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Is there such a thing as a ‘best’ major?

Analyzing the idea that some majors are better than others

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UB offers students approximately 100 undergraduate degree programs, from which students pick one or two that ultimately predict their likelihood of employment and success after college.

Data at UB shows that the STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – fields are a student’s best bet.

“The STEM fields are growing exponentially," said Arlene Kaukus, director of Career Services. “There will always be continued innovation of science and research. There are always going to be new solutions needed for problems, and that allows these opportunities to grow.”

Kaukus said concepts like “big data” – essentially very complex data that cannot be translated like normal data – requires many professions of which are related to math and technology to decode.

“Advances in information technology, data analysis, cybersecurity, financial engineering, high-tech materials are based on mathematical models and algorithms,” said Bernard Badzioch, director of undergraduate mathematic studies. “As these areas grow so does the need for people who have advanced mathematics training.”

According to Badzioch, there are many different national and local opportunities for those in the math field.

“There are many internship opportunities for math majors, and several of our students complete internships each year,” Badzioch said.

Kaukus further highlighted the prevalence of STEM majors on campus. He said offices are heavily used by engineering students and the number of students enrolling to major in engineering continue to grow.

“Studying engineering can lead to a vast array of career opportunities,” said Holly Justice, engineering career counselor for Career Services. “I have met with many students who have been surprised at how marketable their specific engineering major is across a variety of industries and positions.”

Deshawn Henry, a junior mechanical engineering major, spends much of his time studying alongside the other engineering students he’s met over the past couple of years. Two of his roommates are also engineers and they find themselves bonding over the difficult work.

He knows the work will be worth it – he is currently one of the many students working on GrowHome – a modular home that will embrace the urban farming culture of Buffalo with its four seasons – and has begun looking for internships that will advance his career.

“I just want to do something I can enjoy,” Henry said. “I find what I’m studying interesting and if I can enter a career field that I love doing every day, I’ll be set.”

Justice said that 50 percent of the listings for job opportunities in the UB Career Services BullsEye system – an online resource for students to search for and apply to jobs – were in STEM-related fields.

Kaukus also believes people need to “follow the trends” when searching for employment opportunities. It’s important to watch professions like health care where many people holding the positions are getting older and are soon going to need new employment, according to Kaukus. She said that many local health care opportunities are linked to UB’s downtown medical campus.

Amid all the speculation of “popular” or “best” majors and the assumptions surrounding them, Kaukus emphasized the fact there is no such thing as a “best major.”

“What people read in the media really impacts their [conception of a ‘best major’]. Their family’s expectations can also impact them,” Kaukus said.

Kaukus said STEM companies’ products may be science-related but there is usually a very broad, bigger scope regarding what went into the creation of the product.

Many companies require a range of different disciplines to help create the products and many schools and companies are relying on specialties like marketing and communication to help further their success.

Jenna Smith, marketing specialist and senior staff assistant for Career Services, reflected on a time when AOL came to Buffalo and had people from all different disciplines come together to try and do chemotherapy research. Those who participated were not only from the STEM fields but from all different fields.

Kaukus says to ultimately do what you love. She says that when you apply yourself and are committed, you will see opportunities appear.

She emphasized “knowing yourself” and how it can only result in career success.

“Be happy and money will follow after,” Smith said.

Ty Adams is a features staff writer and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com.


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