Business Majors Feel Unloved & Uninspired

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Pity those poor business majors. Despite their campus’ politically correct canons, they’re still singled out for supposedly being hypercompetitive sellouts who’ll someday wreck the environment and enslave the masses.  At Berkeley, some even dub them “Haasholes” (Get it, Haas School of Business).

This is extreme, sure, but think back to when you were 20. You’d just ventured out on your own, piecing together an identity and balancing school, work, relationships, temptations, and uncertainties. Who could you turn to for guidance and support? If you were a business major, it certainly didn’t come from your professors. It was true then…and nearly as much now.


That was a key finding from a survey released Thursday (November 6) by Gallup and Purdue University. In a random sample of nearly 30,000 American college graduates conducted in February and March, just 9% of business majors felt they received “emotional support” from faculty and administrators. That’s half of the support reported by arts and humanities majors (18%) – and less than social sciences and education (15%), and sciences and engineering (12%) graduates. Overall, just 14% of all respondents strongly agreed that they received strong emotional support as an undergrad.


The results were based on three questions, covering whether respondents had professors who “made them excited about learning”; “cared about [them] as a person”; and acted as a mentor “who encouraged [them] to pursue [their] goals and dreams.” Graduates answered using a five point scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” To be classified as receiving emotional support, respondents needed to answer “strongly agree” to all three questions.

And therein lies one problem with the methodology, which fails to report the degree of emotional support. It also doesn’t address the difference between public and private business programs, with the former steeped in research and the latter emphasizing teaching. It didn’t identify whether respondents received support elsewhere in the school community, such as campus clubs. What’s more, the survey fails to ask the sample “why.” Did they perceive this lack of emotional support stemming from business schools’ staggering sizes…or the sink-or-swim and dog-eat-dog ethos of the business world where many of their professors matriculated?


That said, the Gallup-Purdue Index found that “recent graduates” – defined as students who earned their bachelor’s degrees from 2000-2014 – received greater emotional support than their predecessors. For example, the number for business majors rose from 9% to 13%, with all majors also increasing four points to 18%.


However, these low numbers have lasting impact according to Gallup’s Andrew Dugan and Stephanie Kafka. They cited an October study from the index, which showed that undergraduate business majors had the lowest interest in their work, with only 37% reporting deep engagement (compared to 47%  for social science and education majors and 43% each for sciences and engineering and arts and humanities). Among “recent graduates,” that interest drops to 34% (though this three point drop is actually less than those reported by the other three majors).

What’s more, business graduates lagged behind their peers in “liking what they do each day and being motivated to achieve their goals.” Here, only 48% of all business majors strongly agreed with this premise, with the next lowest total belonging to arts and humanities graduates at 53%. Even worse, that 48% total dipped to 39% among business majors who graduated from 2000-2014 (with drops among the other majors in this niche ranging from 9% to 12%).