Engineering majors study most, business least
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 05:12
According to a study released last month, senior engineering students spend the most time studying per week and senior business majors the least. Some university community members, like engineering graduate student Tyler Josephson, agree with the researchers' conclusions.
"During my junior year I would typically have more homework in a day than other students would in a week," Josephson said. "Though [engineering majors] spend less time writing, we spend more time studying for tests, in my opinion."
The study, conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement, averaged responses from 537,000 students across 751 American and Canadian institutions, and concluded that engineering majors spend 19 hours preparing for classes and business majors 14 hours.
In between engineering and business majors fell the physical sciences with 18 hours, the arts and humanities with 17 hours and education at 15 hours per week.
Engineering professor Michael Mackay, who studied chemical engineering at the university in the 1970s, said the major's workload becomes more intensive each year.
"We work very hard, that's for sure," Mackay said. "There are many all-nighters, especially during senior year."
Chemical engineering professor Michael Klein said while he does not necessarily know if engineering students work harder than other students with different majors, the required mathematical work could potentially contribute to longer study hours.
"The language of engineering is math," Klein said. "There is a lot of mathematical analysis that students are involved in, and math can be difficult."
Business professor Diane Ferry said when specifically comparing engineering and business students, the difficult math in engineering could be one of the reasons why those students do more studying.
Ferry also speculated that requirements within the business major could contribute to less time spent studying.
"Being in business includes things like marketing and management, and these are very social activities," Ferry said. "Having strong interpersonal skills is really important to being successful in business, whereas engineering is very cognitive and a very individual, solitary pursuit."
Operations management professor Christine Kydd also pointed to personality differences between engineering and business majors, and said grades in business courses don't necessarily reflect future success.
"I have students who didn't go particularly great in my courses, but I know they are going to succeed in business," Kydd said.
She said it may be difficult to determine what the survey meant by the term ‘studying,' because students in different majors may have a different definition and different ideas as to what contributes to class preparation.
Kydd said the sciences involve more traditional studying and lab work than business.
"In business, it's not that there's not a lot of material to absorb, but that students apply that material to group projects, so they may not factor those activities into studying time," she said. "Students often do a lot of teamwork, and that still really is studying because they're taking skills they've learned and apply it to problems, though they may not report that as studying."
Junior business major Liz Young estimates she studies approximately five hours per week, but in a busier week she spends closer to 15 hours studying.
"I think business is one of those majors where you can get away with slacking a little bit, whereas engineering majors can't," Young said.
Brad Hoffmann, a chemical engineering undergraduate student with a graduate master's degree in business administration, said he finds business assignments are less "technically challenging."
"I spend a lot more time on engineering assignments than I do on any business assignments," Hoffmann said.
Senior engineering major Jaime Santiago said he pursued engineering because he wanted an academic challenge.
"We're all masochists," Santiago joked. "We have a lot of sleepless nights".
He recalled a week during which he pulled two all-nighters and spent approximately eight hours a day in Colburn Laboratory. But despite these numbers, he said it's unfair to say engineers have to study more than students in other majors.
"Everyone has to study a lot, and it's more individually based than it is major-based," Santiago said.