Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On My Fake Major

It's no secret that I'm a Political Science major -- I blog pretty often about politics (although I do try to keep it non-partisan (...I said "try," people, no writer is without bias!)), and it even says in my bio that I'm an "aspiring political activist."  I am quite proud of my studies and the work I hope to do in the future, and I'm not ashamed of my major.

Which is why I get really annoyed when people treat me like my major isn't real.  I almost feel like I didn't even really choose my field; Political Science chose me.  By the time I came to college, the gravitational pull in that direction was so strong that no one I went to high school with even has to question what I decided to major in.  I chose my major because it's what I'm passionate about, because the work I do for it is good, and because I'm very excited about what doors it may open for me when I graduate.

So let's get down to the nitty-gritty of why people seem to think my major is "fake."

My favorite question, by far, is, "What are you planning to do with that? Become the President?"*  Now, if you're an Actuarial Studies major, an Astrophysicist, or studying Chemistry with plans to take up Pharmacology later in life, feel free to ignore this part of the discussion -- your unemployment rates are literally zero and you are therefore pretty much exempt from this whole issue.  You will always have jobs because your fields are either too depressing, too boring, or too complicated for the vast majority of students, so we will always need people like you!  Go you!  But if you are planning to major in pretty much anything else, you can expect your job prospects to be pretty grim.  Almost every field sees an unemployment rate of around 7%.  Interestingly enough, the unemployment rate for students with Political Science degrees?  6%, according to a study done by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce**.

Let's face it, there are only so many Fortune 500 companies in the world to run (incidentally, there are 500 of them), which I'm pretty sure means that, even if everyone in charge of every one of those companies either retired or died, there STILL wouldn't be enough available positions for all of the Business School graduates from just my tiny University alone from the last three years.   So I guess that makes your "job prospects" question a moot point.  I appreciate your concern.

The other major (get it?) question I get a lot in relation to my major's legitimacy comes down to the number of units in my major.  My major has a 10 unit class requirement (which equates to about 35-40 credits for all you crazy credit-system students out there), which is, admittedly, on the lower end.

There are a few reasons I think this complaint lacks legitimacy.  First, we're all still required to complete the minimum 32 classes to graduate that everyone else is.  We don't suddenly get to call it a day after a year and a half.  Second, part of the reason the major is so small and flexible is because they encourage us to pick up minors, second majors, research, or study abroad semesters, and they want the major to be flexible enough to accommodate that.  I actually feel bad for some of my friends in the hard sciences or business programs who just don't have the flexibility to go abroad.  Third, and in my opinion, most importantly -- trying to take an entire semester of Political Science courses is crazy.  If your brain doesn't explode from all the readings (which often contradict each other because theories contradict other theories and often those contradict practice), your fingers will probably freeze up and develop early-onset carpal tunnel from all the papers you'll write.***

It's not that I think other majors don't deserve credit -- I absolutely do.  Most students I know work hard and get stressed, and everybody has their own skill sets.  I, for one, am glad my best friend from high school is the Engineering major and I am not, because I would build bridges that would collapse and kill people.  But while most people I know in my field recognize and respect the legitimacy of other majors, it makes me sad that we don't get the same respect in turn.  Our skills are different than yours and our paths and passions took us in a different direction.  Why does that make us any less worthy?

Studiously yours,
Rachel Leigh

* Leaving aside the fact that very few of the Political Science majors I know want to become politicians.  That's a post for another day (one which is currently in the works).
** Source: http://graphicsweb.wsj.com/documents/NILF1111/
*** Shout out to Dr. Dagger and Dr. McDowell for combining to make me write more papers as a first semester freshman than many of my friends will write their entire time in college!

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