that you don't have to use the normal channels to get your foot in the door; fraternities or sororities are great backdoors into some of the most prominent Corporations without leaving you constantly red-eyed from over studying while providing you some hint of social life.

If you were lucky and went on a scholarship or your parents paid for the ordeal, great. If not, then now you are about 200-250k USD in debt and looking (begging) for a job that pays sub $100K ($65-85k maybe?) as an Entry-level nobody. You also meet, depending on the growth of the Corporation and how well it adapts to this Automated economy, other drones who are 10, 15, 20, or 30 years your senior resembling what you will be like in their age doing the same job because they have no other option and they've locked themselves into their jobs to call it careers to support their wife, kids, and toys if they can afford it. As you look at that cubical you begin to wonder if it is worth it but you keep reading articles on LinkedIn written by the likes of Jack Welch telling you to keep drinking the coolaide and follow his archaic advice from his limited experience as a widget maker CEO. From confirmation bias, you will no doubt at this point believe in the rhetoric at work from your boss and peers, excited about single digit or low double digit promotions and dreaming about living the life or something in your 30s. Knowing that most haven't reached escape velocity and your peers are just like your int he cubicles next to you, that dream fades day by day.

Corporations are to serve the shareholders not you. You are simply SG&A unless if you are in Sales or some other field where you kill it for the company or the company gets killed. You start to realize that no W-2 employee every made it to the Olympus 100 (Forbes 100) list and that in order to do that you need to not think like the other working bees next to you. Too late, you've drank too much coolaide and now read articles produced by the Gods of Olympus to make a Market for obedient working bees and you have no idea what you wanted to do pre-college, post-college, or at work. You have no life purpose and this $200-250k debt is burning a massive whole in your Checkings Account every slowly as compound interest works against and not for you.

Closing Remarks:

Steer clear of cognitive biases such as confirmation bias on degree selection (reading too much garbage from Business Insider or other unqualified channels of 'media' on compensation and careers or listening to your idiot roommate who dropped out twice already and changed majors three times) and the sunk cost hypothesis where you feel like you have to swim in your lane even though there is a big Great White Shark smacking its lips waiting for you to get ever closer to becoming his Dinner. Just like investing in the Markets, know how to properly value yourself, your time, connections/network, and opportunities that lay ahead in 5-10 years in order to make calculated risk-adjusted and properly hedged decisions with your long positions in the Game of Life.

Bottomline:
Doesn't matter what you major in, learn something fun that adds value to the REAL world. Fuck what market makers, promoters, lenders, and Corporations want you to think to make you easier to control. $SNAP had a don't give two shits attitude where at that time the world of Social Media was about stamp collection not deletion and living in the moment. Right now it is one of the most successful Social Media IPOs in history.

Have fun, learn to learn not to rote memorize, and innovate... Or take a Liberal Arts degree and ride 20 years in the Military to retire on a less than stellar Pension program but none-the-less a Pension retirement at age 42 and figure out what you want to do with life at that point.

Concrete Answer:
1. Computer Science (help put your buddies out of work by Automating their jobs away)
2. Engineering (facilitate and work with CS majors to get rid of the human work force)
3. MBA rebrand - Use this cautiously as a non-M7 and non-Target will almost certainly leave you worse off than before

How WSO can help?:
1. Learn the Language of Finance (IBD, PE, HF courses, etc)
2. Network with others who speak the Lingo (i.e. WSO Intern and City ABC Social Events)
3. Level-up and be in charge of both humans and Robots to be a Lieutenant in the Army of SkyNet (Webinars, Resume services, etc)

Final Notes:
I noticed most people fall short on Soft skills and not Hard skills which results in lost opportunities. Your value add as a human being is having Soft skills for which Machines cannot at this moment Master and doing it better than the next person. I'm writing a basic LinkedIn guide for fellow Apes here on WSO. If you want opportunities you have to pry them from other people's "cold, dead hands!"

Cold calling, e-mailing, and connecting on LinkedIn are some of the tools that you ought to have in your toolbox as a student or working Professional. People spend too much time on their phones so the game is to figure out how to get their attention at the right time, with proper content, entice, engage, and sell them on your idea or yourself.

@thefinancekid You and a few others should PM me for specifics and I can write something to address those concerns. I think the whole lot of you are worried about the same thing which is a healthy indication that the future generation actually gives a damn.

Mar 5, 2017

Your major does not matter. None of it is really used once you're on the job. Finance/econ, math, CS, are all fine.

Mar 25, 2018

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Mar 11, 2017

Machine learning/artificial intelligence. The best majors for this are math and CS.

Mar 5, 2017

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