Is it better to get a physics degree than a business degree to work in business?

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  • Thread starter swampwiz
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  • #26
Your quote above tells me a lot about you more than anything else. It seems to me (based on your quote) that you are especially susceptible to the tactics of marketing people.
Actually I don't think that I'm more vulnerable to tactics of marketing people than most people.

I do think that I'm a bit more aware and more honest to myself about what my vulnerablities are than most people. This comes less from any sort of intrinsic virtue, than spending a huge amount of time around sales people.

I'm in an environment in which people can and will screw you over if you let them, and in that environment, knowing what your weaknesses are is pretty important.

Remember, the whole purpose of marketing people is to sell you something, whether you actually need it or not, so by nature I am deeply suspicious of anyone who is a marketer or someone with a marketing background. Call me stingy or stubborn if you will, but that's my nature.
Needs are subjective and mostly psychological. Most of the important needs are things like the need for the approval of others, the need for human contact. Also, if you have an emotional desire to be seen as frugal, there are a lot of psychological tactics for that. Coupons, for example.

The other thing is that selling is part of the human condition. I have a high respect for expertise, and watching expert sales and marketing people in action is sometimes like watching poetry in motion. The other thing is that I have a deep desire to understand the universe, and some of the most important things that I've discovered about the universe have involved interactions with sales people.

Riddles and code words. For example, if you want to sell me a car. Pictures of pretty women doesn't do it. However, if you show me charts and diagrams, and give me a thick brochure with integral signs and equations, that will get my attention. Talk about fuel economy and the environment.

As far as your example about the choice between a nice house vs a run down neighbourhood -- that is a false choice in many parts of the world. There are many places in the world where a nice home or house is easily affordable, and there are other places where those homes are available for rent.
Not in the NYC area.

The alternative is for me to directly invest in stocks and bonds (cutting out the middleman altogether) with the risks that come with that, or just stick my money in my bank account or buy US Treasury bonds -- low return, but safe.
Actually you aren't. If you buy stocks and bonds, you are going through a broker, and not only does the broker make money from commission, they also make money from the spread. In the case of mutual funds, companies are required by law to disclose fees, but in the case of direct stocks and bonds, all you know is that you bought or sold the stock for $X. Unless you have a seat on the exchange, you just bought or sold it from someone that makes money off the spread.

US Treasury bonds go through broker dealers. The amount you are paying is slightly different from what the government pays, and part of the difference goes into my bonus. Checking accounts are loss leaders. Banks lose money on checking accounts, but every time you go there, you'll get some ad for credit cards or mortgages. Banks make $$$$ from people that carry a balance, but even if you don't carry a balance, they make money from the transaction fee that goes between the merchant and the bank.

To be fair the amount of money from these sorts of transactions are small. So small in fact that it's not worth your effort to avoid them. The amount of money that you are paying from the stock spread works out to a few cents on any reasonable transaction, but those pennies build up.

The point I'm making is that in the balance of spending and saving, I err on the side of saving when possible, and do my utmost to keep my spending on firm check. I really don't give one whit what anyone else says about my spending habits -- if I don't dress in the latest Armani suit, that's not important to me.
There's a difference between not caring and how you care. For example, if my wife thought that I was wasting my money, I *would* care a lot. It so happens that if I drove to work in a sports car or wore extremely expensive suits, that the people in my social group would say extremely bad things about me, and being seen as irresponsible at spending would seriously bother me.

It's common for intellectuals to laugh at people from being consumerist and driven by fashion. But I sometimes wonder how fair that is. It's not important to me to dress in the latest Armani suit, but it would tickle me pink to be a keynote speaker at a AAS conference or to be asked to serve on a grant review committee, and one thing that I wonder is whether or not my social needs are any different from the person that wants a sports car.

It so happens that the thriftness and frugality are highly valued among the people whose opinions I care about, but I wonder if this need for social approval isn't that much different from people that have different values.
  • #27
If a business degree was worthless, there wouldn’t be scores of people opting for it in the first place, which shows that it does have a certain potential in the job market. A lot depends on you too, how you apply the techniques and skills learnt at college in real life. If you are serious about getting your business degree, consider CollegeAmerica's business programs, which are specially designed to prepare students to take on the competitive job market confidently. Visit the college, verify the accreditation, read student testimonials. Or go through a CollegeAmerica student review page to see if any of the programs they offer interest you.
  • #28
You could get your bachelors in physics and then get it in business later, my university has a 5 year program where you get both, but it'll only take like 4 since I'll be doing the business classes during the summer
  • #29
HR is also measured by attrition rates that is they need to hire someone who will stay on the job so they tend to look for people who are neither under-qualified nor over-qualified. The candidates who pass this test usually fit the job description exactly and then its the end manager who must make a decision from one or more interviews.

One friend of mine long ago convinced the HR manager of a small company to give him a chance even though he was over-qualified for the job.Three months later IBM called and my friend left. The HR manager was mad because he hired my friend against his better judgement.

Companies also want to hire people that can be immediately productive and so they focus on those candidates who fit the requirements. In general a manager looking for a business programmer would hire a CS major with business minor over and a math or physics major with programming experience.
  • #30
Education Advisor
If a business degree was worthless, there wouldn’t be scores of people opting for it in the first place, which shows that it does have a certain potential in the job market...
Has it occurred to you that a substantial number of people may overestimate the opportunities available solely with a undergraduate degree in business (not combining it with another degree or field of study)?

I might add that there are also scores of people pursuing degrees in humanities (such as English or history) or social sciences (eg. sociology), without any evidence that these degrees are any more marketable or employable than any other majors.
  • #31
Your point will depend crucially on what type of business bureaucracy you are looking at. Some of the most lucrative positions in businesses often involve considerable technical know-how (your particular career field as a quant is the perfect example; others include data-mining, market research, etc.) and in those fields, a
If a business or marketing student does a course in marketing research he or she would be able to that job. Statistical and data analysis packages are even used in courses like that.
  • #32
I was reading an article how the business degree (aside from accounting and perhaps finance) is considered by employers to be virtually worthless. The reasons for this are basically that the typical business student is not too bright and rather lazy, with virtually no math or computational classes required (baby calculus & statistics), leaving students who don't even have the critical thinking skills that at least a liberal arts education would give. Basically the employers are saying that whatever is learned in the typical business curriculum (again, aside from accounting and perhaps finance) can be learned on the job, and that it is better to have the folks who can either write very well (i.e., liberal arts degree) or deal with math (e.g., math or physics degree) very well.

I suppose that the best of both worlds would be to get a degree in physics and a minor in general business, but even then, a degree in physics and minor in math would seem to be even better!

Some folks might say, just work in physics, software development, or engineering, etc., but it seems like for folks from wealthy countries, it is poor career choice, since employers would rather hire folks from places like Kolkata, India or Cheungking, China at rock bottom labor rates. Some might also say go to work as a Wall Street quant, and while that may have some merit, it seems that the only way now to get work (and after the crisis, there isn't as much work) is to get a master's degree in mathematical finance from one of the top expensive schools and hope that work can be found to pay off that massive debt.
It wouldn't be better. Physics degree and minor in business would be better. Math degree and business minor or business degree and math minor would be better than both you have listed.
  • #33
I have a BS in mathematics and a MS in statistics (both areas I consider to be science), and I can tell you that in my own personal experience, my skill set has been considerable demand by a wide range of businesses. I still continue to get constant calls or e-mails from recruiters/headhunters about positions in various businesses in both US and Canada related to my analytics skills, even in the current weak US economy.

So I don't really buy this notion that a science degree is somehow an impediment to entering business anymore than any other degree. Of course, anyone who is newly entering the current job market will face a tough time finding work (at least if you only look at positions in the US), but that is true regardless of what field you study.
Those areas are more applicable to business than physics.

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