Skating through B-school
April 14, 2011 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Rarely is the question asked -- is our business majors learning?
posted by escabeche (98 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember when I got to college and of my friends in engineering school switched to the B school. "Dude, they don't even have class on Fridays!" so this is a big "no shit?"

If I'm ever in the position to hire people, having an MBA will be a strike against, not for, any applicant.
posted by notsnot at 3:08 PM on April 14, 2011 [18 favorites]


Is your choice of grammar meant to be ironic or are you in possession of an MBA?
posted by casconed at 3:10 PM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is your choice of grammar meant to be ironic

It's an adapted quote from someone who is an MBA holder.
posted by hippybear at 3:13 PM on April 14, 2011 [25 favorites]


Casconed: No.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:13 PM on April 14, 2011


"It just seems kind of pointless to go when (a) you’re probably not going to be paying much attention anyway and (b) it would probably be worth more of your time just to sit with your book and read it...In a typical day, “I just play sports, maybe go to the gym. Eat. Probably drink a little bit. Just kind of goof around all day.” He says his grade-point average is 3.3."

Why hello, 1995 me!
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:15 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I'm ever in the position to hire people, having an MBA will be a strike against, not for, any applicant.

True that.

Also, the weird thing is, whenever I grill somebody about why they are getting an MBA, they shoot off a list of people who they want to be like...all of them being a success in business...but none of them actually having a degree in business.

A business degree teaches you how to work for someone in business...nothing more, nothing less.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:17 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that's a big Duh (though it can depend on the school).

See also "education", 'sports management', 'communications' & 'sociology' (sorry, I know it's almost an actual discipline, but it's also a completely blow-off major)
posted by leotrotsky at 3:18 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


10 most common majors of college football players

posted by leotrotsky at 3:19 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah not really a shocker, I work at a state school and also take grad courses and the level of academic rigor in most programs is a total joke anymore. The competition from "for-profit" diploma mills and the rampant grade inflation has pretty much meant that you can totally cost through grad degree programs with As and Bs, even a pretty minimum amount of effort can net you a 4.0 in many grad programs. It's even worse at the undergrad level where it seems like if it's not broken up into small bite-sized chunks that are easy to regurgitate on test people aren't happy with the class.

Business School seems to be a particularly bad offender of this but it's getting endemic across all disciplines anymore.
posted by vuron at 3:21 PM on April 14, 2011


The article isn't about MBAs (which are themselves of questionable value), it's about undergrad business majors, like Marketing and Management. You remember, all those people who went four years without cracking open a book that didn't have "infoboxes" on every page.
posted by theodolite at 3:21 PM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Everyone knows business is a major for people with no talents, skills or goals.
posted by dortmunder at 3:27 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was an undergrad business major. A huge mistake.

It was a fancy trade school, not (my idea of) a college education. It positioned me well for employment, but I didn't, like, learn anything -- though unlike the kids in this article, I studied a lot (I was at Penn's Wharton School).

Disinterested in investment banks and consulting firms (as Nathaniel Fick put it in his book, I have no idea what a 21 year-old kid out of college could possibly be consulted about), I ran away and went to law school. Where, ironically (since law school actually is a trade school), I learned a lot more about the world and the liberal arts and how to be a functioning member of society than I did in college.

An MBA, at least, is a careerist's choice. But undergrad business programs are kind of evil -- they're a superficially attractive, vaguely "practical" option that gets you to a degree and, if you're lucky, a job, but takes away the opportunity to actually go to college. At least it did for me.
posted by eugenen at 3:27 PM on April 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


My mantra for years is the the biggest problem with business is business (majors) people
posted by straight_razor at 3:29 PM on April 14, 2011


Brand-name programs — the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, and a few dozen others — are full of students pulling 70-hour weeks, if only to impress the elite finance and consulting firms they aspire to join.

I go to Notre Dame, and let me tell you, even the "#1 undergrad b-school in the nation" is normally seen as a big joke among non-majors.

Within the college, it's divided along finance+accounting v. marketing+management lines, where m+m are pretty much seen as a constant stream of advanced bullshit and the ability to go out 3-5 times a week and still swing a 3.8 or so.

I know maybe 5 people in mendoza that do more than 40 hours a week of study. Granted, those five all already have gret jobs, but everyone else realized at some point that barely skating by (granted, probably still harder than skating by at UNF) will still land them a pretty decent one.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 3:29 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Business Professor"-- oxymoron?
posted by emhutchinson at 3:32 PM on April 14, 2011


We use to laugh at the people who switched from a demanding major (such as pre-med) to business.

Now I'm in grad school and wondering who was actually wiser... Boring job or not, its still paying better than this with less hours.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:33 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Within the college, it's divided along finance+accounting v. marketing+management lines, where m+m are pretty much seen as a constant stream of advanced bullshit

This. I can't emphasize this enough, from personal experience. And FIFY.
posted by eugenen at 3:34 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I learned more in 6 months of managing a Starbucks than I learned in two years of business school.

I also learned that managing a Starbucks is a pretty terrible gig.
posted by erstwhile at 3:35 PM on April 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Business majors generally struck me as people who had no academic interests, but a keen interest in money. And often parents who insisted they get a degree.

Now, of course, these programs are also huge cash cows for universities, so they'll tell prospective students almost anything to get them to sign up.

Come to think of it, sounds like it's the same racket in the other departments, too.
posted by rhombus at 3:35 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


> 10 most common majors of college football players

6. Sports and exercise

posted by The Card Cheat at 3:38 PM on April 14, 2011


Is it reading time?
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:43 PM on April 14, 2011


Those who can, do. Those who care, teach. Those who cannot and do not care, teach business.

Note: does not apply to the thin-skinned, the caring-capable or anyone who can take a joke for that matter.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:44 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I'm ever in the position to hire people, having an MBA will be a strike against, not for, any applicant.

You're probably trolling, but I'll bite. I have an MBA, and my degree taught me many things. Among those things, I learned: I got an MBA because I was previously an engineer who decided that I liked the business side more. At the same time, I used the degree program to switch geographies from a tech backwater (where I wouldn't have gotten any kind of on-the-job training in business and marketing) to a tech hub.

Today, I'm a product marketing manager for a small-sized tech firm that some of you may have heard of. I'm quite happy with my career change.

Go ahead. Tell me I made a bad choice.
posted by fremen at 3:46 PM on April 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


A version of this thread appears from time to time on Metafilter. The comments aren't well informed in general, and have a certain youtube comment thread quality about them. Great job, everyone.
posted by found missing at 3:49 PM on April 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


Yeah, as a sort-of MBA holder, this is about business undergrads, not MBA students. There are plenty of bad MBA programs, but graduate b-school is hard work like any grad school and covers actual stuff. I studies most technology development management and accounting for entrepreneurs.

As the article indicated, undergrad business programs are mostly for people who have no idea why they're in university other than having been told to go. That the schools play along with this is pretty sad.
posted by GuyZero at 3:50 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


A version of this thread appears from time to time on Metafilter. The comments aren't well informed in general, and have a certain youtube comment thread quality about them. Great job, everyone.

Be the change, brother. Be the change.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:51 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


A version of this thread appears from time to time on Metafilter. The comments aren't well informed in general, and have a certain youtube comment thread quality about them. Great job, everyone.

Yeah, like I said in a previous thread, it's almost Pavlovian. B-school? Start complaining about MBAs. What, this has nothing to do with MBAs? Who cares!
posted by muddgirl at 3:52 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I was 20 years old, I made only a handful of choices I look back on with pride as 40 looms alarming close on the horizon.

I skipped a day of class to see Nirvana at Maple Leaf Gardens. Met a couple of my first lifelong friends. And I quit the commerce program I'd spent a year and a half draining my soul into and transferred into the humanities.

My parents were confused - my father still kind of is - and the commerce faculty acted like I'd defected to the Soviet Union in the midst of glasnost. Fuck 'em. Never once looked back with regret, even when I was living on cornerstore Jamaican patties and the dollar plate of mashed potatoes at Futures Bakery in the first years of my writing career.
posted by gompa at 3:53 PM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Soft undergrad biz majors often leave a lot to be desired. But finance and accounting majors from reputable programs have never failed to impress me; there is guaranteed level of rigor you usually have to look to engineering or math/science majors to find. That doesn't mean a history major won't be better, but it's case by case.
posted by MattD at 3:55 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Feel like I should clarify that the "fuck 'em" was directed at the faculty of the School of Commerce at Queen's University, not my parents.
posted by gompa at 3:58 PM on April 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Where, ironically (since law school actually is a trade school), I learned a lot more about the world and the liberal arts and how to be a functioning member of society than I did in college.

Do...do you even see the problem in that statement?
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:00 PM on April 14, 2011


But finance and accounting majors from reputable programs have never failed to impress me

At my university - known for its CS and engineering programs - we had an accounting dept and an economics dept. Accounting was mind-bogglingly hard and economics was pretty much all calculus after the first couple of macro lectures. At the oft-derided university down the street named after a former Canadian Prime Minister they had a "business" program. They had good parties.
posted by GuyZero at 4:02 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


People paying for GMAT prep cannot, by and large, "do fractions," yet they feel, uniformly, that it is their right to be admitted to "Business School." Sorry, in my humble opinion, if you can't reduce 8/16 to 1/2 you do not belong in any kind of graduate school. I don't care how many creative pranks you involved yourself in over spring break one or two years ago. Or three or four, who's counting?
posted by emhutchinson at 4:07 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't want to sell out my business brethren in marketing and management, but I'd REALLY like to see, anytime there is a "Business majors are a joke/easy/fluffy/academic frauds/whatever" post, what people actually think of when they consider a "business major."

I guess I can look at some of my friends and fellow students and be shockingly embarrassed as well (and I guess it's partially because I'm in an honors business program as well), and I definitely agree that I'm not spending hours in the lab like my aerospace engineering friend is, but I don't really think -- as an accounting major getting ready to study for the CPA examination (and learning all the ways I can help rich people and companies [like GE and Google] reduce their effective tax rates to an abysmally low rate) I'm a bottom-feeder.

Call me a scoundrel, but not a bottom feeder!

I can understand criticisms that finance/accounting programs serve to prepare people for jobs rather than to provide the education to create "well-rounded philosopher king citizens of the world", but does engineering not also? Do we criticize pre-med majors for taking a pre-professional approach?

OK, I guess there's another difference that someone will want to mention, but between the argument that 1) business majors are academically bankrupt or 2) that all business majors do is profit off of the fruits of "real producers" (engineers and doctors, as it usually goes), I guess I'd rather be considered the dastardly scoundrel who wrecks the lives of millions through creative accounting and off-balance sheet financing.

At least being considered an evil genius would only insult my ethics, and not my intelligence, ambition, or passion.
posted by subversiveasset at 4:21 PM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Burned yet another nyt impression! please if you can, put NYT next to it.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:22 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


So Im sitting at a crossroads: on one hand and a MBA at an A school which is easy to get to (physically), and on the other a B school MS in Econ which would be a bear to get to. The Econ degree is more useful, but the MBA degree has a lot to offer if I want to head the management route instead of the specialist route... Pieces like this solidify the specialist route.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:23 PM on April 14, 2011


Do...do you even see the problem in that statement?

That I'm a business major complaining about not learning about the liberal arts? I guess I thought I would get some wider educational grounding from a business program -- that it would be more than preparation for the i-bank cattle call. I didn't do my research. Hence huge mistake.
posted by eugenen at 4:30 PM on April 14, 2011


You're probably trolling, but I'll bite. I have an MBA, and my degree taught me many things. Among those things, I learned:

* The ins and outs of financial modeling, including how to build and track a P&L for a business line.
* What things go into a marketing plan, and the many pitfalls of bad planning.
* Strategic problems and solutions for many companies, including some that look like the company where I work now.
* How to manage, reward, and motivate people. Yes, that was an important part of my education. No, the lessons not merely involve throwing money at good performers and terrorizing under performers.
* And lots more...


OK. I googled everything you talked about that I didn't know how to define (financial modeling, P&L).

These are basic skills most college graduates have...but know under other specialized terms. Business seems to take huge concepts, turn it into a "this is the ONLY way to do it because XXX did it this way and they are mad rich". Oh, and they give it a sexy name.

"manager, reward, and motivate people". Um yeah, any psych 101 major will tell you how reinforcement works, punishment doesnt. Go ahead...ask anyone who has read his psych101 book.

Glad you finally got them in grad school!

oh...and lots more.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:34 PM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


There are a bunch of soft business undergrad courses that are essentially a joke, but this is becoming more and more true of most disciplines in most unis (there are, of course, exceptions). It's an inevitable consequence of the fact that the person being examined is, more and more, becoming the person who's ultimately paying the examiner. A "Gentleman's C" is a bit easier to hand out in a social science or humanity than it is in a hard science, which makes it a little more obvious in those disciplines.

To add to the derail, the issue with MBAs is a different one, IMHO. As far as I can see, the reputable programmes seem to be teaching useful stuff that has direct applications in the real world. The deleterious effect is that there seems to have been a transition on the last ten years or so from the idea that the topics covered in an MBA are useful for senior executives to know to the idea that the topics covered in an MBA are all a senior executive needs to know. The idea that some SVP of Marketing can move from a consumer goods company to a turbine company would boggle the mind of most people, but seems run of the mill to the MBAnistas. The value of specialised knowledge has been diluted by this generalisation to the detriment of good corprate governance
posted by Jakey at 4:39 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, I'm a little surprised to see all the strong negative reactions here. I was a software developer for about 10 years before going through a business undergrad program, and I loved every minute of it. I learned a lot about accounting and finance (both international and personal!), why businesses do what they do, and just in general how the world works. I learned a lot about operations management - which revealed to me the very clear origins of agile software development - and I gained a lot of people management knowledge that allowed me to reflect back on the software dev teams I led in the past. I spent more time doing statistical analysis and calculus than I ever did working as a developer.

No doubt there are a lot of slackers going into business studies and a lot of incompetents coming out, but I don't think the subject deserves quite so much derision.
posted by skintension at 4:39 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Burned yet another nyt impression! please if you can, put NYT next to it.

1) get chrome if you don't have it already
2) If you see the 'see your options' screen launch an Incognito mode window (just hit ctrl+shift+n in chrome)
3) copy and paste the NYT URL into the incognito mode window and read away.

Incognito mode doesn't save cookies at all, and the NYT paywall is cookie based. So every time you close and re-open an incognito mode window, you get a new 20 pages to read.
posted by delmoi at 4:41 PM on April 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Go ahead. Tell me I made a bad choice.

No.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:44 PM on April 14, 2011


"when business students take the GMAT, the entry examination for M.B.A. programs, they score lower than students in every other major"

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by vidur at 4:45 PM on April 14, 2011


undergrad business degrees are problematic. Its a vocational degree when university is supposed to be about learning how to think. We have a very very strong bias against hiring someone who has their undergrad in business, even though nearly all of us (myself excluded) have top five MBA's. You can teach a smart intellectually curious 22 yo the basics of finance (especially basic financial statement analysis and corp finance) in not a whole lot of time.

MBA's have issues as well, but that's not what this article is about.
posted by JPD at 4:51 PM on April 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


That I'm a business major complaining about not learning about the liberal arts?

I was referring to the fact that you went to law school to learn liberal arts, not how to be a lawyer.

And I vehemently disagree with your assertion that law school is a trade school. It's a masters in political science, at best. Though it may be marketed as a trade school, a new law grad likely can't even file a pleading in County court. Pretty much the exact opposite of a trade school.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:54 PM on April 14, 2011


OK. I googled everything you talked about that I didn't know how to define (financial modeling, P&L).

These are basic skills most college graduates have...but know under other specialized terms. Business seems to take huge concepts, turn it into a "this is the ONLY way to do it because XXX did it this way and they are mad rich". Oh, and they give it a sexy name.


Something tells me that if your research of MBA programs consists of googling terms and then condemning it on what it "seems" to you, you probably should jump off your high horse right there and hold your tongue. There's a lot to critique about the concept of MBAs and the MBA programs currently running, but most of the time when people do it, they wait until they know what the hell they're talking about.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:02 PM on April 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


I know it's fashionable to go after business majors, but what WOULD anyone in here consider a "good" major? Seriously, I'd like to know. Because this snark has become SO predictable.

If someone says they went into engineering, I expect to have the liberal arts majors come in and scoff that, sure, engineers may know their own specialty, but they can't read or write worth shit and they don't know the classics and isn't it sad they lost out on the whole "college experience"?

And the engineers will rebut: those liberal arts guys? They are mired in the past, and don't have the math and science skills to even conceive of what it's like to make it in today's work place. They'll all end up cloistered in academia.

Which brings us to those education majors (and I was one) and hey, those who can't do, teach, right?

And everyone knows those business majors party all the time.

The humanities? Just fuzzy, feel-good pseudo-science.

No one can survive in the arts these days.

And with all the bloggers around, forget about being paid to write, so there goes journalism!

Even the law majors are getting to be a dime a dozen these days. We're so litigious that kids go into law thinking they can make big money once they put in some time as an associate at a firm--never mind that the competition is now fierce for just that reason.

I'm thinking science majors are probably still grudgingly accepted as 'valid', right? And possibly medical school/nursing.

Maybe if you tie the two together and get into pharmacy you're on the right track?
posted by misha at 5:06 PM on April 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


to seriously answer your question - any liberal art, science, or engineering program. Now I might want a higher GPA from a sociology major candidate then from an EE candidate, but I'd consider both. But I'd expect the sociology major to scream intellectual curiosity and seriousness in a way I might not worry about with an EE major.
posted by JPD at 5:11 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe if you tie the two together and get into pharmacy you're on the right track?

SCORE!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:15 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


No doubt there are a lot of slackers going into business studies and a lot of incompetents coming out, but I don't think the subject deserves quite so much derision.

If it makes you feel any better Pumpkin, fine arts undergrads are useless in about the same proportions as B-schoolers. Of course fine arts majors don't tend to collapse entire economies, but there are just as many slackers and incompetents.
posted by Scoo at 5:15 PM on April 14, 2011


I am not going to tell anyone not to go to business school. It's a pretty easy way to make more money than you would otherwise make. I would say the premium that business majors command in the market place is fucking dumb. I'm sure business majors learn some shit that's useful for running a business, I'm also sure that this shit is not particularly clever or hard to wrap your head around, they also learn a lot of bullshit that formalizes and jargonizes obvious shit that is handy if you're a moron. They also learn to stifle and buzzwordize stuff in a way that is a huge fucking impediment if you aren't a moron. And they do all of this while working less hard, and demonstrating less cognitive muscle than the vast majority of majors that see far lower returns on their degrees.

This isn't just a cute clash of cultures with people monomaniacally interested in money on one side and people with more diffuse and lofty values on the other side. This is a clash between people who are almost certainly worse at the jobs that they are hired for being systematically preferred to the rest of college graduates because they are the same people tasked with doing the hiring. There's a mass hallucination that business majors are learning relevant, practical, skills while the rest of people are learning high-minded esoterica. NO. Most people are learning trivia as far as it pertains to the actual tasks that are required of you in the market place . Sociologists, biologists, comp lit, economics, physics, marketing, human resources. The only difference is some people are learning math and some aren't. Some people are learning to write clearly and effectively and some aren't. Some people are learning to wrap their heads around actual challenging concepts and some aren't. Some people are getting used to memorizing reams of specialized information and some aren't.

It isn't like history or bio majors couldn't fucking deal with the work load of being a business major. It is just sufficiently important to them to be interested in things that they are willing to work harder for four years because of it. So yeah I don't have any problem with people who choose to be business majors. I get it, it's nice to make more money instead of less money, but if I was hiring someone to do a job I would probably prefer someone who demonstrated something beyond dull avarice.
posted by I Foody at 5:17 PM on April 14, 2011 [23 favorites]


> 10 most common majors of college football players
5. General studies

Wait, what?

A: So, you go to college?
B: Yeah.
A: What are you studying?
B: You know, stuff. Things.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:24 PM on April 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


Oh and I do want to exempt accounting which is a skilled trade, and finance which is a problematically lucrative and valueless endevor but as an academic discipline is at least challenging and rigorous.
posted by I Foody at 5:24 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not going to tell anyone not to go to business school. It's a pretty easy way to make more money than you would otherwise make.

So, totally serious here, I am not sure that people with only undergrad business degrees have incomes that are significantly higher than people with any other undergrad degree. I'm pretty sure they they, on average, probably have lower starting salaries than people with CS, engineering or accounting undergrad degrees.

And MBA typically bumps your salary, but business undergrad doesn't to my knowledge.
posted by GuyZero at 5:32 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, FWIW, I've never worked with a single person who had an undergrad business degree. (again, separate from people in accounting). I really have no clue what someone with just a business undergrad is specifically qualified to do versus any random university grad.
posted by GuyZero at 5:33 PM on April 14, 2011


My undergraduate school had no business major, so my first encounter with those students was as a TA in grad school. Seriously, they were mostly as dumb as a bag of rocks. Couldn't think their way out of a wet paper bag. They were being recruited hard by big companies, I think because they were amazing "team players" and had great interpersonal skills.
posted by Forktine at 5:38 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


my brother got his bachelor's in accounting. then went back for his MBA in finance.

he's decided that when his kids are a bit more grown he's going to go back fo a doctorate in economics.

I'm oddly proud of him for that.
posted by mephron at 5:41 PM on April 14, 2011


I know it's fashionable to go after business majors, but what WOULD anyone in here consider a "good" major? Seriously, I'd like to know. Because this snark has become SO predictable.

I'd almost recommend Math, not just for the expected quantitative skills and logical reasoning skills, but I also found that curiously I got better at writing while I was studying it. My two theories on this are (a) this came from struggling to write about highly abstract concepts (b) I read a lot anyway and it had more to do with that than the math. So, maybe Math + some liberal arts, which I suppose is pretty much what I did (music minor, took as much meaty sociology/humanities as I could for my generals).

But there is a gigantic problem with Math, and that is that 90+% of the population has no idea what you studied. You might get respect from the 10% who has some idea what the discipline entails and is likely to teach you. Nobody else will know what to do with you.

If someone says they went into engineering, I expect to have the liberal arts majors come in and scoff that, sure, engineers may know their own specialty, but they can't read or write worth shit and they don't know the classics and isn't it sad they lost out on the whole "college experience"?

This is in fact a pretty good chunk of why I ditched engineering. Though I don't think it would be so bad if both the faculty and the students had a little less inflated opinion of how awesome they were for being engineers or engineers-to-be (cool and demanding as engineering really is).

To tie this back into the topic, that's because the very idea of University -- to me, anyway -- is that you're supposed to have a strong general liberal arts core at the center of your education, and the major course of study extends that. The engineering curricula that I've seen is so chock full of stuff engineers have to know that it tries to replace that core.

I think we might be better off if it were a little more like some of the other professional models, where you could pick a pre-professional program major (either related or just a pre-engineering program) and then do grad school. A good number of engineering programs are already 5 years without efforts ranging from focused to heroic, so it really wouldn't be lengthening the course of study much, and you could let the engineers actually go to college and read and stuff.

If business programs are somehow suffering from the same problem, perhaps they should adopt a similar solution. I will admit that because of my own prejudices about business students and faculty and programs and the suits they often become, it's a little hard for me to believe that undergrad business programs are in fact giving up their core because they're trying to cram in as much material as engineering programs do. But then again, there's a world of real skills that can be brought to bear on the problem of making and maintaing organizations that provide goods and services, and it's a fascinating area. I have no doubt that there could be strong undergraduate education in this area combined with a strong liberal arts core... however skeptical I am about how this vision is matched by reality at most institutions.
posted by weston at 5:51 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have to understand, in most companies, there are only a small percentage who actually *think* or *create*. Everyone else either follows a set procedure and/or socializes in order to make sales. Business majors are PERFECT for business.
posted by blargerz at 6:00 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


A: What are you studying?
B: You know, stuff. Things.

Things about stuff.
posted by sneebler at 6:08 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Generalizations are always dumb.

I'll be the first to admit that I learned a lot more about sales and marketing in starting a business than I did in the School of Business, and that there is lame bullshit associated with it.

I have a friend who was in the medical field (before going off to be even more successful in another), and he said the same thing about his career vs. schooling.

My only regret is that I'm in a field that EVERYONE thinks they can do. No exceptions.

Until they fuck it up.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:08 PM on April 14, 2011


"During the seven years that I worked as a management consultant, I spent a lot of time trying to look older than I was. I became pretty good at furrowing my brow and putting on somber expressions. Those who saw through my disguise assumed I made up for my youth with a fabulous education in management. They were wrong about that. I don’t have an M.B.A. I have a doctoral degree in philosophy—nineteenth-century German philosophy, to be precise. Before I took a job telling managers of large corporations things that they arguably should have known already, my work experience was limited to part-time gigs tutoring surly undergraduates in the ways of Hegel and Nietzsche and to a handful of summer jobs, mostly in the less appetizing ends of the fast-food industry.

The strange thing about my utter lack of education in management was that it didn’t seem to matter. As a principal and founding partner of a consulting firm that eventually grew to 600 employees, I interviewed, hired, and worked alongside hundreds of business-school graduates, and the impression I formed of the M.B.A. experience was that it involved taking two years out of your life and going deeply into debt, all for the sake of learning how to keep a straight face while using phrases like “out-of-the-box thinking,” “win-win situation,” and “core competencies.” When it came to picking teammates, I generally held out higher hopes for those individuals who had used their university years to learn about something other than business administration.

After I left the consulting business, in a reversal of the usual order of things, I decided to check out the management literature. Partly, I wanted to “process” my own experience and find out what I had missed in skipping business school. Partly, I had a lot of time on my hands. As I plowed through tomes on competitive strategy, business process re-engineering, and the like, not once did I catch myself thinking, Damn! If only I had known this sooner! Instead, I found myself thinking things I never thought I’d think, like, I’d rather be reading Heidegger! It was a disturbing experience. It thickened the mystery around the question that had nagged me from the start of my business career: Why does management education exist?"
posted by leotrotsky at 6:09 PM on April 14, 2011 [21 favorites]


Business students don't pay tuition, they pay cover.

I am surrounded by MBAs at my current job, from good schools. They are mostly product and project managers. They do a pretty good job and they are hard workers.

The interesting thing is that the non MBA product and project managers also do a very good job, sometimes better. From here I can see one who has a degree in molecular biology, an English major, a software engineer, a Harvard MBA and a Stanford MBA (engineering major).

The only advantage that I can see is that the one who went to business school are 2 or 3 years younger than the ones who did not, and they are making the same money. I don't know about their student debt, so I can't tell if they made the right decision.

Me? I'd rather have learned on the job. Design school was a mostly a waste of time or money. Except for the partying.
posted by Dr. Curare at 6:15 PM on April 14, 2011


cash or credit?
posted by clavdivs at 6:18 PM on April 14, 2011


Data point: I was a history and sociology double major in college. Not the kind that picks that major to avoid work; I wanted to go to grad school. I had the same attitude most here have about the idea of "business" as academic discipline. Afterwards, I worked in politics and PR, which were both very, very easy.

Now I work for a big management research firm. It's much, much more difficult. I find myself, on a daily basis, using concepts from psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, statistics and finance.

That doesn't mean I'd recommend an undergrad business education; most of my colleagues have liberal arts degrees like me. Senior folks generally have the dread MBA. But I'd love to drop the predictable snarkers into my job for a few days, see how you'd fare. I'd imagine you'd find it a lot more challenging than you'd expect.
posted by downing street memo at 6:26 PM on April 14, 2011


Gah, generalization frenzy going on in here, and against the whole lot of the MBAs.

Let me try to irritate somebody else with truisms.

May I try with...mmmhh..psychologists? Many of them join the profession to heal themselves and are ill equipped to help others! Journalist....mmhh.. people majoring in literature and similar subjects: they suck so badly at maths all they can do is cut'n'paste somebody else ideas and change it a little bit, so that it doesn't look like outright plagiarisms.

Enough with irritating stuff, allow me to comment on this subject: people as whole is less and less interested in knowing, more and more interested in having. Having a title is seen as a reward in itself, while having all the experience that should be strictly correlated with the title is seen as expensive, fatiguing and unnecessary.

That's the core problem, imho. Maybe it could be proved by just counting at the most frequently used words. Can't do that now, my bet is:

Increased frequency: having, going, money, success, achievement, prestigeous, fame, funny, entertainment, living, crazy, quick, rational, easy.

Decresed frequency: being, understanding, studying, conquering, analyzing, criticizing, logic, slow, irrational, slow.
posted by elpapacito at 6:26 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Soft undergrad biz majors often leave a lot to be desired. But finance and accounting majors from reputable programs have never failed to impress me; there is guaranteed level of rigor you usually have to look to engineering or math/science majors to find.

That's because 25 years ago they would have been math/science majors. I noticed the brain drain from the sciences really start in the 90's. Now, they certainly have made a better world haven't they...
posted by ennui.bz at 6:46 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


As an MBA student I really do not understand the concept of a business undergraduate degree. What makes the MBA program so interesting is all the people who come from different careers who bring varied experiences to the table that we can talk about in relation to textbook material or case studies. As an undergrad with no real world experience, how can you possibly relate to such discussions?
posted by fusinski at 6:53 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't say that. A lot of times, to work "in the field" for both math and science involves going up to a doctorate, so those people that got math and science BS's in the olden days might still have gone on to business with their degree and used the hard analytical abilities to do well there. Therefore, I see nothing wrong with many people who want to focus on accounting and finance to pursue that if it strikes their fancy and they don't want to work up to PhD before they start getting job offers in Math and Science, thus I don't really see the brain drain in the way you're talking about. As for making a better world or not, business, firms, governments, and non-profits all need accountants for good reason. They can be just as much of a force of good as a nuclear scientist.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:54 PM on April 14, 2011


if you can't reduce 8/16 to 1/2 you do not belong in any kind of graduate school

And you won't get admitted to anywhere not named the University of Phoenix
posted by fusinski at 6:57 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


wildcrdj:
> 10 most common majors of college football players
5. General studies

Wait, what?

A: So, you go to college?
B: Yeah.
A: What are you studying?
B: You know, stuff. Things.


I had pretty much that conversation with the first General Studies major I ever encountered. And I quote:

Me: What are you majoring in?
Dill: Naw man. Just getting the degree.
Me: Wha? (awkward confusion)

Eventually he explained that he's going for General Studies. I probably failed to hide my surprise that such a major existed.
posted by Tehhund at 7:09 PM on April 14, 2011


General Studies major

A: So you're taking General Studies, huh? What exactly are you studying?
B: Generals.
A: Huh?
B: Generals. You know, Lee, Grant, Patton, Schwarzkopf. General Studies.
A: ...

I, on the other hand, come from a Navy family, so naturally I majored in Admiral Studies instead.
posted by armage at 7:19 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't care what they do or don't learn, except for one thing: would somebody please teach these future middle managers of America how to use a goddamn pivot table?
posted by treepour at 7:20 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


They is learning how to beg me to pass my classes. Fortunately for them, those who care enough to beg also care enough to at least do the homework and not totally screw up the exams.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:30 PM on April 14, 2011


I don't understand the MBA. A masters degree is five years full-time study. A bachelor degree is four years full-time (sometimes 4 years and 3 years, respectively, in some countries for some fields).

MBA's are a two year program, like an associate. You have a masters degree at two years?! But you're still a n00b! You're "post-grad" on your third year?!? What's a BBA degree take then - six months? (I just looked it up, it's four years, like an actual degree. I didn't know that, but it's only adding to my confusion about MBAs)

I assume that MBA is probably just a associate degree that has been misnamed for some cultural reason, but I'm mentioning all this because confusion like mine probably plays a role in MBAs being looked down on by many - how are people supposed to take seriously a masters degree that is awarded to n00bs? Like my conclusion above, they just assume it must not be a real degree.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:34 PM on April 14, 2011


-harlequin- : you get a MBA after you get a bachelor's degree.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:35 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, that makes way more sense. Except some people I know were doing their MBA without a bachelor degree (or at least that was my understanding). I think that must be the source of my confusion! Either I misunderstood what they were doing, or maybe they were just signed up at some dodgy place that accepted credits from the School of Hard Knocks :-)

Anyway, good to hear! Thanks.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:45 PM on April 14, 2011


-harlequin-, you're a bit off here. I have an MA (in fiction writing) that I got in a year. In math, a master's degree would be awarded after two or maybe three years, typically en route towards the Ph.D.
posted by escabeche at 7:45 PM on April 14, 2011


I remember when I got to college and of my friends in engineering school switched to the B school. "Dude, they don't even have class on Fridays!" so this is a big "no shit?"

This is what Art Students are like too. Best part of being an art student.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:59 PM on April 14, 2011


There's a lot to critique about the concept of MBAs and the MBA programs currently running, but most of the time when people do it, they wait until they know what the hell they're talking about.

If you can sum up your education in bulletpoint form, its no wonder that a simple google query would bring others up to the same speed you're at.

They can be just as much of a force of good as a nuclear scientist.
Let me guess. Business major, and no history classes.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:06 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


-harlequin- : you get a MBA after you get a bachelor's degree.

Ok, that makes way more sense. Except some people I know were doing their MBA without a bachelor degree (or at least that was my understanding). I think that must be the source of my confusion! Either I misunderstood what they were doing, or maybe they were just signed up at some dodgy place that accepted credits from the School of Hard Knocks :-)

No, acutally...I've seen that too, and that REALLY wierds me out. If you want to know the name of the schools, please memail me.

But there are top notch schools out there that give out an MBA before a bachelors. Actually, I shouldn't say "schools". I only know of one...but I'm surprised, since its a very very very selective school.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:09 PM on April 14, 2011


If you can sum up your education in bulletpoint form

I can summarize my computer science undergraduate degree in less bullets, believe me.
posted by fusinski at 8:23 PM on April 14, 2011


Let me guess. Business major, and no history classes.

Nope, English Major, BS at US Naval Academy, lots of math, lots of science, and yes, lots of history, thank you very much. I appreciate you assuming your own worse case scenario for anyone who would defend accountants though.

If you can sum up your education in bulletpoint form, its no wonder that a simple google query would bring others up to the same speed you're at.

Let's do this for my degree then. First, English!

* Basic and advanced competency in written and oral communication, including being able to prepare and submit analysis and research papers cumulating in a capstone project.
* A cursory knowledge of various eras of World Literature to include Ancient, Classical, Medieval, and Early Modern across the earth.
* Advanced knowledge of both British and American Literature to include Elizabethan, Augustan, Romantic, Victorian, and 20th century literature.
* An understanding of major literary critical theories and the history of literary criticism.

If we wanted to do the Science-y part of my degree.

* Basic understanding of chemistry and physics, including laboratory period.
* Basic electrical engineering to include electronic and wireless waveform knowledge.
* Basic thermodynamics and equipment class to cover major engine types and mathematical computations of efficiency.
* Constant professional curriculum for a Naval Officer to include seamanship, ethics, leadership, and naval law.
* Must learn how to swim!

Most of that English stuff doesn't sound too hard at all, now does it! In fact, someone who doesn't think highly of English majors could just think, "Hey, I could go down to the library to learn all of that! I mean, I read! How hard could it be?" And yes, they could possibly self-educate though it would not be easy. Most subjects can be summarized in such a way that everyone feels like an expert. Hell, right now I'm trying to get my masters in education so I can teach and one of the greatest impediments to the field of teaching is that EVERYONE feels like they're an expert at pedagogy since they themselves were both students and children. Of course, maybe you consider education to be a soft major too; I've already seen it mentioned in this thread as such.

I, of course wouldn't even dream of supposing your education because I'll do you the credit of letting you expose your own biases without me imagining them for you.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:08 PM on April 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


LC, Thanks for your resume and your interest.

Unfortunately we are unable to favorite you right now as there were better qualified and more personable applicants. We thank you again, and encourage you to post again in the future.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:12 PM on April 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Used to work in the copy center at a business school. I remember students coming in copying 2 inch thick stacks of paper, complaining about their jerk professors who had the gall to ask them to read it all for class. A full semester of reading. Which they were looking at for the first time right then, during finals week. I never understood why they bothered to pay for the copies that late in the game, they obviously had no time to read it all; it made no economic sense, but what do I know about business, I was a science major.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:13 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hal_c_on, everyone can be resumed, and thus bullet-pointed. I pointed this out to not only deflect your own dismissive comment about me being a business major (which I wouldn't consider either an insult or a commendation) but to show that any major—perhaps even ones you value—can be treated the same way. You can act like this now again, but it doesn't really do much. Unless you still think I'm a business major with no history classes.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:16 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hal_c_on, everyone can be resumed, and thus bullet-pointed.

I seem to recall that writing a précis was a high school english exercise and not an undergrad business exercise. Thus the "bullet-pointing" (verb nouns much?) is, in fact, a product of the very education you claim business major don't have.
posted by GuyZero at 9:27 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


LC,

Being a former HR director, I know how resumes work. In fact, you should check out some of my comments on the resumes and cover letters. Its just part of the game, and I understand that. But thats what it is: a game...not a lifestyle, and certainly not a way to present yourself to get a positive reaction from others.

Being a former DevilDog, I cannot, by law, say anything positive when someone reveals their history as a squid. I'm sure you have your own feelings about Marines.

Besides that, I have nothing against you. The USNA is one of the finest and most underrated institutes of higher learning in the world, and you should feel honored to have gotten an education from there. Take care.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:27 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I vehemently disagree with your assertion that law school is a trade school. It's a masters in political science, at best. Though it may be marketed as a trade school, a new law grad likely can't even file a pleading in County court. Pretty much the exact opposite of a trade school.

If you go through three years of law school and don't know how to look up local rules of civil procedure, I doubt the fault is with the law school. Legal research and civ pro are required courses just about everywhere, if not everywhere.

Granted, law students probably haven't been taught the specific local rules of Such and Such County and practiced filing, but that's hardly a fair criticism since they don't know ahead of time which of the many jurisdictions each student will end up in.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:05 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the Atlantic article linked above is actually a more interesting criticism than any discussion of biz school undergrad degrees or the relative worth of an MBA. Arguing about the latter misses the larger issue, which is: is it possible for such a thing as "management theory" to exist within the context of any even moderately rigorous definition of the word, "theory."

Boy howdy can I relate to the bullshit he describes in that article, and the real life damage it does to companies. However, I don't think he goes far enough in explaining why equity holders allow the charade of "management theory" to continue (although his rhetorical self-implication does hint at it).

TL;DR: management theory is the promise of salvation and the threat of damnation that the priests use to get the peasants to build the cathedral. Except these priests don't care if the whole edifice collapses as they'll just take their smoke and mirrors and move on to the next cathedral, and the next set of peasants.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:52 AM on April 15, 2011


I did an undergrad business degree while working in computer programming. I learned a lot of generalities, but the major benefit was the promotion and a 40% raise, so I can't complain.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:26 AM on April 15, 2011


"Let's do this for my degree then. First, English!"

Yikes - I don't know. I got in trouble for criticizing a guy at work this week because of his inability to write a three-sentence summary of a very simple process. This is a man with an Honours BA in English, and a personable fellow. As an almost English major myself, I wonder how people can learn to re-think their education in terms of workplace skills. Like it says in the Atlantic article linked above, "Remember the three Cs: Communication, Communication, Communication!"

The other half of this problem for many people is that the time they spent getting a degree might have been better spent traveling or working down at the nuclear plant, while reading the occasional book of an evening. Is that realistic? Probably not.

At least in Biology we learned how to write a sentence.

Having said all that, three of the best-educated people I know never finished high school. Because that limited their job possibilities, they were forced to learn all kinds of stuff and figure out how to set their own goals. One is even a great manager - although I found him to be ruthless and not someone I'd work for if I had a choice - but he probably makes five times the money I do.
posted by sneebler at 10:16 AM on April 15, 2011


I was a business major. I'll admit, it was a bullshit major in which I learned nothing. The biggest benefit was that my four year college required that I take a bunch of other classes to fill out my degree, and in those I learned quite a bit. This doesn't quite mean that everyone who majors in business is stupid or not creative. To an 18 year old scared kid who just wanted to be more successful than he should, it seemed like a great choice at the time. I didn't exactly have parents who said, follow your dreams of reading 18th century whatever and you'll no doubt be successful anyway because we'll siphon you back into our well connected upper middle-class network after graduation and you can prosper thusly.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:38 AM on April 15, 2011


As people have observed, a business undergrad and an MBA are not the same kind of experience or the same amount of work. And MBAs at top schools are a whole different ball game to MBAs at no name schools. At the top schools working 70 hours a week is pretty normal and 100 hour weeks are not uncommon.

Read Snapshots from Hell is you want to hear about life as an MBA at Stanford.

For what it's worth a couple of other points are relevant too...

- To many sci-tech people, a lot of other disciplines sound soft and woolly, whether it's arts or humanities or social sciences or the stuff people do in business school. That tells you as much about what the sci-tech people concerned can grok or not as the disciplines in question. It's not a coincidence that people from that kind of background are often lousy managers.

- The amount of time it takes to learn something has got nothing to do with the value of learning it anyway.

Notwithstanding that, an MBA won't per se make someone a brilliant business person any more than a Computer Science degree will per se make them into a brilliant programmer. But like a Comp Sci degree it is of some use, and the top programs in both disciplines are a good place to look for talented and motivated people that have a solid grasp of the fundamentals.
posted by philipy at 11:42 AM on April 15, 2011


I was a food marketing major at Western Michigan University, and I loved it. Far from the generalities of general business, it was a highly specialized major.

We learned a great deal about the food world with an initial survey class. We did business plans for actual companies that had requested them, and which sent representatives to sit in on the presentations at the end of the semester. (My group's project was for a beef producer...they never figured out I was a vegetarian.) We had a semester-long category management project where we used actual sales data for specific retailers and used the same planogramming software used in the industry to build category plans, again, with the retailers sitting in on the final presentations. (My group's category was spaghetti sauce.) We designed and deployed consumer research projects and used statistical software to evaluate our results. (I was the stats nerd mentioned in the NYT article, jumping at the chance to do analysis.)

I took a two-week industry tour course in the summer in which the class traveled around the Midwest by bus, visiting a variety of food and packaged goods retailers, distribution centers, manufacturers (including Kellogg's, Nabisco, Frito-Lay, and an always-popular Anheuser-Busch plant), consultancies, and the Chicago Board of Trade. (It was like a two-week-long episode of Unwrapped and How It's Made.) We each fulfilled an internship requirement (I worked at Kellogg's HQ in Battle Creek for two-and-a-half years.) There was an annual field trip to the enormous Food Marketing Institute trade show in Chicago. And on campus, there was a two-day Food Marketing Conference (which is past its 40th birthday) that drew speakers and attendees from across the country.

All of this was heavily supported with scholarships (with almost all of the 100 majors receiving at least one scholarship each year) by many of the companies that recruited from our program. And the major had a nearly 100% placement record, year in and year out.

I spent five years at Whole Foods Market before I enrolled, and after I graduated, I went to work for a stone fruit marketing order in California, where I was prepared to do everything needed and bring some new competencies to the organization. So was it trade school? Of a sort. Was it a blast? Yes. Was it hard work? Definitely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:54 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the way, let me be the first to say I'm totally baffled by Hal_c_on's behavior in this thread. He seemed to say some pretty brazen things here followed by what seemed to be a personal attack. I'm a pretty even-tempered guy, but I was piping mad by a few posts in. And then he throws this last comment that seems very genial and good-natured if a bit rough-loving. It feels like when that friend of yours hits you in the shoulder way too hard, and for a moment you think you're going to have a brawl, but then he puts his arm around you and it seems that all is well, and that everybody likes everybody while your arm still aches.

So, Hal_c_on, you flummoxed me. Part of me wants to argue some legitimate points, but the rest really doesn't. There are really some reasonings to be made by both sides, but I'm officially bowing out. You stay classy, Devil Dog; I'll see you around.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:24 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, acutally...I've seen that too, and that REALLY wierds me out. If you want to know the name of the schools, please memail me.

I have two Masters, one of them in Management, and if I ever feel like doing a few more subjects I can convert it to an MBA. It's from the Australian National University, the best in Australia and ranked in to the top 20 universities in the world (somewhere around Stanford when I was there). I don't have a Bachelors degree. I was also a high school dropout. What's your problem with that, exactly? Because the various firms and departments who have been happy to pay me six figure salaries don't seem to have one, and neither did the uni when I turned in straight High Distinctions while holding down a full time job, and neither did the other uni where I obtained my second Masters.

I guess smart people know that results speak louder than...well, you, you fucking crybaby.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:06 PM on April 15, 2011


If we wanted to do the Science-y part of my degree.

* Basic understanding of chemistry and physics, including laboratory period.
* Basic electrical engineering to include electronic and wireless waveform knowledge.
* Basic thermodynamics and equipment class to cover major engine types and mathematical computations of efficiency.
* Constant professional curriculum for a Naval Officer to include seamanship, ethics, leadership, and naval law.
* Must learn how to swim!
Ahaahahahahah that's sweet thanks Lord Chancelor.....must learn how to swim in science! ahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahaahah excuse me I don't mean to be rude, swimming well is difficult and demanding, but I pictured you figure swimming a Taylor polinomial and damn now THAT'S HARD ! :D
posted by elpapacito at 11:42 AM on April 16, 2011


« Older 15 years ago Dayton, Ohio band Brainiac released t...  |  A very eloquent and tranquil p... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments