Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why I majored in marketing

This post expands upon a story from a previous blog post, linked to here.

I was once told by a friend that I should be a history teacher. (Perhaps my history posts on Facebook influenced this opinion.) I was told by another friend that I should be a professional jazz pianist. (Perhaps listening to me "spank the ivories" made him think that.) And I was told by still another friend that I should teach Spanish or some other language. (Perhaps my posts about my language exploits created this impression.)

This is but a sample of the kinds of suggestions I've received; and it's interesting not only for its diversity, but for its stark contrast with what I actually majored in - business. I majored in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, and a Certificate in Business Economics (comparable to a Minor in Economics). With my powerful interests in history, languages, and other subjects; why did I major in business?

First of all, why did I major in business?

Money undoubtedly had something to do with it, but it's not the whole story. I talk elsewhere about my decision to major in business generally, in my post about economics; so I will focus this post on how I chose my concentration (which is marketing). This necessitates some overlap with the story about choosing my business major; but I will minimize the overlap by quickly moving to a story I have never shared publicly - one of the formative events of my life, which helped finalize my decision to major in marketing.

Intro to marketing: My first marketing class

First of all, I had considered many other concentrations before taking a marketing class. I'd taken the basic business classes, like accounting, economics, and computers. When I first transferred to Northern Arizona University; I took both an upper-division accounting class and an intro to marketing class, among others that first semester. By the time I finished that semester, I was sure I didn't want to do the accounting concentration, as my experience in the accounting systems class was a disaster. But the marketing class was surprisingly interesting. It was the first marketing class I'd ever taken, and I was not expecting it to be so interesting. I had not yet ruled out economics or finance concentrations, so I was not yet committing to a marketing concentration; but I was starting to consider it seriously, and decided to wait to decide.

Ruling out economics and finance as majors

The main considerations were whether I'd enjoy my first finance class, and my first upper-division economics class. I was taking both of them that next semester, so I figured I'd be able to make a better decision at that time. The upper-division economics class was called money and banking, and it was required for finance majors; while the finance class was the intro to finance class, required of all business majors (finance and otherwise). To make a long story short, I had a mixed reaction to these classes: They were interesting at times, and dull at others. I didn't enjoy either one of them as much as marketing, and was starting to lean more towards the marketing concentration.

Should I double major in economics and marketing?

But I was still considering one other option: the double major. I thought double concentrations in marketing and economics would be a good fit for marketing research (my intended field), and I was thinking about staying in school longer to do this. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea, though; so I decided to talk to the instructor for my earlier intro to marketing class. He was an expert in marketing research, and also served in the church congregation I attended; so I thought he would be a good person to talk to. So I found out his office hours, and stopped by his office during that time.

My professor told me not to, and advised me to graduate earlier

He told me that it would not be a good idea to double major; and recommended that I graduate sooner rather than stay in school longer. He had received his bachelor's degree in economics, and graduate degrees in marketing; so he was in a good position to rate their usefulness for marketing research. He told me marketing would be the better major, and recommended that I choose it as a major. He also recommended taking a class called "Intermediate Business Statistics," but I was not sure if they would offer it during the next year, before my graduation was scheduled. He told me it wasn't worth postponing graduation to take that class, and just recommended getting out of school sooner.

Even if I did double major, other double majors might be better for my intended field

He also said - quite interestingly - that the most useful double majors for marketing research were marketing & statistics, or marketing & psychology. Even minors in these subjects would have required me to stay in school a long time, and upper-division statistics classes sounded painful to boot. So I chose another option: the Certificate in Business Economics. I needed only two more economics classes to get that certificate, and could count the department's statistics classes toward those requirements. The business school required a minor, certificate, or double major; and the Certificate in Business Economics was the one with the least additional coursework for me. (I'd already completed most of its requirements.) So I made a final decision at this time to concentrate in Marketing, and get a Certificate in Business Economics. This would get me out of school in one year.

I never got to take the class that my professor most recommended ...

They never offered the "Intermediate Business Statistics" course before I graduated, so I was not able to take it as he'd recommended. They did, however, offer a class called "Economic and Business Forecasting," and I was able to take it and count it towards the certificate; along with an international economics course they offered. Although I had also ruled out finance as a major, I also took a financial analysis class during this time, which taught me how to make sense of financial statements. I also took several marketing classes, including consumer behavior and marketing research (which I discuss in my psychology post), and a class called promotional strategy (which I have discussed in another post). These were probably the most interesting classes for the marketing major.

... but I did get to take some other classes towards the degree itself

I also had to take strategic marketing (similar to the strategic management class all the business majors had to take), and product distribution & channel relationships (similar to the production & operations management class that was required of all the business majors). These weren't as interesting as the psychology and advertising stuff; but I'd enjoyed the related business core classes, and so enjoyed the marketing classes as well. To make a long story short, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, and a Certificate in Business Economics - comparable to a Minor in Economics.

Was marketing the right major for me?

So was it the right major for me? I've thought about it many times since then, as I've gone through my life period without stable full-time work; and I've sometimes wondered if I should have majored in something else. I finalized my major decisions too late to get good marketing research internships, and may have been hurt by my business degree in applying for other kinds of work. Many employers probably thought that if they hired me, I'd be able to leave them for a higher-paying job very quickly; and would not be motivated to stay.

I still don't know, but it was fun for me, so it might have been good

I still don't know if I made the right decision; but I do know that I greatly enjoyed my marketing classes, and learned a lot from my economics classes. (They were harder, but still enjoyable at times.) Perhaps my business degree will pay off for me later, better than it's doing now; and I will feel (at some portion of my life) no regrets about my decision to major in business. Marketing was definitely the most fun business concentration for me; and if I ever go to graduate school in some communications type of subject, I may very well be glad one day, that I chose this concentration.

My love-hate relationship with economics

My positive experience with psychology

Some thoughts about business education

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