Making the right choices regarding your major, minor and selection of classes is often a struggle in university studies. This blog discusses how specialization and generalization are both feasible approaches for structuring your studies. The blog argues that, in fact, no such things as “the right or wrong choices” exist, as these choices do not define or limit your future work-life for good. Instead, each learning path brings about plenty of opportunities from which everyone can create a suitable plan for themselves. The writer, Johannes Piipponen, is a PhD student, an agricultural economist, and a generalist, who somehow ended up working with engineers (and thinks it is awesome).
In every study program there are students who know with confidence what they want from their future: everything related to studies and work looks clear and simply great! For many, however, this is not the case. Typically, at one point of their studies, many students start to wonder whether they have made the right choices when selecting their study path.
One might question his or her choices regarding their major or completed courses in general, especially at the last steps of their Master`s studies. Job opportunities of one`s own field may look worse than expected, extremely boring or all the jobs are located in wrong places. In academia, these feelings often lead to another degree in a different field or at times even to a total change in career plans. In the most extreme cases, it might feel that past years have been wasted.
So – what to study then? What kind of study path is the best fit with your interests? How to make sure you choose the “right” and most important major and minor courses? Understanding the differences between generalization and specialization approaches may help to structure your curriculum in a way that supports your interests and goals, both in studies and work-life.
Arguments in favor of specialisation highlight the importance of deep understanding of a specific topic. Specialisation strategy suits well when you have a certain future in mind: detailed understanding of a specific topic is an asset when seeking for employment on a specific field. Alternatively, the generalist approach claims that working life contains elements that cross the boundaries of various fields. Therefore, understanding the bigger picture should be an essential part of the studies. This approach creates hope for the students who are yet unclear about their interests or consider their current studies meaningless.
Usually, the first years of university studies include numerous mandatory courses, but fortunately flexibility increases year by year. This allows students to follow their enthusiasm and take courses they consider relevant and interesting, either in general or from an employment perspective. However, structuring your studies solely according to work-life relevance is difficult, as many skills required for a job differ from those taught at university.
After all, work-life is rather dynamic and a university degree does not define your lifelong professional competency. It is good to remember that regardless of the choice between generalization and specialization, all studying develops thinking and increases knowledge, and it is better to finish an imperfect project than perfect an unfinished one. A dream job can be achieved through various ways and backgrounds as we seek for jobs based on our own interests. Step by step one might move towards an ideal job that represents the original educational background only a little.