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A major dilemma (college)

QuarterMasterQuarterMaster Registered User regular
edited July 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Having just graduated from my local community college this last June with my Associates degree, I'm about to jump into my "junior" year of college at PSU this fall ("junior" is in quotes because I finished CC through Running Start at 18). I'm pretty happy with where I am so far, and very excited for PSU this year. However, I have a dilemma: what do I major in?

Less than a month ago I was set in majoring in economics. However, after visiting the school and looking at all the programs, I've been set back to the three I was originally cycling between: economics, psychology, and sociology. I talked to an adviser there, and she suggested I look into the social science major. This has begun to look very promising, as it includes all of the fields I'm interested in. I would probably end up minoring in economics, since it would be good to have a focus.

However, I'm hesitant for one reason: jorbs. What can I do with a social science major? Would I be setting myself up for a life of scraping by on whatever low-paying job I can get? If there are any social science majors out there (or from one of the three above), it would be great to hear from you. I'd like to hear from anyone else with an opinion too! Thanks.

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QuarterMaster on

Posts

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    This would be a great thing to talk to your advisor about. They might have a really strong partnership with the community and have a decent chance at getting you placed somewhere.
    They might also not have any prospects.

    Improvolone on
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  • QuarterMasterQuarterMaster Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I've talked briefly with the careers department about it, and it seems pretty likely I'd have a job. PSU is extremely connected to the city, so it'd be pretty easy to find something. I'm thinking more in general though.

    QuarterMaster on
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  • kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    A good education in economics is going to involve statistics and calculus, and the development of those skills makes you a lot more employable as a non-science major than anything else you can do in college.

    kaliyama on
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  • Smug DucklingSmug Duckling Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Of course there's always teaching, research with all of those. But specifically:

    Psychology: future path as a psychologist, psychiatrist (with medical training), councillor, etc.
    Economics: Economic consultant for companies (I know a lot of professors do this on the side, but it could probably be a full time job). There are a lot of opportunities for advisor-type positions, working with politicians maybe. Governments need economists. Lots of jobs in business could use these skills.
    Sociology: No clue. Generic businessy jobs would work for this (and with a lot of degrees). By generic businessy jobs I mean like people who negotiate deals (although not the legalese of them) between companies and do general coordination work.

    Smug Duckling on
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  • DrFrylockDrFrylock Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a whole page dedicated to jorbs for social scientists (as social scientists, rather than in some other professional field). They also have pages for related careers (e.g., economist).

    Note the high points carefully:
    • About 41 percent of these workers are employed by governments, mostly by the Federal Government.
    • The educational attainment of social scientists is among the highest of all occupations, with most positions requiring a master’s or Ph.D. degree.
    • Overall employment is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations, but varies by specialty.
    • Job seekers may face competition, and those with higher educational attainment will have the best prospects.

    Note the high percentage of social scientists working in government. Government jobs can be quite steady although the pay is not usually commensurate with private sector work. Also note the emphasis on postgraduate education and competition. What this means is that when you finish with your Bachelors, you will be in a large pool of otherwise hard-to-differentiate people competing for an average number of jobs, and one way to differentiate yourself is through advanced degrees.

    I have heard, anecdotally, that remaining in psychology as a profession after your Bachelors nearly requires an advanced degree, and it wouldn't surprise me if other areas of social science weren't similar.

    Income-wise, that page lists the median income for social scientists as $49,930, with starting salaries between $28,862 and $35,572. Contrast with, e.g., computer scientists, where the median income is $85,370 and the starting salaries are around $53,396.

    DrFrylock on
    Pheezer wrote: »
    I would strongly recommend reading DrFrylock's post thoroughly and considering all of his points individually.
  • Seattle ThreadSeattle Thread Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Having an available job market is always a nice thing, but one should always choose something that they enjoy. If it turns out that you really like Social Science, then you need to run with it. The jobs will fall into place later, even if you have to create them.

    Seattle Thread on
  • KistraKistra Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I've talked briefly with the careers department about it, and it seems pretty likely I'd have a job. PSU is extremely connected to the city, so it'd be pretty easy to find something. I'm thinking more in general though.

    City? Which campus are you going to?

    I will be rolling on the floor if you are calling State College a city. But yes, PSU does have good connections with the community and especially businesses that multiple offices around the state.

    Kistra on
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  • QuarterMasterQuarterMaster Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Kistra wrote: »
    I've talked briefly with the careers department about it, and it seems pretty likely I'd have a job. PSU is extremely connected to the city, so it'd be pretty easy to find something. I'm thinking more in general though.

    City? Which campus are you going to?

    I will be rolling on the floor if you are calling State College a city. But yes, PSU does have good connections with the community and especially businesses that multiple offices around the state.

    I'm going to the main campus in Portland. So very much city.

    Thanks for the advice everyone! And thanks very much for that link, DrFrylock. There is a lot of useful information on there. I'm probably going to end up majoring in Social Science and minoring in Economics, and possibly go on to get a MS in Econ, or something along those lines.

    QuarterMaster on
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  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I would concur with the folks who are saying that starting with something more rigorous will give you an advantage in general. The truth is, most people don't end up doing work directly related to their majors. I have a degree in Philosophy with a minor in Cognitive Science. I currently work as an HR consultant doing survey-related work. Think about it this way - someone with an engineering degree can move into work as, say, an actuary, or a materials planner, or software/hardware development, or even finance. Someone with a sociology degree will have a decidedly more difficult time unless they can prove, through outside activities/interests/achievements or other non-standard means, that they have the chops to do that kind of work. In the case of being an actuary, for example, you have to take tests. Tests with lots of math. If you didn't go beyond Calculus 101 and Intro to Stats for Non-Majors in college, you won't pass them without a lot of extra work and study.

    You may want to consider looking into more interdisciplinary fields like behavioral economics - fields with roots in mathematics and science, but try to look at issues relating with psychology and social behavior. And, to bring it back to the earlier point - it's easier to do that kind of thing when you can already do the "heavy lifting" on the math/science side than trying to start from a less "rigorous" background.

    In general, I found it very easy in college to do extra research work for professors in the Psych department, even though I was technically a non-major. As long as you express an interest in the work and do your part, you may even be able to get credit for individual study/projects within the department.

    Unfortunately, it is really more a matter of bandwidth and prioritization than anything else. If you're really serious, you should consider using summer school to help you increase the breadth and depth of classes you can take - if you're a Econ or similar major, taking more than 3-4 classes outside of your major every year is going to be difficult without the additional time that summer provides.

    Inquisitor77 on
    Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
  • QuarterMasterQuarterMaster Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    The scariest thing about an Econ major/master's for me is that I am TERRIBLE at math. The idea of calculus terrifies me. I'm not so worried about stats, but..not psyched (pun!). I hear they have pretty awesome tutoring centers though, so there's that.

    I'm glad you mentioned behavioral economics Inquisitor. The two areas I'm extremely interested in working in are that and social psychology. Unfortunately, PSU doesn't offer anything but a couple of classes in each of these. Is there a way to go deeper in these fields? I know they are professions, so there has to be something there.

    QuarterMaster on
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  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Just because there aren't classes doesn't mean there aren't professors who may do that kind of work, or related work, on campus. Those are two very different things. Like I said - if you express the interest, most professors are more than happy to take any help they can get. They may funnel you to their grad students, but even then, grad students are a great resource as well, because sometimes they have the time to help you whereas a tenured professor simply doesn't.

    Extracurricular reading and work are not out of the question, although you have to be motivated to do that sort of thing when you don't get any explicit "credit" for doing it. This is, again, where building relationships with professors and grad students can help you get a leg up on what to read, how to read it, etc.

    Taking an intro course is a good way to get a feel for how a specific field "works", in the sense of how they approach problems and what kinds of issues they investigate. Taking one or two classes may really be all you need to at least help you figure out what you're interested in.

    Also, with regards to math - lower-division math only remotely resembles higher-level stuff that you will encounter. This is especially true of fields like statistics and economics, who deal more with the abstract than with, say, finding out the value of x in a given equation. People often are intimidated with math because of how it is taught and because of reputation more than anything else. Try a more positive approach. Plus, if you're genuinely interested, you'll have to get learn and get through the work anyway.

    Unless you plan on doing clinical psychology or something similar, it will be difficult to get away from math. Fields like behavioral economics or industrial/organizational psychology expect you to have a good grasp of, at the very least, statistics in order to do any real applied or research work.

    You'd be surprised how much good programming skills and statistical expertise can add to your value at school and at life in general. At UCLA, the first question any professor asked me when I volunteered to do extra work was, "Do you know programming?" My more "hard" science background has also helped me to point out flaws and issues in some of the applied I/O Psych-related work I do for a living now. Not to beat a dead horse, but it's significantly easier to move from hard to soft than it is the other way around. If you have to learn calculus to get where you want to go, you may as well do it with the support of a classroom setting...unless you're the type who is better-suited to doing it on your own.

    Inquisitor77 on
    Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
  • The Black HunterThe Black Hunter Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Not psychology

    My dad knew alot as he worked in the justice system and they were all pretty miserable, their job was to listen to the most horrible circumstances imaginable, all day, then get death threats and such.

    You can't think of anything outside the "I want a degree in a proper thing" staples?
    No Architecture? No Industrial Design? Nothing that straight up interests you?

    The Black Hunter on
  • KistraKistra Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Kistra wrote: »
    I've talked briefly with the careers department about it, and it seems pretty likely I'd have a job. PSU is extremely connected to the city, so it'd be pretty easy to find something. I'm thinking more in general though.

    City? Which campus are you going to?

    I will be rolling on the floor if you are calling State College a city. But yes, PSU does have good connections with the community and especially businesses that multiple offices around the state.

    I'm going to the main campus in Portland. So very much city.

    Thanks for the advice everyone! And thanks very much for that link, DrFrylock. There is a lot of useful information on there. I'm probably going to end up majoring in Social Science and minoring in Economics, and possibly go on to get a MS in Econ, or something along those lines.

    Ahhh. PSU means Penn State around here. State College is the main campus and is not a city in any sense of the word.

    Kistra on
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  • SatanIsMyMotorSatanIsMyMotor Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Not psychology. Sociology will definitely get you a job and so will Economics.
    In my area (Eastern Canada) you'd definitely have a far easier time getting a job with a sociology degree (assuming you got your papers to be a social worker).

    SatanIsMyMotor on
  • SwashbucklerXXSwashbucklerXX Swashbucklin' Canuck Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    A lot of people seem to be advising a math/hard science background, but if you dislike math as well as feeling you are terrible at it, I'm guessing you're uninterested in jobs that will require a lot of number crunching. It comes down to the general direction you're interested in going with your career.

    It sounds like you're more interested in the qualitative side of social sciences (examining theories of society/economics, looking at group dynamics, solving socioeconomic problems, doing research that involves interviews and case studies), so majoring in sociology/general social science is a great way to go. I certainly recommend becoming comfy with stats either way, because understanding how they work is very useful.

    In the research world, quantitative work is generally valued over qualitative work (and better-paid!), but that is slowly changing. Don't try to go for the quantitative just because you think you have to. Good qualitative researchers are also valuable and employable.

    Don't worry too much about getting an in-depth background in behavioural economics or social psychology as an undergrad. Take whatever classes you can and get the basics down. It's in grad school when you get a serious chance to specialize. If you're looking at a job that's going to require a degree above your BA, then look at your undergrad courses as a chance to explore your interests, learn to work with theories, and learn to write good papers. Make sure to build relationships with professors in your areas of interest as much as you can! I wish I'd done more of that as an undergrad, but the relationships I did build helped get me into a competitive graduate program.

    SwashbucklerXX on
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