Friday, April 12, 2013

Is Majoring in Science More Practical Than Majoring in Art?

The simple answer is yes, but the world isn't a simple place, so: it depends.

I majored in Creative Writing as an undergrad and couldn't find a job afterwards that would let me pay the rent.

"Well," most people would say, "Duh."

And many of them certainly have.

But what if I had majored in medicine or science or computers or business? Not only am I disiniterested, but they do not employ my strengths as a person. Yes, computers and medicine are where some of the best jobs are right now, but would you want a slow computer repairman? Would you want a nurse who got nervous around needles and blood and open wounds?

In college I carpooled with a guy who liked writing but majored in business. He complained about his business classes all the time, and I always wondered if he was going to complain about having a business as much as he was complaining about learning about business.

So what other major options are there, besides history, philosophy, art, or political science -- all of which are as useless or almost as useless as creative writing? Though Penelope Trunk and I may disagree a bit here on doing what you love, we come up with a similar conclusion.

What I wish I had figured out is how to take what I'm good at (reading, writing, humanities/arts) and choose a major that was related to that but would be more useful in the job market -- like public relations. I have not always wanted to be a PR rep, but PR reps still write and talk to people. The position employs skills that are similar to those needed by journalists, writers, and professors. Working for a PR firm may not be my dream job, but it's something that I would enjoy and be good at.

That's my suggestion -- don't go into a field that you aren't interested in, that you're not good at, just because you can't make a living painting. Do major in what you love. Then maybe try finding an alternate job or career that uses those talents that you enjoy using.

Update: Liberal Arts Graduates Create Careers.


  1. Meh...ask me a year ago and I would have said yes, do anything but the arts. But I think if you stick with it and if you are genuinely a creative person who gets more out of exploring that creativity, things work out. I know that it eventually did for me, though the first couple of years post-degree definitely felt a bit lost. Beginning and end of it: just do what you love and work hard!

    Alex xo

    1. Always glad to hear from other artsy people who are working it out. :)

      I'm still kind of stuck in the spot where a humanities/arts degree isn't doing me much good, but I'm starting to see glimmers of how my degree/experience could lead to great places.

      Working hard is definitely part of it. . . I think if you're not okay with having trouble or being 'lost' as you, said, then maybe a slightly easier job path would be the best choice.(Not that other jobs don't require hard work, just that they have different difficulties.)

  2. This is an economic moment of transition. The fact that people in particular industries are finding jobs more easily during this blip in time doesn't really say anything about the longevity of careers in those fields over the next several years. It may get easier for people in creative industries over the coming years or it may get harder, but a moment when new markets are in the course of being created is hardly the time to write off the entire academic skill set.

    Also, on a personal note, you might find this useful. I'm a writer and a musician. Hardly the most marketable skills. I started college as a PR major but switched out and ended up marjoring in anthropology -- an undergrad degree that's occupationally useless if you don't plan on going to grad school and staying in academia, right?

    Well now that I've been in the real world for almost a decade, I thank the heavens EVERY DAY that I didn't stay in PR. It's a field related only nominally to writing and interpersonal skills, despite all outward appearances to the contrary. And perhaps more importantly, it's populated with the absolute most humorless, intolerable humans. Honestly, I had no idea when I was in my early 20's, but now that I'm in my early 30's, it's an open joke with almost everyone I know: don't expect to have a normal or decent interaction with someone in PR -- everyone knows it's not possible! *insert cynical laughter*

    Conversely, I've "sold" my anthro degree as being relevant to every job I've had. I've explained in every job interview how it sounds niche and silly, but it's really a degree that teaches you how to think critically while still seeing and understanding all people's words and behaviors in context. How the liberal arts approach is rigorous about teaching accountability, how to write professionally, how to meet deadlines, etc. etc. I tailored this approach for working in a legal office, a data programming job, and my current job as a writer/editor/web programmer.

    I think you've got a great idea about finding a paying industry in which you can employ your skills. Do a little extra curricular work (like helping a friend with a website or doing the copy for someone's ad for free, etc.) and I'm sure you'll have zero problems "selling" your degree as relevant to any job you feel like trying out. :)

    1. Thanks for the tips, Cammila! :) I usually talk about experience and ignore my degree in interviews, but you're right. . . there's some way I should be able to sell creative writing.

      LOL @ PR. I haven't done a PR internship yet, but just recently started reading up on it. Will definitely do a lot more research before considering anything in that area.

      "I'm a writer and a musician." -- I know, you rock. Movie reviews? Dream job.