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Ask An Alum:
Should I Major in History or Business?

Ask An Alum:
Should I Major in History or Business?

Dear alumni,

I was wondering how the skills from a history major could be applied to other careers. Based on my experience with history classes, I think history develops critical reading/analyzing, critical thinking, and writing. I’ve heard these skills help especially in law, but I’m also wondering how they could be applied in business (especially management). At the moment, I’m trying to decide between majoring in history or business, and I would appreciate any advice y’all have. Thanks! John C., Junior, Business/History

Stephen L. (BA Political Philosophy), Chief Executive Officer at Dominus Commercial, Inc.

1st, UD teaches people to think regardless of your major. That is one of the most important lessons from UD in business. I was political philosophy and I own a commercial real estate brokerage company. My ability to think through complex transactions, relationships and business concerns is my strongest business quality. I would suspect the same would be true in history. My second thought would be don’t get to tied up in what direction the major will push you in. Go with what you love and are passionate about – that ultimately will put you in a business or position where you find purpose and that is the ultimate goal is finding your purpose.

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

I would major in history if I were you, just because it’s probably more interesting and fun! You are correct that majoring in history will help you develop critical thinking analytical and writing skills, and these things are in short supply. My manager has a history degree and our task is to analyze criminal justice data for the legislative budget board. So she has an undergraduate degree in history and basically run statistics for living, and she manages the team that analyzes data. If you have a graduate degree in a relevant field, your undergraduate degree in liberal arts will not hurt you in the least bit. Take the time as an undergraduate to study what is the most interesting and fun to you. In the working world you will miss those days immensely, and as I said as long as you have a relevant graduate degree it’s OK. I have an undergraduate degree in political philosophy from UD as well as a masters degree in political philosophy from UD. Eventually I got a masters degree of public affairs from UT Austin. I have been analyzing criminal justice data since 1994. The degrees in political philosophy help me learn how to write and think and analyze, and they were just incredibly interesting to me. The graduate degree got me the job. Studying political philosophy was much more interesting to me and it certainly didn’t prevent me from getting where I am now. Please contact me if you need more information.

Victoria S. (BA Psychology, 2013), Scrum Master at Southwest Airlines

Hi John, You’re absolutely correct, a history major (or any liberal arts major) will develop those critical thinking and writing skills. If you go this route, however, I would strongly recommend you have solid internships under your belt. If you know you want to go into business, consider taking business classes or getting a business minor. Work experience will be especially important when you’re looking for entry-level positions. Some employers, unfortunately, do have a bias towards certain majors (like business). However, if you have excellent work experience/internships, it really makes you stand out.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

So, my general advice for anyone considering a major is to zero on two things: 1. Do you think the work will be worthwhile? 2. Do you feel you will be supported in doing that work? You definitely want to pick the major that will give you motivation that will work for you and that will give you the strongest individual support, particularly for life crises and for transitioning to post-graduation life. History majors do make good law students, but I know history majors in many walks of life and I don’t know of any kind of medium scale organization or larger that doesn’t need both formal historians and people who can do historical work. That cuts both ways, though, in that some of the best historians I know are people with training in business. Apart from looking at what is going to motivate you individually as a student I would add two pieces of advice: 1. Look at what potential for cross-over study either major may offer. Will history give you the space to take a business concentration? Will your business major let you take lots of courses focusing on case studies and other historically modes of understanding business and management? 2. What secondary skills and experiences will either program support you in pursuing? I was able to pick up some training in oral history work through one of my programs and every job I have ever had was interested in my experience with that sort of work. Similarly, many successful history programs across the nation have been lauded for training people in skills such as coding, for the digital humanities, or even accounting, which can be very useful for a lot of archival work as well as business. Business majors are often more explicit about what sub-skills they can help you develop, but that’s often because a generic business degree can be something of a trap. When my sister was at UD she faced a similar choice (between history and economics) and she chose economics because the advisor in history seemed to imply that she was only willing to support teachers who were going to be teachers or lawyers where the economics faculty seemed to be willing to support her in pursuing a variety of internships or even graduate options. That ties back to my first point about support, but if it’s still true at UD I would at least make certain that you have a strong advisor for a business concentration to go along with History so that you don’t feel trapped in either option.

Robert Z. (BA History, 1994), Associate Professor of History at Le Moyne College

Dear John, I graduated from UD with a BA in history, went on for a PhD, and now teach history at a Catholic liberal arts college. My own students and advisees ask me this question all the time. The skills you learn as a history major that you mentioned in your question (critical reading/analyzing, critical thinking, and writing), in addition to research and good oral skills, are all applicable in any field you would choose to pursue. Having spoken with many people in the business world, these are the skills they seek in their employees (unless you are looking to go into a technical field like accounting). They constantly repeat that they can and will teach their employees about the business, but they cannot teach them how to read, analyze data, write, and communicate effectively. I may be a bit biased, but a history degree paired with good foreign language skills and a few business classes (if I remember correctly, the UD history major allows for some free electives) would make you a superb candidate for a career in business. I would also strongly encourage you to seek out an internship or two. My history students here in NY who have gone onto successful business careers all benefitted from internship experiences. Good luck!

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Hi John, My first suggestion is to follow your passion. You will do best with your classes and grades if you study something you really care about. Good grades will help you as you look for a job and talk with recruiters. Don’t limit yourself by listing your major area of study, but include your extracurricular activities, hobbies, volunteerism, etc. If you really want to get into business/management, look for internships, find a mentor that has a job you admire in a company or industry you are interested in. Also, join any professional organizations that align with what you are looking to do. Have a positive attitude and network! Have a positive online presence (LinkedIn, Facebook, Degreed, etc) and connect with your parents’ friends, professors, etc. Good luck and happy holidays! Todd

Bethany L. (BA Sculpture, 2003), Self-employed visual artist

John, I was a sculpture major and am currently a studio artist, so my advice may mean very little given your particular situation. My advice to you would be to try to get a clearer understanding of what it is specifically that you would like to do. “Business management” covers a lot of territory. There are lots and lots of different kinds of business managers, and they need lots of different kinds of skills. There may or may not be any overlap. For instance, for myself, it took a long time for me to get from “I want to make things.” to “I want to run my own fine and decorative art stone carving studio.” I did a lot of running around doing random stuff while I was in the “I want to make stuff” phase. Now, I have a pretty clear idea of what skills I need to acquire. All the best, Bethany

Killian B. (BA History, 2015), Independent Consultant

John, As a history alumnus of UD, here is my recommendation: Major in History, but make sure to take the basic 101 marketing, management, and sales classes the Business department offers. As a junior, you may have already taken these classes…great! Additionally, use much of your spring semester to find a worthwhile and impressive summer internship in an area of business that intrigues you…maybe even something in Dallas that you could continue doing Senior year. If you need help finding one, feel free to contact me at killian.beeler@gmail.com or connect at linkedin.com/in/killianbeeler. Sabre, Fidelity, and Southwest Airlines are all local DFW companies that will often invest in UDers. Lastly, if you’ve already begun taking business classes, also consider combining your undergrad history degree with UD’s MBA or MS (Business Analytics, Cyber security, etc.) through the 4+1 program (https://udallas.edu/constantin/4_plus_1/index.php). Here’s my rationale: The undergrad business degree from UD is just fine, but doesn’t particularly stand out among the thousands of undergrad business programs across the nation. The history degree from UD however is truly special and unique and shouldn’t be discarded in favor of a generic business degree that you could get for free or nearly free online through youtube, Khan academy, and Udemy.com. Additionally, having a History degree with solid business internship experience (while possibly pursuing a business masters) will make your resume stand out against the thousands of recent business graduates. By just taking the basic the mgmt, marketing, and sales classes, you’ll have the lingo and concepts to hold your own in your first job. The History degree will give you the critical thinking skills, imagination, and emotional intelligence to stand out and thrive far into the future. Finally, I think the most important skill the History major gives you is through the thesis project process. That process will indirectly give you great intuitive project management and qualitative/quantitative data analysis skills. If you want to further harness those skills, consider taking self-paced Project Management Institute (PMI) Best Practices or Business/Data Analytics classes on udemy for $10 each. Best of luck. Killian Beeler, MBA Class of 2015

Justin L. (BA History, 2006), Chief Dispatcher at Southwest Airlines ‎

Hi John, A history degree can be a fantastic baseline for a career in business, especially if you want to progress into leadership. I was a history major in the Class of 2006, and now I’m a Chief Dispatcher at Southwest Airlines. My advice: pick the major you enjoy the most, unless you need a degree in a certain business field to “check the box” for a specific job or career field you want to break into. In general the further you are in your career, the less a hiring manager looks at your degree. Instead of just generalities, here’s how my career has unfolded so far in light of your questions. Please holler back if you have any questions. There’s a general rule of thumb that applies across all career fields. Whether your first job is an internship or full-time job, you have to build career capital: the experience and know-how that goes on your resume and adds to your skill set. Your degree can open the door, but it’s not career capital until you start doing things that people will pay you to do. Your internships or college jobs may have a bigger impact than your degree. I was an RA for two years, managed the campus pool, and worked in Student Life. That meant I handled staffing, budgets, bids, and contracts, among other things. Working my way through college also meant I picked an “easier” major. At your first job you’ll learn the basics of the industry and the particulars of that company or industry niche. What software do we use? How many people does it take to accomplish this task? Learn what to do and why it’s done. I started a management trainee program with a trucking company the week after graduation. That taught me payroll, profit and loss, operations, customer service, operational communication, safety, and a few other general business skills within the first four weeks. I picked it up because I had to read so much as a history major; it was just easy. I managed a fleet of trucks, drivers, and trailers, and acquired scheduling and logistics skills at that first job. If you’re curious and ask questions like a history major, you’ll be able to pick up a significant amount of business education through on the job training. There was plenty of reading, critical thinking, and discussion with colleagues. After that, I used those newly acquired skills–my career capital–to land a job scheduling pilots at Southwest. Some jobs might require a specific degree, so if you want to go into something more technical you might need specialized coursework or degrees (like a CPA, for example). After a few years I added a professional certification: FAA Aircraft Dispatcher. Plenty of people add licenses or certifications a few years out of school. That moved me into our dispatch office, where we plan each flight’s route, required fuel, cargo, and passenger weight. The job is like being a real-time lawyer for the airline and flight crews. There are volumes of manuals, FAA regulations, and directions from air traffic control that we have to sort through, analyze, and communicate to flight crews to legally operate a flight. A history major can analyze and communicate this stuff very well. Eventually I took a position in dispatch management, and I help oversee the safe and efficient completion of our daily flight schedule. We have a few hundred people in our department and a very large annual budget. It’s large enough that managers need general business skills but not a degree, because there’s a dedicated payroll team, a dedicated financial staff, and a dedicated team of business consultants. A colleague who shares my position has an MBA. When we talk about his business background he shrugs and calls it something that’s nice to have but not required. The critical thinking and analysis that you practice in history class helps managers stay ahead of problems. We’re constantly faced with new puzzles to solve that rarely have clearly defined boundaries: read something, determine the impact, and communicate that to other groups. Our group has to be proficient on jet operations, stay up-to-date with employment regulations, work with our legal team on a host of issues, give tours to high ranking government officials, and provide written communication that can be seen by thousands of people. That’s a very wide range of skills; it sounds like a night of studying as a history major. They analyze, point out conflict, communicate, self-educate, and tell a story about the business. Hopefully that helps a little bit, John. If you have more questions or you ever want to meet up for lunch or coffee, it’s on me. My number is (contact OPCD) and my e-mail is justin.lebon@gmail.com . Best of luck to you! Justin

Mathew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

Military intelligence or intelligence analysis are very viable career options. In fact, it’s the career path I followed as an English major. As long as there is government, there is a need for people with critical thinking and data analysis skills – as most government officials seem to lack those skills (that’s why they have personal staffs and think tanks in their employ). If you want to learn business, start a business. If you want to understand history, make history.

 

 

Alumni Answers:
Jobs for Theology Majors

Alumni Answers:
Jobs for Theology Majors

Dear Alumni,
What jobs can you get with a degree in theology from UD? Have most paired theology with some “more practical” discipline? Hannah, Junior Theology Major

Victoria W. (BA Psychology, 2013), Scrum Master at Southwest Airlines

Hi Hannah, I would start with what you’re interested in. Do you want to teach, or be involved in pastoral ministry? If so, I’d talk to faculty in those departments, potentially the education department as well. If you’re more interested in the business world, I’d strongly suggest taking business classes and speaking with the business faculty. Look for internships where you can build real experiences. Many employers love liberal arts majors. I’d be prepared to speak to what your major brings (writing and research skills, true critical thinking skills, dispassionate arguing, etc.) beyond the content you’ve learned. I’d also suggest looking at the non-profit world. I can’t answer if most have paired it with a “more practical” discipline. But, I can say that UD will prepare you for a variety of jobs. You just have to be willing to search for the right opportunities (same as any business or “practical” major). Best of luck!

Bethany L. (BA Sculpture, 2003), Self-employed visual artist

Dear Junior Theology Major,
I was an art major and graduated in 2003. The classmates I know who were theology majors currently are employed as bankers, teachers, homemakers, priests, hmm, and that’s all I can think of. When I was a student, Fr. Lehrberger gave me some advice that I remember well. He suggested I find somewhere to do a year of service after graduation. I didn’t listen to him then, but years later, I was a missionary with an organization in the Bronx called LAMP that did evangelization with the materially poor. They supported me, and a theology degree would have been a nice thing to have earned prior to going there.
I’ve worked as a restaurant manager, office manager, missionary, postulant in religious life, and currently as a self-employed artist. My major was not particularly practical. It didn’t get me a job, but I didn’t really expect it to. My advice would be to focus on what it is you would like to do first. Maybe you don’t need to major in anything else. Maybe you go to technical school after UD or take an on-line course. And, make the most of your time at UD. An education can give you a lot more than a job.
All the best, and God bless you,
Bethany Lee, ’03

Wendy R. (BA English, 2007), Self-employed writer

The two obvious routes for a Theology major are teaching in a private school or working for a parish or non-profit; however, I think job searches depend more on the individual than on the major. If you have enough motivation and gumption, you can make any major work to your advantage. As a professional resume writer, I see countless resumes with degrees that do not pertain to the individual’s career. I see that you are a junior, so it may be difficult at this point to seek out a double major in something more “practical” as you mentioned in your question. If you do not want to follow the traditional track of theology majors, I would suggest focusing on internships in fields that interest you, networking (consider joining Young Catholic Professionals chapter in Dallas), and finding summer jobs that build actual skills and develop contacts. Best of luck.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

I think you can get any job you want as long as you have good grades and can relate your learning to whatever discipline you are applying for. Degrees are important, but not as important as how you can show that the skills you learned and experiences you had in college translate directly to the job you are looking for.

 

Alumni Answers: Working for a consulting firm

Alumni Answers: Working for a consulting firm

Dear Alumni,
I’ve been passionate about doing consulting for the last 3 years. Now, as I face graduation in three months, I have started looking at the application process for my dream firms (Accenture, Deloitte, BCG, McKinsey, etc). Most of their undergrad hires are done through a campus recruiter, which UD lacks. People suggest to me I should reach out to someone through LinkedIn.. any suggestion on who to contact? a Senior level manager? An HR recruiter? and how to approach them without being perceived as self-interested? Thank you–Valeria, Senior Psychology and Business major

 

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Valeria- LinkedIn is often the best place to start. Get a Premium account so you can connect with people not in your network. Please connect with me as I have several connections at the large consulting firms that I can share with you. Todd https://www.linkedin.com/in/toddstrosnider

 

Jack Z. (BA Psychology 1993), Legal Counsel & Chief of Appeals at Suffolk County District Attorney, Boston MA

I’d start here: https://www.mckinsey.com/careers/search-jobs

 

 

 

Victoria W. (BA Psychology, 2013), Scrum Master at Southwest Airlines

Hi Valeria, I would strongly recommend going through HR first. Ask what you can specifically do to strengthen your application. Feel free to reach out to leaders to ask what excellence looks like at that company and how you could best display that. I’d also recommend looking at other large companies. Often, they have roles similar to an in-house consultant. Best of luck!

Alumni Answers:
Struggling to find an internship

Alumni Answers:
Struggling to find an internship

Dear Alumni: I’m struggling to find internship opportunities for the summer. I have previous work experience, and a resume ready. My issue is mostly with connections and knowing where to look. What are steps I can take to help me get on the right path? What did you do at my age? Edisson, Sophomore, Business

Chris G. (BA Business, 2015), Corporate Trainer at Trintech, Inc.

The best advice I can give you now that I didn’t have at that age is this: Your LinkedIn profile is your resume in 2018 and for the foreseeable future. Yes, you should still have your Microsoft Word or PDF resume, but recruiters these days are especially keen to look at your LinkedIn presence. Also most modern companies (esp. tech) allow you to simply link to your LinkedIn Profile webpage/URL. This helps tons when you are applying for a variety of internships. Also (and I cannot emphasize this enough), take advantage of LinkedIn job searching functionality. It allows you to see opportunities in companies that you have connections with in your network, and apply immediately with your LinkedIn profile, and often an additional Cover Letter. The powers of LinkedIn to get yourself the right internship or job cannot be underestimated!!

Cooper W. (BA Philosophy, 2012), Attorney at Malone Akerly Martin PLLC

Hi Edisson: First off, I want to commend you for trying to get some work experience over the summer. I know it can be difficult, but be persistent. My experience has been that the way you make connections and know where to look is by getting out there shaking some hands. There were many times when I was in law school that I went to different events where I knew attorneys would be present. I’d put on my best suit, bring some resumes, and talk to anyone who would give me their time. It was from those experiences that I began making connections and figured out where to go look for jobs. I’m not sure what kind of work you are looking for, but see if you can’t find a meeting or convention taking place in the field you are interested in. Show up, look nice, and have some resumes handy. I know doing that can be intimidating, but I’ve had my best experiences in situations such as this. Best of luck to you!

Killian B. (BA HIstory, 2015), Director of Annual Giving/Major Gift Officer at Diocese of Tyler

Edisson, What are you passionate about (outside of just wanting to be an entrepreneur)? Politics? Art? Writing? Music? Sports? Faith? Or what? It’s extremely valuable to keep your future career in mind and to prepare for it. But the majority of your time in college should be about pursuing the things you love for their own sake (not to necessarily get you to the next stepping stone). That’s what the “liberal” (meaning “free”) means in “liberal education” or “liberal arts”… you are “free” to pursue a passion for its own sake, not for the sake of making money, getting a job, etc. Ultimately, if you become an entrepreneur, there will always be someone better at a business or skill than you are. What will separate you from the pack is your passion/love for an industry, hobby, or art that drives you to continue pursuing a cause even when those better than you have given up. Think about how you’d ideally want to spend your summer. Then get back to us and we will try to help connect you to those that can help make that a reality. Peace, Killian Beeler, BA ’15

Victoria W. (BA Psychology, 2013), Scrum Master at Southwest Airlines

Hi Edisson, First, I would start with what you’re interested in and check out industry leaders. Most large companies will list internship opportunities on their websites. Another great starting place is employers in your desired location. If you’re looking to stay in Dallas, look at companies like USAA, Frito-Lay, or HP. See what looks interesting and go from there. Next year, I’d recommend starting your search in the first semester. Some employers, like Southwest Airlines, close their pipeline in November or December for the summer internship spots. Searching early will give you a chance to see what else is out there. Hope this helps! -Victoria, Class of 2013

Mathew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

I never messed around with internships because I was an English major, but you can make use of technological advances that did not exist when I was a student – you have access to websites and search engines. You have the world at your fingertips – your only limitations are your imagination and ambition. When I was a student, I went back home (Iowa, then later, Kentucky) for breaks in the academic year. I did seasonal agricultural work (working in the cornfields of Iowa) because I’d been doing that every summer since junior high. After my family relocated to Kentucky, that employment opportunity was no longer an option, so I looked elsewhere. I ended up as a night clerk in a convenience store. Not glamorous work, to be sure, but it kept me paid and I met a lot of interesting people. Big box retailers are always hiring. Fast food restaurants are always hiring. In spite of unemployment figures, there are plenty of jobs out there. Construction work is always an option, too, minimal experience required and you learn new skills. Don’t be afraid to take a job doing manual labor – you may discover that you have a knack for building things and can then develop an avenue in which to apply your business education. I studied English at UD and now I build rockets. Not much correlation between my chosen field of study and eventual career, so don’t discount stepping outside your comfort zone and maybe generating some sweat equity.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Edisson, Networking is the best place to start. Talk to your friends who work at companies you are interested in. Try to schedule “informational interviews” with leaders and HR in those companies. Also, use the career services at UD. They have connections to companies and can help get you in touch with places if there are not any specific internships they are currently aware of. Also, got to meetings, meet-up groups that focus on the area you want to intern in. You can just do a search online and a few events will likely pop-up. Good luck! Todd

Rachel L. (BS Biology, 2011), Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C)  at Children’s Medical Center

Hi Edisson! You likely have connections you are unaware of! Speak with your professors and advisor. They often have connections in the field and can point you in the right direction. Consult the Career Services office as well; they have information about internship opportunities as well. Consider options outside of your comfort zone too–out of state or in an area that may not be your first choice. Often the experience will prove valuable and may result in new connections in your field of choice! Best of luck! Rachel

Alumni Answers: How do I know when a grad school is right for me?

Alumni Answers: How do I know when a grad school is right for me?

Dear Alumni, How do I know when a grad school is right for me? Francis, Physics, 2018.

Kevin M. (BS CHemistry, 1997), Medical Science Liaison at Genentech

Dear Francis, Hello. I was a Chemistry major and went on to graduate school so I have been there! There are a few things to think about when considering a scientific graduate program. First off ask yourself if you want to pursue a MS or PhD as your final degree? Beyond that, consider what specific discipline appeals most to you; some graduate programs excel at geophysics while others are better with astrophysics. If you aren’t sure what discipline you want in your next step, look for programs that are strong in most types of physics with strong publications from multiple faculty members. Those schools will get you a better chance at finding a good graduate advisor that really knows their science. When choosing a lab, look for where the recent graduates have gone on to. Did they go on to a great job or postdoc? If so, what is the percentage? This should tell you how good your potential advisor is at placing their students and how invested they are in developing those in their lab. This will be very important when looking for future positions once you graduate. Start reaching out now to schools on your short list. Try to make a connection to determine if the environment is one you think you’ll flourish in. Speak to current graduate students and/or recent graduates to get their take on things there. Their emails are fairly easy to find on either the department website or their lab’s homepage. It’s a big decision and your time in graduate school can be much longer than your time at UD, between 5-10 years if you’re considering a PhD. I hope this helps and I wish you the best with your current studies at UD and hope you find a fulfilling graduate program. Best Regards, Kevin

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Well, first of all, get all the advice you an from your teachers at UD. Conditions can vary a _lot_ by both field and sub-specialty. So, for instance, when I was in grad school in English a department I was with had three open positions, one in Renaissance Lit and the other two in Rhetoric. 400 applications came in for the one position in Ren Lit, 8 applications came in for the 2 positions in Rhetoric. That said I think you want to look at at least three factors: 1. Prestige of the school and the program 2. Support 3. Local culture 4. Is the specific opportunity being offered to you a trap Prestige is important because it does a lot to dictate the types of opportunities available to you afterwards. There are a lot of factors to consider in terms of prestige, but baseline it says a lot about what the obvious routes forward are going to be for you afterwards. So you should always be aware of the reality of prestige even as you are aware that making a decision based on prestige alone probably isn’t the wisest thing to do. As a side note on prestige, you wanna be someplace where you will do well in the program. Someone who is bottom third at a great school will have tremendous advantages versus someone who is bottom third at a terrible school, but top third anywhere gets lots more of the options the institution actually has to give. Frequently, a top third two tiers down might end up someplace less prestigious, but a bottom third even from the same program will end up doing different work altogether. Support can take a lot of forms. There are three you always need to consider – (A) is the program itself stable and supported (B) will I be given sufficient work and/or benefits – will the department actually invest in me (C) is the infrastructure – libraries, labs, lectures, etc – here able to support my studies Local culture – two things here: first you’re going to need faculty who will actually work with you and have your back, and you’d like a department with a diversity of views where people can actually work together; second, you’re gonna be there for a while you don’t need to find a place that makes you feel like you’re in heaven, but you’re gonna need a place where you can find easy ways to feel at peace. Is it a trap? I did a lot of my research in grad school on people who didn’t finish grad school, three stories: (A) the special scholarship – friend who came from a great undergrad program went to an Ivy for grad school. They gave her an amazing fellowship. End of her first year they revealed – Oh, well, we wanted someone from Texas to demonstrate diversity, but we thought you wouldn’t make it a year since you were from Texas and therefore probably dumb so our plan is to give it to someone else – and then made her jump through hoops to keep any support at all. She made it out and is now a tenured professor, but, oh, she had a miserable time. (B) the program that makes so many patents – friend got to work in a lab that generated all of these patents and great stuff in material sciences, turns out that’s all the faculty cared about – they rarely actually graduated grad students and instead ran them into the ground and made them sign off all of their rights to their work. He’s now an IT guy with a PhD (a super advanced IT guy, but still not the science he’d thought he’d be doing). (C) the amazing new approach – I myself started out in a program that was trying something very new on the teaching end. A completely paradigm shattering program – which meant, of course, that there were tons of hiccoughs and misconceptions and the faculty had no time to actually do anything but teach and work the program. I taught in that program for two years and not once did I ever have a faculty member evaluate my work – which was not… ideal when the time for recommendations came around.

John L. (BA Business, 2016), General Ledger Accountant I at Associa

Hi Francis, One of the first things I would think about is the field you are interested in entering. Some fields require/advise a graduate degree more than others. If yours is one of those, then I would definitely want to pick a graduate school. I would also look at the financial viability of going to one school or another. You don’t want to saddle yourself with debt forever, so if one school is offering you a great opportunity with scholarships, fellowships, etc., I would strongly consider that school. When I was deciding whether to go to grad school or not, I was blessed to receive a very generous fellowship which made it a no-brainer for me to go to grad school. I know it may not always be that clear, but just like any decision, sometimes one path just makes the most sense. I would also go to your professors. Perhaps there is someone in the Physics department who specializes in something you’re interested in for grad school. They would know if you need to continue your education, and what schools would be good for your specialty. I’m sure they’ve seen and advised other students and they themselves had to make that decision at some point, so if you can give them a good idea of the pros and cons you’re weighing, they’re a great resource to lean on when deciding if to go and where. Hope that helps. Best of luck in your search.

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

Get to know the professors. Make sure you can get along with them. Make sure they like the type of work you’re doing and you like the type of work they are doing. Otherwise you are going to have a very unpleasant experience. See what happens if you disagree with them on something. How do they take it? Can you feel comfortable disagreeing with them on certain things and not feel like you’re getting yourself in trouble?

 

Dean C. (BA Mathematics 1994), Senior Consulting Actuary at Willis Towers Watson

Graduate school is a very personal thing. I visited Rice for a Master’s in Mathematics and was a bit overwhelmed at the size and formality after studying math at UD for 4 years. I settled on UTD because it is local, they offered me a TA opportunity and it felt like a personal approach to me. You have to visit a couple schools, talk to faculty and current graduate students and discern what the best fit is for your state in life. Sometimes you go to a school because it is close and feels right and other times you might choose a place because it can challenge you in new directions. Congratulations on your Physics degree – not an easy path at UD!

Randy B. (BA English, 1995), Life Coach/Tutor/Faculty at The Bearded Buddha

Hi, Francis! Many blessings to you as you study Physics! Given that major, you have two reasons to pursue grad school (presuming that you want to do grad work in Physics): Professional and Academic. – You pursue a Doctorate for almost exclusively Academic reasons (i.e., you KNOW you want to teach Physics in a college/university setting). While, yes, the aerospace industry does provide some applications for which a Doctorate is required/desirable, a Ph.D is exclusively the doorway to teach/research in an academic setting. – However, a Masters degree has both academic AND work-force/career utility. For one thing, you’ll have to get an MS in the course of obtaining a Ph.D. But, more importantly, MSes have routinely been a means of getting better entry-level positions in a given field and/or getting higher pay for a given position than you would if you had only a BS. Further, the wider array of Masters options open to you as a Physics major means that you can find more Masters programs offering an applied/practice-based pursuit of Physics, versus a theoretical/academic one. Furthermore, your Physics BS will empower you to entertain more than just Physics grad programs. TL;DR—Do you want to be a professor? Or are you looking to specialize your Physics knowledge in a way that will also make you more readily employable in a particular field(s)/career(s)? Answering those two questions will help you better know whether grad school is right for you. SOME CAVEATS— (1) Do NOT go to grad school unless THEY pay for it via fellowship/scholarship. Remember: you are delaying your entry into a paying work field. You have to count in the cost of grad school the fact that, while you’re not in the workforce, you’re not realizing the income you otherwise would be earning. (2) PREP for the GRE. Do NOT take it blind. Don’t just buy a book and scan over it. Instead, take a free practice test online to see where you stack up (Kaplan’s the best—https://www.kaptest.com/gre/free/instant-practice/free-gre-practice-test>). By looking at the web pages of the grad programs in which you’re interested, you’ll see the kind of scores that they’re expecting of viable applicants. The higher your score (and your GPA) is above what they’re expecting, the better chance you have of getting a free ride to grad school. Hope this helps! If you have further questions, just email me at randybeeler@thebeardedbuddha.com; Randy

Victoria W. (BA Psychology, 2013), Scrum Master at Southwest Airlines

Hi Francis, I’m sure you’ve received this answer before and it may drive you crazy, but it depends. Personally, I say start with what career path you want and decide from there. Does your field require an advanced degree, or does nearly everyone have at least a masters? Would obtaining a certain degree make you more marketable or open certain opportunities? If so, go to graduate school as soon as you are able. However, if very few people in your field have an advanced degree, do not waste your time or money. Some people say it’s best to go to grad school if you don’t know what you want to do. I strongly disagree with that. The purpose of grad school much more so than undergrad, is to prepare you for your career. If you do not know what you want to do, look at what jobs you might be interested in (that aren’t necessarily related to your field) and apply. Reach out to the alumni community or other people with a job you’re interested in. You can always go back to school later. Some degree programs actually require job experience (like MBAs). In short, do your research and see what jobs you’re interested in and go from there.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Hi Francis, It took me 10 years after getting my Bachelor’s degree too seriously to pursue and apply to grad school. I think there are a few factors/questions that should go into your decision. 1 – Why do you want/need an advanced degree? Are you unable to work in the field you want without one? What is the competitive advantage? Can you still get a good job without one? Do you want to go to grad school in the same area as your undergrad Degree or another area (MBA, IT, etc)? 2 – Will gaining work experience help you in completing your advanced degree? What are the advantages and disadvantages of getting another degree now versus later? Are there people in your field you know who have a grad degree and others who don’t and can help you understand why they did or did not pursue an advanced education? 3 – Are you ready and motivated to spend more time pursuing your formal education or is there a possibility you may burn out? Are there other ways (certificates, licenses, etc) that you can pursue instead of or before applying for grad school? Are you financially prepared to have additional loans or pay for the degree? Those are a few things I considered before going back for my MBA. I hope this helps…and GOOD LUCK!!

Alumni Answers: Should I get an engineering license?

Alumni Answers: Should I get an engineering license?

Dear Michael,

Did you obtain engineering license, and if so, did you find it necessary? Did you join any engineering clubs? (Maurice)

Michael H. (BS Physics, 2015), Research Engineer at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories

The specific field of engineering you decide to pursue will play a significant role in determining whether professional licensure is necessary or even useful. I will admit up front that I am a fairly green professional, and that any more senior advisory panel member who says differently from me should probably be given more credence; but as I understand it, an engineering license is only required if you wish to be the “final authority” to sign and certify the design and plans for any project funded for the use of the public – buildings and bridges, for instance. For this reason, civil engineers are usually the ones who find it useful to hold an engineering license. (You can still work as a civil engineer without holding an engineering license, you just can’t be the final authority to sign off on any plans that fall into the “for public use/benefit” category. I do not completely understand the delineation for “public use,” but it is not just as simple as “will a lot of people use it.” I expect that further investigation beyond that which I can provide will be helpful here.)

I am in electrical engineering, and I do not hold a license nor do I anticipate pursuing one. It is true that an EE who works on, say, a city’s power supply grid would likely benefit from having a license, but my work is at the microchip scale and therefore does not fall within that scope.
So, the simplified answer is: if you are not a civil engineer and do not wish to work on city-scale projects, very likely will not find an engineering license to be useful. If you do become a civil engineer, you *may* need one, and the it would be worthwhile to consult a professional in that engineering sub-field specifically.

 

Cheers to you, your continuing education, and your success in the field of your chosen profession!
Alumni Answers: How can I explain my major?

Alumni Answers: How can I explain my major?

Have you ever had a negative reaction to your choice of study, or felt the need to defend it? I am an art major (business concentration) and often have to let comments roll of my back or explain myself for choosing a major that is not widely considered “useful.” Any suggestions for how to tactfully and briefly explain why my liberal arts degree is useful, but in a way that makes a lasting impression with the person questioning it? (Mary Kate, Art 2018)

 

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

A liberal arts education is useful because it teaches you how to write and how to think about very difficult questions. That carries over to any profession. Internships are useful because they can teach you to work on the exact same things with the exact same software you might use in your first full time job. Almost every undergraduate major is going to cover a wide variety of topics at a high level. Graduate degrees tend to get more specialized.

Wendy R. (BA English, 2007), Self-employed writer

Mary Kate, this happens every day of my life as a creative writer and literature major. I receive three responses to my chosen major and field. 1. So you are going to teach then? 2. What are you going to do with that? 3. Can you actually earn money writing? All of these questions suggest that my major exists inside of a box. No major exists inside of box. The person wielding the major is where the value lies. I know plenty of post MBA, PhD, MD, and JD candidates who have failed at their professions or ended up profoundly miserable in their chosen fields. I know an equal number of philosophy, art, history, and literature majors who have done the same. My point is, you are the value, you can do what you please with your education regardless of what university you attended and what major you chose. You define success and create your own path in the workforce. I speak from experience as a resume writer who has coached hundreds of job seekers; there is no single path to success in this life. It is often a combination of knowledge, luck, and hard work. I never change my response to these questions. I always answer that I am grateful for the depth and breadth of the knowledge I received during my undergraduate years, and that no degree could ever stop me from achieving my goals, and in fact, I am blessed that my degree has made me a more diverse and desirable candidate in every work environment I have ever been in. Hold your head, be proud of your major, and own your education. Best of luck to you.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

Explain to them that everything they use in their day to day life – clothing, car, kitchenware, decorative items, cell phone – begins as an idea, then becomes an art project also known as a product design prototype. I was an English major. If someone criticizes my choice of study, I just correct their grammar and go about my day.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Certainly! I also find myself defending other people’s majors as well. In the case of art majors, I find I usually start with the fact that they are among the few majors on campus who actually work for their degrees. They’re out long hours, face serious review by faculty far earlier and more frequently than other majors, are forced to learn project management and presentation skills long before other students and rely on them in the public square, and at the end they have actually built things and have real accomplishments in their portfolio. That’s before you even get into broader applications like the importance of design and salesmanship in the marketplace.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Yes, sometimes there are people who question the value of certain degrees/majors. If you are learning about something you are passionate and can relate what you have learned to how you would (or have) applied that in a work setting, you will get less negativity. Also, as you get a few years out of school, the specific major holds less and less importance…unless something very technical (IT, accounting ,etc.).

John P. (BA Fine Art, 1968; MA Fine Art, 1972), Self-employed Fine Artist

Dear Mary Kate, Well, how “useful” are any of the arts: music, literature, sculpture, ceramics, painting? If we imagine that our existence has a transcendent purpose and meaning and is more than just a utilitarian exercise, then let’s acknowledge that the arts help us to express the transcendent in human nature. A worthy occupation. And, under certain circumstances, a master plumber’s license is more useful and valuable than many kinds of advanced degrees. Consider that you will always have more to learn in this life and that a liberal arts degree is an excellent preparation for that Please don’t worry about defending your choice of study. If you are committed to it, the negative reaction of others will fade in importance. Associate with those who will inspire, challenge and encourage. Best wishes to you, John P., B.A. Fine Arts ’68, M.A. Fine Arts ’72

Rachel L. (BS Biology, 2011), Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C)  at Children’s Medical Center

Hi Mary Kate, This is a great question. When I chose my major, I chose the major that had the subject matter I was the most interested in learning. This subject happened to be biology, which was instrumental in my education to become a physician assistant. However, when choosing a major, I think pursuing a subject you are passionate about is more important than choosing a “useful” major. While some jobs may require specific skills, most likely you will learn a lot on-the-job in your first job out of college. Being a more well-rounded individual who studied a subject they are passionate about will be more useful to you in the long term! Best, Rachel L.

 

 

Alumni Answers: Getting a job with a History major

Alumni Answers: Getting a job with a History major

For the people who have History and majors that seem to not be so helpful when trying to get a job such as Art or Philosophy majors, how easy or applicable was your major to getting a job? Did it make it difficult to get a good job? (Gihad, History 2020)

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

It’s easy to get a good job with a history degree as long as you go to graduate school afterwards. My manager has a history degree from Columbia. She now manages a team that analyzes criminal justice data for the Texas legislature. She has a graduate degree in public affairs. My advice is get an undergraduate in something that you like, that is interesting to you. Many jobs prefer a masters degree. When that is the case, many times the focus will be on what your masters degree is in.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

What you choose to study could be a hindrance should you choose to work outside that particular career field. Government service is always an option – and an especially good one for History majors. Pick an alphabet agency (CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.) where knowledge of history is an asset and do research on possible careers.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Some of that depends on what you mean by good job. My own major is in English and it has certainly proven to be an asset. The key aspect, in my experience and this was true for my friends in STEM as well, is that you need to be able to articulate and demonstrate specific competencies and accomplishments. In my case that involved setting up a portfolio and having a list of accomplishments beyond my major (working in the residence hall association, having various projects to my name, racking up a few awards, building professional experience, etc). I highly recommend getting the best advice you can on putting together a portfolio and on building your writing and project credits as broadly as you can – write for student publications where you can, build up some websites, etc. Eventually I went to graduate school in a more job specialized field – technical communication and rhetoric which I would readily recommend to communication and writing focused history majors as well – and while that was helpful in a great many ways, I found that unless you were very dedicated to following one of a couple of fairly lock step paths towards employment the issues weren’t much different. Similarly, I would not neglect at least considering what credentialing or helpful supplements to your major you can acquire at UD while it is convenient. A teaching certificate, for example, does not equal destiny but it can be an edifying experience to pursue that or a similar credential and it’s certainly more convenient getting it sooner rather than later. Plus that (or prelaw and premed) get you on the radar of some of the more employment oriented professors and professionals on campus and that’s no bad thing.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

I think that your specific degree/major is helpful in finding the career that you want to get into, however it is becoming increasingly less important. Companies want to know that you fit culturally, share similar values to the organization and have experiences and skills that directly relate to what you want to do. Degrees often indicate that you are committed to education and learning. Companies want to see that you have applied your learning and can add value to the organization.

 

Hannah O., (BA History, 2011), Technical Services Librarian at City of Duncanville (Duncanville Public Library)

I ended up becoming a public librarian…for which a history degree works as well as any. For academic librarians, such a degree can be beneficial.

Alumni Answers: How have you used your liberal arts education?

Alumni Answers: How have you used your liberal arts education?

Having graduated from the University of Dallas, which prides itself in its liberal education, how useful is this type of education to you now? Can you see yourself where you are now having received a more focused and specialized education, rather than a liberal one? (Andy, Sophomore, Philosophy and Letters)

Dean C. (BA Mathematics 1994), Senior Consulting Actuary at Willis Towers Watson

Learning to think and reason is a tool which will serve you well in the future, regardless of your major or chosen career. Companies and organizations need leaders who can see the whole picture and reason through a range of possible outcomes to find the best paths forward. UD forms minds for rational thought and also forces us to be able to communicate our thoughts, both orally and written. Many young analysts (millennials) in my company struggle to focus on the task at hand and often defer to tacit agreement with other opinions rather than actually forming their own. Fight the urge to be agreeable and think outside the box. The moral aspect of your education will also make you shine as you will not spend half your day on Facebook or other social media sites when you are being paid to do a job. The ethical training inherent in a solid Catholic formation helps those of us who are disciplined by our Faith to succeed in a world which migrates to mediocrity.

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

The liberal education at UD taught me how to write and how to think carefully about very difficult questions. It also greatly improved my understanding of the world, and that is priceless. There’s precious little time for that after you graduate from college, get a full time job, and possibly start a family. Save the specialized education for graduate school. It will serve you just as well (if not better) then. For the moment (as an undergraduate), enjoy the precious opportunity to study important questions and read great books with thoughtful students and professors.

Phillip W. (BS Biology, 2015), Fulbright Research Scholar, Fulbright Organization (Madrid, Spain)

The education at UD is priceless. I work in medical research, and I use the critical thinking skills I learned from the Core everyday. You would be amazed at how many people in specialized industries regret not having had a broader education. They are highly skilled technicians, but they were never taught how to think, how to live an examined life, or (frankly) how to write coherently and build an argument. Most specialized fields require graduate degrees anyway, so you might as well study something you love and receive a philosophical formation, take your prerequisite courses for graduate programs, and then worry about getting into a specialized field. You’ll be happier and taken more seriously as a professional when you start applying for specialized jobs.

John L. (BA Business, 2016), General Ledger Accountant I at Associa

Hi Andy, One of the things I most appreciate about my education at UD is the breadth of things I studied. I was a business major and am now working in accounting, so obviously I do need to have a strong grasp of specific concepts relevant to my work, but I believe that UD really prepared me well despite perhaps a less specific/specialized education. After I’ve left UD, I’ve found myself drawing on topics from both regular core classes as well as things I learned in various business core classes. With a more specialized education, you get to know a lot about that one particular topic, but the world is much more than just one topic. Everything intertwines and if you are at least familiar with things other people are talking about, that is such a help. I know you’re a seminarian so this may not directly apply, but when I’ve had case studies about business situations or at work, I’ve discovered that I at least know generally speaking what others are talking about in many cases, even if it’s something I’m not specifically familiar with. Again, no discipline exists in a vacuum, so if you’ve at least been introduced and know a little about other disciplines, it will help you when you come across situations which deal with those disciplines or you have to interact with a specialist in those disciplines, and then you aren’t totally clueless when speaking with them.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

Where I am now has nothing to do with my course of study at university, but it gave me a well-rounded background. This, in turn, makes it easier to find common ground with total strangers of varied backgrounds. Had I chosen a trade school to learn my current trade, I’d be much further along in my career, but again, would not have wealth of knowledge amassed in a classic education and extensive travel.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Very useful, what’s more it is the more liberal arts components of my education that continually prove the most useful and I wish I’d specialized less than I did. Currently I work in fundraising, communications, and stake holder relations for higher education, and my education beyond UD is in technical communication and rhetoric. In terms of my graduate education, a more specialized focus would have presented certain advantages (the old saw in technical communication is that where your major – presumably English – determines the work you do your minor determines where you do it – so people with a little background in Biology are more likely to work in the medical field, etc), but it was my liberal arts background that continually impressed and surprised people, opened doors for the better sorts of opportunities, and let my pursue my own interests rather than well-worn paths. For this career, it is, in fact, possible to major in Higher Education and while it is not as dire as it might sound, it’s actually less likely to give you a broad picture of the issues involved in the life of the university than actually taking classes in multiple disciplines and being in an environment where faculty collaborate openly and freely. When I say I wish I had been less specialized, it’s that I do wish I had pursued, say, more education in Education while at UD or taken the opportunity to pick up some programming chops. It’s not that those options aren’t available later, but that having a breadth beyond the core and a focus on discrete competencies helps to make the advantages of the core show up better – which was certainly my experience when I did began taking up such learning later. Thank you for your question.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

A liberal arts education has helped me see things beyond one point of view or perspective. It has allowed me to make connections between work, faith and personal life. Liberal arts helped me build critical thinking skills and draw upon many types of viewpoints when making a decision…

Rachel L. (BS Biology, 2011), Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C)  at Children’s Medical Center

Hi Andy, This is an excellent question. I was a biology major who had always planned to pursue a career in the medical field. That being said, part of the reason that I chose UD was for its strong core curriculum in the liberal arts. Now, that doesn’t mean it was easy. Being more “left-brained” and more adept at the sciences, I struggled through some of my literature, philosophy, and theology classes. However, in retrospect, these core classes were valuable to make me a well-rounded individual, for both my personal and professional goals. I am so glad I received a liberal arts education! Best, Rachel L.

Hannah O., (BA History, 2011), Technical Services Librarian at City of Duncanville (Duncanville Public Library)

I feel like my liberal education gave me a great general background, and a greater appreciation for all the different realms of knowledge. Since I’m a librarian, these are especially good things to have. The intangibles would have been worth it even if I didn’t end up in that profession, however.

 

Alumni Answers: Writing!

Alumni Answers: Writing!

Dear Wendy,

Is it feasible to become both a high school English teacher and a writer? If so, how, and would you have any advice for me on doing so? (Grace)

 

Dear Grace,

I am not sure if you mean a creative writer or a freelance writer; however, the answer is the same. It is absolutely feasible to become a high school English teacher and a writer. I personally know several English teachers who write poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, some of whom publish and are paid for their work regularly. I also know many freelancers who work traditional jobs until their freelance writing can bring in a replacement income. The key is to target the right kind of clients. You will not be available for day time calls most of the year. I suggest looking at resume writing, cover letters, professional bios, and speech writing. These are writing services offered to people who also work and cannot talk during the day, or prefer weekend calls. Additionally, you can work two to four hours in the evening or two hours in the early morning if you target a different time zone. I live in Texas, but work with numerous clients in California, Washington DC and the Midwest. This allows me to schedule calls around class time and children.

My biggest piece of advice is to build your business in the summer months so that you know what kind of workload you will face during the school year. There is a chapter or two on this very topic in Peter Bowerman’s book, The Well Fed Writer. Additionally, look for a book titled 102 Ways to Make Money Writing 1,500 Words or Less. It will give you numerous ideas on where to find small writing projects that you can handle while working full time.

Wendy R. (English), Self-employed Writer