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Does Your Major in Business Minor in Quality?

Find out how a major in business program ranks in the world of college degrees.


Recently, The New York Times and The Seattle Times discussed the value of liberal arts degrees versus more specialized degree types, such as a major in business.

Both newspaper stories cited a study that followed 2,300 undergraduates from 2005 through spring of 2009. The findings are surprising.

New York University sociologist and educator Richard Arum wrote a book about the study, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. He states that the participating students—who came from 24 college campuses ranging from very selective and elite schools to less selective across the U.S.—don't strengthen their critical thinking skills when they're enrolled in business programs.

Major in Business vs. Traditional Liberal Arts

He especially hones in on "soft" business fields, such as human resources and marketing. In fact, Arum found that undergraduate major in business students tended to study less and scored lower in critical thinking and writing assessments than students enrolled in education and communications. Faring best were students who majored in traditional liberal arts programs, including the humanities, mathematics and sciences. They made greater gains not only in critical thinking, but complex reasoning and writing.

This is due, asserts Arum, to the fact that a greater level of reading (more than 40 pages a week) and writing (more than 20 pages per semester) is required in a liberal arts program, providing a better balance of critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Balance Your Major in Business

So what does this mean for you? Obviously, business degree programs are valuable—they account for some 20 percent of all undergraduate degrees in the country, they're popular, and jobs are available in such fields as accounting, business administration and international business.

Instead, the message business students should take away from Arum's study is: find the balance. Enjoy a good novel while you pursue your business degree. Use your electives for English literature, art history, world geography, or a course in biology to offset your number crunching and business logic. You'll not only graduate with a solid business plan, you can perform better than your competition because you have a well-rounded skill set.

Sources: The New York Times, "Why Look Down on a Business Degree?"; The Seattle Times, "Students slog through college, don't gain many critical skills.".