Q:  I want to build a business where I will have my own fashion boutique with my own line (clothes, shoes, accessories), nail polish line, and makeup line.  What do I major in?

A: This is a great, focused question.  You’re likely to need the analytical skills found in two academic disciplines, business management and fashion design.  You’ll also want to develop some analytical skills relative to online marketing, because in the future even the most successful boutiques will need a strong online presence.  You’ll also benefit from courses that enhance your people skills, allowing you to understand and relate well with customers, employees, and suppliers of goods; these might include courses in psychology, English, and communication.

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Thinking about a Master’s Degree in Management

Q: My major is computer engineering, and I’m thinking to get my master degree in management.  But I’m worried that it would be difficult for me since I have no background in management.  So will I succeed in it, or should I study something else?

A: Most master’s degree programs in management, particularly the MBA, assume that students have little or no prior exposure to business disciplines.  You’ll need to have taken the GMAT, which requires basic knowledge of algebra.  Some programs also require students to complete a preparatory course in accounting during the summer before the first year starts.  To be well-prepared, you might consider taking an introductory accounting course while you’re still in college.  In addition, time permitting, you’d benefit from courses in fields such as finance, economics, and statistics.  These courses would help not only in the master’s program, but also in finding full-time employment after college; the better MBA programs will expect two years of full-time work experience.

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Confused and Stressed about Colleges and Majors

Q: I am going to be a Senior this coming fall, and I am looking for colleges. But I got really confused. I am pretty sure I’m interested in the business field, so I’d major in business when I go to college, right? But do I need to care about that when I pick my college? Because there are ranking about “best undergraduate business schools”, so should I apply to those schools or what? Does that mean those schools would be good for me to study business? Also, there are many selections under business, like accounting, management, international business, etc.  Do those matter for me to pick my college now? I’m really confused and stressed!!!

A: First, don’t let your confusion lead to stress.  If you study this out you’ll find the school you’re meant to attend, and it will feel right.  Second, don’t put undue weight on rankings.  Published rankings tend to be based on things that are easily measured, such as the test scores of incoming students and the opinions of academic administrators from other schools.  The quality of your education will depend more on the personal relationships you create with other students and with a few professors who will become mentors to you.  You can’t know in advance who those people will be, but your best source of information will be a visit to the campus, which will have a particular feel to it.  The place that feels best should be your personal top-ranked school. Read More »

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Stay in School or Go to Work?

Q: I am 23 years old, and I’m currently an accounting major.  I am set to graduate next fall with my bachelor’s degree, after three years of college.  I have one more year on my scholarship that will go unused, so I thought it may be worth it to stay and double major in Management Information Systems.  I’m not completely sure what I want to do in business yet, and I would like the time to build more connections in college.  Do you think this would be a good investment, or should I move on to my master’s program and potential employment?

A: You’ve raised questions that require both a clear view of your career goals and thoughtful analysis of tradeoffs.  For example, if you plan to be an accountant, you’ll want consider the course credits required to sit for the CPA exam–120 or 150, depending on the state.  If that is your path, you would want to consider options such as double majoring or moving on immediately to a master’s program, to accumulate the necessary credits.

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Developing Passion

Q: I don’t know what I want to major in. I enjoy a lot of things, but none are very practical, and I’m not really passionate about anything. Would it be more beneficial to take a year off from school to work, so I can decide what I want to study before I attend a college?

A: Thanks for your good question, which many of us have asked at least once in our lives.  Let me try to answer in two parts. Read More »

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Is College Worth the Cost?

Q:  On the Internet and in the news recently I have noticed that a lot of people are saying that college is not worth it anymore and that the opportunity cost for school is just not worth it as it once was. I am a college senior and am excited to graduate and hopefully get a better job than I currently have. I believe that my 5 or so years in college have not been a wasted and that I have learned how to learn.

Just yesterday I watched a 1-hour documentary about how college degrees are useless because everyone has one and we all end up with mountains of debt with low paying jobs that don’t allow us to realistically pay back the debt. The sad thing that I noticed about this documentary was that I was agreeing with it. Not all of it but many of the statements seemed to be true to me. My real question today is what is the real value of a college education? Is even graduate school really worth it anymore?

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A Medical Degree for a Woman

Q: Should a woman consider going to Medical school? I already know about the other careers there are in the health field, but I would like to be a doctor. I already know how long it would take, and what makes me hesitate is that one day I will get married and have kids, so I may not finish at all. Is it worth it?

A: Your questions remind me of the Savior’s challenge to the multitudes who followed him early in His ministry.  He warned them that they could only succeed by putting His work first in their lives (see Luke 14:25-33).  He specifically made reference to the importance of counting the cost of a project before undertaking it.  Congratulations on following that injunction. Read More »

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MBA, GMAT, Career

Q: I’m a successful entrepreneur and executive in a family company.  I’m in my mid-thirties and have five children, but I’ve always wondered about getting an MBA from a top school and testing myself in the corporate world.  My undergraduate grades are good, but the GMAT looks like Greek to me.  What do you recommend?

A: As for the GMAT, it’s a form of aptitude test that’s not like riding a bike.  It’s best taken when you’re in college, taking similar timed tests frequently.  It also tests basic college math and English skills that aren’t used much in the workplace.  I’m confident that with practice you could recover your college skills and memories and raise your score.
 
That begs the question of how much effort you should put into the GMAT.  Many top business schools may worry about your age.  They cultivate relationships with companies that give new MBA graduates entry-level professional positions.  You could be viewed as over-qualified in terms of work experience and thus difficult to place, as employers might ask whether you’d be happy in this kind of position.
 
From a personal standpoint, you would face a great opportunity cost in leaving your current employment and a significant out-of-pocket cost in relocating to a traditional college campus.  You’d certainly learn a lot there, but your greater life and work experience might make you feel as though you’re getting relatively less than your younger, less-experienced colleagues.
 
If you’re set on getting into the Fortune 500 world, a full-time MBA at a top school may be worth the effort and sacrifice.  The one thing they offer that is hard to get otherwise is career placement with these firms. 
 
However, your greater experience and current employment opportunities make an alternative such as a Western Governors University MBA something to consider.  You could complete the degree without relocating or giving up your employment.  You’d get most of what you want in terms of substantive learning while moving at your own pace and perhaps saving time because of what you already know.  Also, WGU does not require the GMAT.
 
It really comes down to your desire to take the corporate career path.  I enjoyed that path for several years but have also found satisfaction in other things.  The bright lights of Boston and New York have their charms, but so do the starry skies of Idaho.  You can find intellectual challenges and opportunities to serve wherever you create them.

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Jobs For a Science Major

Q: I am a high school student trying to decide what I want to major in. I am very interested in Atmospheric Science, but the career outlook is not that good, especially since I want my focus in Physical Meteorology and not weather predicting. I’ve also been thinking about engineering (aerospace, civil, or ocean) but I’m not sure I want a job that involves a lot of building and design. I’ve considered majoring in physics or science and getting a teaching degree, because the job outlook is good and I still get to do science, but once I’m in I feel like I’d be stuck there doing the same thing year after year. What would you suggest a good major/minor would be?

A: Let me congratulate you on two points.  One is that you’re thinking ahead about both college and your career.  The other is that you enjoy science.  If you keep looking to the future and developing your talent for science, the world of work is going to treat you well. Read More »

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Another Associate’s Degree?

Q:  I have my associates degree in general studies. My dream and passion is to design. I have been looking into getting a degree for interior design, but it is only another associates degree. Which would mean that is just two associates degrees and not a bachelors degree. Does not having a bachelors degree really make that much of a difference?

A: The way to test the value of a bachelor’s degree in interior design is to talk to professionals in the field, people whose work you find interesting.  In fact, it may be worth spending a summer working in a design studio, even at a low wage rate.  That experience would teach you many things, including (1) whether the career really is for you, (2) what college training and credential is needed, and (3) what courses will be most valuable.

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