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Should I study Finance or Management?
August 17, 2008 5:50 AM   Subscribe

Is it better to get any degree or to get the degree that I want? I'm about to start my senior year of college but I find myself wanting to switch majors! What to do?

Management: What I’ve been studying so far. I’m doing good, but it doesn’t excite me anymore.

Finance: This is what I really want to learn. I look at people studying this and I’m attracted; I want to be like them.

I’ve actually already done the paperwork to switch majors :P I find myself having second thoughts now. But I can easily do the paperwork to switch back.

Here are my overall concerns:
-I have no real experience in finance and don’t know what to expect apart from it being hard (at least it seems so to me). Part of what attracts me, however, is precisely that challenge – I feel good about taking it head on and I feel great about my math skills, which have improved immensely since entering college.

-I do realize that another part of what attracts me to this switch of major is simply being a senior and the uncertainty of entering the job market. Finance, after I get into the curriculum, is going to tack on a few extra months of work and possibly an extra semester (which will keep freedom – horrible, horrible freedom – at bay, at least for a little bit). And though finance seems to be more competitive than management, it also seems to me to pay way better at entry-level. That is the biggest draw.

-If I stay with management I can be done this year. Not kidding – it would be nice to be done and grin and not add more to my debt load.

-As far as work after college is concerned, I just want to make as much money as possible and live as comfortably as possible… at least at first (say… maybe first 5, 10 years, so I can get out of the hole and build some wealth. In that case, maybe accounting would have been a better major choice). Ultimately I want to work for government or an international organization like the UN or similar, so that I can work for the commonweal and feel all nice inside. I’m lucky to have good language skills: I’m bilingual in English/Spanish, have a good knowledge of French (which I’m constantly improving), and I’m very willing to learn other languages (Chinese or Arabic, maybe?)

Bottom-line is that I KNOW that I want to learn finance, I just don’t know if this is the right time to do it or not, and what I should do, and so I ask, what would you do?
posted by Theloupgarou to Education (8 answers total)
 
Take finance. A few extra months isn't all that bad and having a finance degree may help you realize your wealth building aspirations much more easily than anything else. Life after college gets a little rough so dont be in a terrible rush just yet.

As for what you want to do 5, 10 years from now, best to have a rough direction in life and avoid specifics ... there will be plenty of new experiences to come which will affect your thinking + personal development and your future plans will keep changing.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 6:21 AM on August 17, 2008


Have you gone and talked to advisers in the finance department? Have you talked to advisers in your management department? I'm sure both would agree that a dual degree in Management and Finance could not possibly be a bad thing so getting advice on how to dip your toe into finance and perhaps merge the two should be your next step.

I say, go for it, at least explore it. You won't know how long it'll add to your college career or how much debt you will incur until you look into it. Also, you might be able to audit a course like Intro to Finance 101 and see if you like it. But I would get advising first on the best course of action. Ask them which course would give you the best overview and contribute to the degree.

I think, though, that college degrees do not make or break a person's future. It's really all about you and luck. However, a hard skill like finance can't possibly be a disservice to you. Even if you wanted to pursue a career in the arts, I bet a lot of people would look at "finance" and go, "Well, that's awfully valuable!"
posted by amanda at 7:43 AM on August 17, 2008


I want to work for government or an international organization like the UN or similar, so that I can work for the commonweal and feel all nice inside.

Having traveled to a lot of poor countries the shinny UN vehicles are always parked outside the most expensive restaurant in town, all the better to use their expense accounts.

I have a friend who's a finance guy and went to work in Sudan for the UN. He left after 6 months because of the corruption, money laundering and lack of actual good work being done. When he tried to make the system more efficient and get money to the people who needed it he was offered a 'bribe' of a higher position and a few hundred thousand dollars to butt out. He came back to the US instead. I don't mean to burst your idealistic bubble, but these organizations (and governments) aren't all that they advertise to be so don't set yourself up for disappointment when you feel all dirty inside instead.

But that has nothing to do your degree. I think that even one semester is a decent trade off to do what you want. Can you turn it into a double major or major/minor situation?
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:23 AM on August 17, 2008


As long as your major is relatively close, a lot of financial firms don't really care what it is.

They just care that you have completed the degree program. The fact that you completed the degree as evidence you can work by yourself, organize your time, get things done, etc ...

Most of what you learn in college is theory about the subject area and not how to do the job. The employer knows you will need a lot of on the job training anyway.

Management, economics, finance, match, etc ... will all get you into a brokerage firm or investment bank. I currently work at a major brokerage house and one of the best guys on my team did his undergrad in psychology.
posted by monkeydluffy at 12:02 PM on August 17, 2008


A lot of the answer is going to depend on the school you go to. As an academic advisor, my first thought on reading this question was "Get thee to an advisor!", as has already been stated. Finance majors are, obviously, math-heavy. If your management degree has also been math-heavy, you may be fine - if not, you may have some math courses to make up in ADDITION to the finance major courses. So just be careful.

As for the more broad question: if finance is what you really want to do, go for it. But I'm a little concerned that you're making that determination without having any experience in finance. How much work experience do you have? Firms are going to look for people with specific jobs/internships while in college, or they won't take a gamble.

To solve this, since you're already aware that switching to finance will require more time in school, spend that time with an appropriate job or internship. Do informational interviews with people who graduated from your college with finance degrees. People love to talk about themselves.

So, I would do the following two things IMMEDIATELY:

1. Go to your academic advisor and discuss exactly what path you'll need to take to finish with a finance degree.

2. Go to your career center and talk to a career advisor about what you can do with a finance degree, how you can get an internship in that area, and how you can contact people with finance degrees for informational interviews.

Based on what you collect from those two steps, you should be able to make your decision. Sorry this is so long-winded - students like you are my advising population, and it's great to see that you're putting some serious thought into this! Good luck!
posted by bibbit at 12:23 PM on August 17, 2008


Double major.
posted by All.star at 2:38 PM on August 17, 2008


Go for it, stay the extra semester or year. When I was approaching graduation I thought about staying an extra year to sew up the requirements for a double major in Biology. I didn't do so and to this day I regret it, because it's so much harder to go back later than to stick it out an extra year. You talk about looking forward to the freedom of leaving college, but believe me within a year or two that time at college will probably seem quite free compared to your working experience. If I could go back and give advice to my past self, this would be high on the list of things I'd like to say.
posted by sherlockt at 5:43 PM on August 17, 2008


Noone goes to work in the area their degree is in: get your piece of paper and get out.
posted by MaxK at 7:07 PM on August 17, 2008


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