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Author Topic: How to choose a commerce major!  (Read 8585 times)  Share 

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spectroscopy

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How to choose a commerce major!
« on: May 12, 2017, 05:18:34 pm »
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Hi everyone, so one of the most requested threads I get is to make a thread explaining which commerce major to choose, what they are like, and the different career paths that they lead to.
so I'm going to give a super quick, rough, and very generalised run through of the different majors and their job opportunities.

Please forgive non uniform formatting and spelling/grammar errors. This was typed on a glitchy old laptop that struggles to scroll, and the words I type appear 2 seconds after I've typed them

So just a quick background - I've researched lots about jobs, been a moderator on here for years, interviewed at heaps of places and been made multiple offers, been to & helped with many corporate recruitment events, and done candidate screening for a boutique financial services firm. For simplicities sake I'm going to revolve this guide on the University of Melbourne's commerce majors as I am most familiar with them and they tend to be the most broad/common ones.

Accounting:

the major:So actually studying accounting is generally thought of as reasonably boring and dull, though some people do enjoy it. I think a good way to think about Accounting is as a subject that revolves around financial information and details. You spend lots of time looking at spreadsheets, how to calculate costs of things, regulations on this sort of stuff, etc. i really did not like the accounting subjects that I have done as they have lots of content and are quite dry but to each their own. You have to do a fair bit of law as part of the degree to get accredited. Accounting majors are pretty good for people who dont mind working with numbers but dont particularly like complex math, and is an especially big hit with commerce graduates who are interested in law/liked legal studies. You do lots of stuff in accounting like calculating different costing mechanisms, tax stuff, moral hazard stuff, etc. and of course financial spreadsheets. so yeah like i said accounting is basically measuring and communicating financial information along with some business strategy stuff in there (eg: what prices to set a product at, cash flow things), auditing, profit analysis, performance measurement, etc. with there being certain correct ways to do these things (which is what you learn). if this sounds interesting for you then look at an accounting major.

the job outcomes: So there are a lot of jobs you can do with accounting, its generally seen as the safest commerce major. the most obvious possible job one can do is to be an accountant (LOL) which requires an accounting major and certain hoops to be jumped through in order to get accreditation. being an accountant opens up a plethora of job opportunities from the big 4 financial services firms (probably the biggest target for accounting majors, they have everything from tax services to auditing to forensic accounting and way way more), to the big 4 banks, to accounting for big asx200 companies all the way down to being a tax man for families or working in-house at a small company. Of all the majors accounting probably has the largest raw number of possible jobs open exclusively for accountants (disregarding quality of these jobs).

I would like to introduce what I'm going to refer to in the future as 'general commerce jobs'. These are jobs you can do with any commerce major as long as you have good grades. These include: consulting (mainly strategy consulting (could be at a elite firm or a smaller consultancy)), generalist roles at government departments, generalist roles at ASX200 companies and other generally big companies. So naturally accountants can compete for these roles too

anyway now that that the obvious accounting specific roles are out of the way, the other main big door that gets opened is finance. You can do pretty much any of the less mathematical finance jobs. This might sound a bit weird to people who havent done much accounting but accounting majors learn most of the skills to do the due-diligence work that is important in finance jobs and the biggest factor is (at unimelb at least) accounting majors have to do 2nd year finance (business finance) which really introduces the main ideas for the rest of the finance major and increases the amount of known unknowns that accounting majors face in the workforce. Alot of finance jobs though are about valuation and due diligence though which accountants are perfectly qualified for. and in areas where they might lack the skills of a finance major they have other skills. eg; in private wealth management an accountant might not be as good as a finance person in regards to optimising asset allocation or using CAPM or whatever but they make up for it with their knowledge of the tax system that might save/earn the client money in other ways. anyway most finance jobs are open to accounting majors which is great. Some of the more complex areas of finance are still mostly off limits for accountants as things like quantitative finance and some research roles are more fit for people with a finance/economics major. You might really need to know your way around derivatives or other complex securities for some roles which might be troublesome for accountants and could even be difficult for some non-mathematically inclined finance people too.
Accounting in some circumstances can also lead into things like being a manager for a business unit that employs non-technical people (I know a few accountants who work in construction).

Thats basically it for accountants, it is probably the longest portion I'll write as they can do any job that requires someone to be an accountant (which is heaps) including things like audit, tax consultancy, liquidating businesses, forensic accounting, bookkeeping, being a financial controller on a construction/mine site, and way more. As well as a lot of the grunt work finance jobs and generalist commerce jobs. the thing to remember is accountants are needed in literally every single business so you can work as an accountant in so many different industries

actuarial studies
the major: So basically this is what you do if you really like math. Actuarial students do crazy math.  Their job is most commonly associated with insurance companies as it is actuaries who calculate a lot of things in this industry (and most risk based industries in general eg: sports betting, agriculture, etc.) You learn lots of mathematical stuff and modelling and shit, but you also have to do second year macro-economics and finance as well and get a pretty broad base of knowledge. Its really interesting actually some of the stuff you learn if you can handle the math but I feel that it gets terribly morbid when you start looking at things like mortality tables LOL.
also please note: actuarial studies is very very difficult. people fail and drop out of actuarial studies ALL the time. i knew about 10 people who started off first year deciding to major in actuarial studies and only ONE is still doing it in second year. and these guys are all really smart select entry high school grads. But if you love math and want to study commerce, go for it !

the jobs: So actuaries (like accountants) have their very own job field that is only open to them - being an actuary. being an actuary however is a completely different kettle of fish to being an accountant. accounting is the sort of degree where lots of people do it, even people from worse unis, and there is lots of competition for jobs. becoming an actuary however is very VERY difficult. it is probably the major with one of the least numbers of graduates, and even less people get fully accredited as you have to pass 2 exams after completing the honours year (which exempts you from the first exam (there are 3 total i think? to become fully accredited but you can start working straight after honours))
because of the difficulty of the course, there are not many actuaries out there. there are lots of actuarial jobs that pay loads of money with great conditions and hours (comparative to say finance) that are there for the taking (if you have reasonable grades and extra curriculars of course) but its just very hard to do actuarial studies.
these actuaries can work in a variety of firms but some examples are insurance companies, financial companies, big industrial companies, as a consultant, actuaries are massive in the betting industry, some government roles, can do a lot of statistics based roles in the commercial world, etc.
besides the obvious (and really good) job of being an actuary, and the generalist commerce jobs, actuaries are also well placed to work in quantitative finance jobs as they have the right maths skills for it. The math involved in these roles is quite heavy and a lot of finance majors aren't quant-y enough for it, with actuaries being the perfect combination of finance and math for a lot of these firms.


economics
the major: Economics as a major is pretty interesting and fun I think. Most commerce kids will get the jist of it (without the pain of majoring in it) as you have to do introductory microeconomics (and macroeconomics at melb) as a compulsory unit. As the major moves along there is an increasing amount of math to the point where at later years, there is alot of math required and it is quite a quantitatively rigorous course. As far as levels of maths go, economics is probably the second most maths-y after actuarial (maybe finance is second if you take a really mathematical path). When you first start studying economics, a lot of the subject is really just based on logical reasoning. If you love making deductions and using your brain to holistically think about problems you will love economics. Things you learn like game theory, and when you first get introduced to & understand supply and demand is an amazing enjoyment for a logical mind. Increasingly as you progress more and more math will start to be introduced and you will start to make economic models etc.

the jobs: So economics has heaps and heaps of different jobs open to it. Apart from generalist commerce jobs, eco also opens up lots of economics specific government jobs. There are a RIDICULOUS number of these. Almost every department hires economists or economics majors, and some just hire a billion of them like the Reserve Bank or the treasury department. This is excluding non-economist modelling roles & generalist positions they can apply for. Economists are also massive in the finance world. They are a hired for heaps of research jobs, especially those that require macroeconomic modelling and thinking about industries in general. They are also often picked in some of the elite consulting jobs as well as the high flying junior finance roles.  I just want to warn you of a big misconception that "every big company hires loads of economists". The places I mentioned above sure do, but companies in industry do not do so as much. Large ASX200 companies donít hire many of them and smaller companies definitely donít. I know a few investors actually hate it when big companies hire economists cos they think they are a waste of money. These big and small companies do use economic research but a lot of that is outsourced and purchased from large financial companies/banks/government who hire the bulk of economists.



finance
the major: so finance is something I find quite fun. It's the most common major by FAR when you include double majors taking it. It starts off with quite simple "plug and play" math + some legal knowledge + learning about the financial system, different types of securities and products, how money works, etc. This evolves into some more complex math where you look into greater detail into things, ie: "that simple formula we taught you in first year in how to figure out what a share is worth is not as accurate as this next one im going to show you" and will be quite a step up in level of math. On top of that you will start to really go into detail and understanding about the more complicated side of finance. Eg: how do different derivatives work, different investment strategies, which project should I invest in? how much is this project worth investing in? how much more will it be worth if we include the option to do this at the end of it? Etc.



the jobs: Finance jobs are pretty broad in some ways and not so broad in others. Basically a finance major allows you to work in the field of finance (obviously). This means banks, financial services firms, companies that need finance help, and so on. There are some government roles, and also a lot internal positions in big companies. i feel like this is the most self explanatory of the majors and there aren't any real secrets or tricks to it as the finance industry is the most looked at and obvious one for commerce students. Corporate finance and in house financial roles are probably the biggest secret opportunity for this major but even then they are not so secret. When you apply for jobs, you can search up the graduate program for almost any company you can think of and they will have roles for finance people.


Management
the major: Management is an interesting one. It is traditionally thought of as the most qualitative commerce major but it DEFINITELY has some very empirical roots and can also become quite quantitative and rigorous especially when you approach fields like project management (project crashing anyone?). In first year you will be writing essays about things like: different management strategies, company heirarchys, how to treat employees, HR strategies, brand management (basic level), crisis management, communication strategies, project management, business ethics, EFFICIENCY, PSYCHOLOGY, and a few other things I'm forgetting. All melbourne uni commerce kids also have to do a 2nd year management subject called organisational behaviour which is the same shit as first year management just at a slightly higher level. Eventually you pick subjects that are more specialised and focussed onto the fields you get a broad taste of in first year. You start to learn about the psychology behind a lot of management phenomena and empirical analysis of things. You can get quite mathematical when talking about things like efficiency. You can basically pick your own flavour by the time you get to 3rd year. Which is representative of the jobs you can do, which leads me to:

the jobs: So management jobs I would say are quite focussed based on what you studied and specialised in. Besides the general commerce jobs that anyone can do, the most common graduate programs for management graduates are things like "future leaders programmes" at big companies, management consulting (very VERY  competitive. Also on this topic, these jobs often donít go to management majors but it is not because of the major itself, but rather because there is often better candidates in other majors. These consulting companies love a GOOD management major who really knows his/her shit). Also project management is a field, industries like construction and defence contracting especially are big ones. You probably arent super equipped to be entrepreneurial after a management major, this is something you'd get more from marketing. But you would be well equipped to manage your way through a larger company.
Those are the 'general' management jobs, but management majors can get really specialised. One particular field is human resources, which hires loads of management grads (but they will look at your subjects to check if relevant). Supply chain management is a MASSIVE MASSIVE field and having a university degree AT ALL can put you in a really good spot in this field, but they will really want you to have studied some specific supply chain management stuff at uni before hiring you. There is also a field that goes by many different names: industrial engineering, management science, operations research, etc. that management majors can do. This is a SUPER quantitative field. In America it is dominated by MIT grads who are nuts at math. This field is about optimising processes and making things as efficient as possible. Modern day academic management was BORN out of this when companies over 100 years ago started doing studies on the most efficient ways to run their factories and workers. Look at the Hawthorne Studies if you are interested. Today this field has come a very long way and is at the point where it is super mathematical. Management majors can still work in this field but you will need to do the most quantitative management subjects you can find as well as statistics/math electives.


Marketing
Yay my favourite one. Marketing is absolutely GREAT but incredibly under-appreciated by up and coming students. I personally feel marketing has the most variety and usefulness out of many majors in general for a business career in industry.  You learn things like: pricing techniques, consumer behaviour, market analysis (massive, MASSIVE field), psychology, segmentation (who do I want to target), positioning (how should I position the company strategically? How should I make the brand look to appeal to the target market), LOADS of branding stuff like: Brand equity (how valuable is our brand), brand salience (how well known are we), distribution decisions, communictions, how to run promotions. All sorts of stuff. Marketing majors very often move up quite quickly in companies because they get a really good broad base of knowledge. When you specialise in marketing you can also get really detailed knowledge on areas. For example, retail management: where you can learn about the optimal physical layouts of stores (why do grocery stores always have the milk on the back wall?), where to physically put stores (how come you always have to walk deep into a shopping centre to get to the store you came for?), how to run promotions and how to price, how to sell online. This leads me to digital marketing which is another MASSIVE space. Learning about google ads and website creation, design and optimisation. Then there is neuromarketing which is my favourite, which involves the neurological basis of consumer behaviour. Some things you learn are: how come coke tastes better out of a glass bottle? If you play french music in a liquor store, which type of alcohol is more likely to be purchased? Why does crown casino have a certain smell? (no its not just smelly gamblers LOL). You look at MRI's and CT scans and all sorts of shit to really understand and learn about topics. There are so many other marketing fields I havent touched on but they are fkn LIT.

the jobs: the obvious one is marketing jobs. There are loads of these at marketing companies and publicity companies, but they are MASSIVE in the big firms. Places like nestle and unilever who own SO MANY of the brands people use (many people donít even know it, google unilever and proctor and gamble and look at how many big brand names they own). Even smaller goods companies hire marketing people. Marketing people also have a huge place in the consulting world, as they often are pretty good at solving real high level business problems. One thing I want to add is that marketing graduates at large organisations are often on whats called "fast track" programmes, where they are specifically trained to eventually take on leadership roles. My tutor in first year worked for Lipton ice tea (owned by unilever), as a graduate, and within 2 years I think she was RUNNING lipton ice tea as a brand for the whole country she was in (dealing with supply chain issues, marketing, merchandising issues, etc.) this is an extreme example but by no means a rare case. Good marketing graduates are very highly appreciated in the workforce . On top of all this, academia is another big one for marketing, there is endless research to do in the field and people love to become experts in their niche.



Okay so I think thatís all. This took so long to write up and I know it has been a long time coming so I hope everyone enjoys it ! Please don't mind spelling or grammatical errors as this is meant to be a rough guide :) Any questions or anything feel free to ask. A post on double major combinations is coming up next !

superjerry12

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Re: How to choose a commerce major!
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2019, 05:50:30 pm »
+1
Iím trying to figure out what I want to pair finance with and this thread is amazing - tysm.

So right now I have marketing but Iím honestly not sure if thats the way to go. Itís like ehhh for me (wouldnt mind doing it but idk if can do it in the long run). Iím not really sure what specifically I want to do with finance (and tbh i prefer it over marketing) so I keep thinking maybe something like economics would be good, to keep my options open. I didnít mind studying economics in high school but the talk of complicated maths scares me a lil, Iím decent at Maths (hovering around mid 80s consistently in 2u). Iíve thought briefly about Business Analytics/Econometrics as well but that seems kinda math heavy + I heard theres some IT aspects which Iím not too keen about.

Accounting sounds kind of dull but Iíve seen repeatedly in online threads that it complements Finance very well so Iíve also been thinking about it. I would love to hear your thoughts on my situation (if youíre still on bere lmao)

Thanks.

LifeisaConstantStruggle

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Re: How to choose a commerce major!
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2019, 08:52:46 pm »
+2
Iím trying to figure out what I want to pair finance with and this thread is amazing - tysm.

So right now I have marketing but Iím honestly not sure if thats the way to go. Itís like ehhh for me (wouldnt mind doing it but idk if can do it in the long run). Iím not really sure what specifically I want to do with finance (and tbh i prefer it over marketing) so I keep thinking maybe something like economics would be good, to keep my options open. I didnít mind studying economics in high school but the talk of complicated maths scares me a lil, Iím decent at Maths (hovering around mid 80s consistently in 2u). Iíve thought briefly about Business Analytics/Econometrics as well but that seems kinda math heavy + I heard theres some IT aspects which Iím not too keen about.

Accounting sounds kind of dull but Iíve seen repeatedly in online threads that it complements Finance very well so Iíve also been thinking about it. I would love to hear your thoughts on my situation (if youíre still on bere lmao)

Thanks.

Hey! might not be the person you're looking for specficially but I think I can help with the economics part (did up to 2nd year microeconomics in uni + read most of the third year texts in economics itself).
The really mathematical aspects of economics really start to hit in graduate school (PhD), so you can worry less about the really complicated mathematics. There are a few obscure theories here and there with some maths to back it up, but to be honest the hardest part is really just getting your head around the theory. The maths required in econs just range from number plugging to partial differentiation or convergence (purely in economics itself). You might need to do a bit of econometrics, which is statistics-heavy but for the most part it's really not that much. In some cases Finance would be a lot more mathematically demanding, but the maths in both majors are quite rudimentary (compared to actuarial at least).
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 09:13:31 pm by LifeisaConstantStruggle »
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spectroscopy

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Re: How to choose a commerce major!
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2019, 11:39:50 pm »
+3
Iím trying to figure out what I want to pair finance with and this thread is amazing - tysm.

So right now I have marketing but Iím honestly not sure if thats the way to go. Itís like ehhh for me (wouldnt mind doing it but idk if can do it in the long run). Iím not really sure what specifically I want to do with finance (and tbh i prefer it over marketing) so I keep thinking maybe something like economics would be good, to keep my options open. I didnít mind studying economics in high school but the talk of complicated maths scares me a lil, Iím decent at Maths (hovering around mid 80s consistently in 2u). Iíve thought briefly about Business Analytics/Econometrics as well but that seems kinda math heavy + I heard theres some IT aspects which Iím not too keen about.

Accounting sounds kind of dull but Iíve seen repeatedly in online threads that it complements Finance very well so Iíve also been thinking about it. I would love to hear your thoughts on my situation (if youíre still on bere lmao)

Thanks.

It depends on what you like and what you are interested in.

If you liked economics in high school, and definitely like finance then eco/finance could be a great combination. They play off each other really well and will beef up your qualifications for the large number of roles that like those two together.

Marketing is also great if you are unsure where to go as there are so many different aspects, you can get into digital marketing/analytics/modelling if you want to be more technical, or you can go to the more broad brand strategy and general marketing stuff, or even biological looking at neuromarketing (my favourite subject at uni), or even down a more graphic designy path. It is a great catch-all if you aren't sure where you want to head.

You will probably have to do at least introductory subjects in eco and marketing at uni so you can get a better idea. If accounting doesn't interest you then run far far away, it will be the bane of your existence. I know people who have ended up working audit jobs at the big name companies working 8am to 8pm every day for <50k a year and they regret doing accounting so much. of course this is a worst case scenario - but if you aren't excited about it, dont do it

superjerry12

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Re: How to choose a commerce major!
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2019, 01:01:28 am »
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Hey! might not be the person you're looking for specficially but I think I can help with the economics part (did up to 2nd year microeconomics in uni + read most of the third year texts in economics itself).
The really mathematical aspects of economics really start to hit in graduate school (PhD), so you can worry less about the really complicated mathematics. There are a few obscure theories here and there with some maths to back it up, but to be honest the hardest part is really just getting your head around the theory. The maths required in econs just range from number plugging to partial differentiation or convergence (purely in economics itself). You might need to do a bit of econometrics, which is statistics-heavy but for the most part it's really not that much. In some cases Finance would be a lot more mathematically demanding, but the maths in both majors are quite rudimentary (compared to actuarial at least).

Nah, that actually helps a lot in clearing up my worries with Economics. That was a big reason why I was hesitant on Economics for a while + uncertainty in career paths and whether it would go well with Finance.

superjerry12

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Re: How to choose a commerce major!
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2019, 01:16:48 am »
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It depends on what you like and what you are interested in.

If you liked economics in high school, and definitely like finance then eco/finance could be a great combination. They play off each other really well and will beef up your qualifications for the large number of roles that like those two together.

Marketing is also great if you are unsure where to go as there are so many different aspects, you can get into digital marketing/analytics/modelling if you want to be more technical, or you can go to the more broad brand strategy and general marketing stuff, or even biological looking at neuromarketing (my favourite subject at uni), or even down a more graphic designy path. It is a great catch-all if you aren't sure where you want to head.

You will probably have to do at least introductory subjects in eco and marketing at uni so you can get a better idea. If accounting doesn't interest you then run far far away, it will be the bane of your existence. I know people who have ended up working audit jobs at the big name companies working 8am to 8pm every day for <50k a year and they regret doing accounting so much. of course this is a worst case scenario - but if you aren't excited about it, dont do it


Yeah, I think I'm more inclined and feel better about swapping Economics for Marketing, upon reading both of you guys insightful thoughts and comments. I am curious though, what's the (for the lack of a better word) 'hot' career option, I could look at after I graduate with these majors - or solid, stable, enjoyable job that I could do with a decent salary. Same with Marketing as well - I'd probably revert back to it if Economics ends up not working out/ do it in my 4th year if I pick up something called Advanced Studies at USYD.