The Perils of Majoring in Business

Last Updated May 27, 2009 5:30 PM EDT

What would you like to do when you grow up?
For teenagers this seems to be the most frequent reply: "I want to make money."

Surely that response explains why the most popular major among college students is business administration.

My own 19-year-old daughter is one of those dime-a-dozen business majors and she isn't shy about her desire to earn more money than her parents after she graduates. My husband and I are journalists so the bar that she's set for herself isn't too terribly high.

I've always suspected that kids are majoring in business for the wrong reasons. (I should add that my daughter, who will be attending the University of Barcelona in the fall, is also majoring in Spanish, so she's not completely obsessed with money.)

What business majors don't seem to be asking themselves is what kind of quality of life they'll experience after they graduate. A couple of prominent labor economists took a stab at answering this question when they examined what Harvard grads were doing 15 years after graduation.

The economists discovered that certain business majors were experiencing the toughest time juggling career and home life...

On almost every aspect of work-life balance, finance and consulting look pretty bad. People who take time off in those field suffer large penalties, both in terms of money and career opportunities, once they return to full-time work. And part-time jobs are hard to come by, which often forces people to make a choice between working a 70-hour week and leaving a job entirely.
So what should college students make of this? I know they've got a lot on their plate, but I'd suggest that they spend time researching careers before they get too far along with their plans.

Wall Street Bull image by MacRonin47, CC 2.0.