College Majors Misconceptions

Writer: Farah Raafat

Editor: Ahmed Ashry

This article covers the following majors in this order: Mass Communication and Journalism, Medicine, Dentistry, Biotechnology, Computer Science, Physiotherapy, Literature, Psychology, Political Science, and Architecture.

Disclaimer: majors like Mass Communication and Computer Science can be broadly diversified as they combine content from modern, evolving, and dynamic disciplines. Depending on the university, the courses are oriented towards different focal points. Therefore, it is always important to take a look at the module handbook, the study regulations, and the course description of the respective university!

1. Mass Communication and Journalism

What are the similarities between them? What are the crucial differences? Let me break it down for you.

Let’s start by stating the obvious: Mass Communication is more diverse than Journalism. In fact, Journalism can be seen as a sub-field of Mass Communication. And this correlation leads to overlapping content between both majors. You will be introduced to the various communication channels, whether they are classical media such as television, radio and print media, or modern online media in both majors. However, the intensity of certain topic fields and the academic approach to them are completely different in both disciplines.

Mass communication is very social-science-ish. Lots of theories. It tackles the interaction between media and society in a very conceptual manner. Journalism is highly practice-oriented. Applied skills go over scientific principles. We’re talking topic finding, idea synthesis, research, investigation, verification, coverage, and every single Journalism element. So be prepared to write a lot throughout your study!

Mass communication integrates a bit of everything: history, psychology, aesthetics, statistics, design, and even technicalities. There is no specific unifying “direction” to the major as a whole – unlike Journalism, where (socio)political issues run like a red thread through every course of the major. This is why interest in socio-political topics and a general curiosity for their surroundings are important prerequisites for prospective journalism students.

Mass Communication graduates usually benefit from a broad and multifaceted spectrum of career options. It is usually necessary for them to specialize in a certain field after their basic studies such as (but not limited to) media law, media business, or media management.

Journalism students, on the other hand, are far more specialized and are normally interested in one specific career path from the very beginning. And this right here is a very important point: if you know up front that you want to be a journalist or a reporter -especially in the political field- there is no need to overload yourself with all the theory and background of human communication behaviour Mass communication covers. However, if you would like to discover the media scene as a whole and specialize later, Mass Communication is definitely your go-to. You will get in touch with so many modern and dynamic skills that will open up new horizons for you career- wise. You can work in television and radio broadcasting, film, the PR industry, advertising, or even marketing!

2. Medicine

You’ve probably all heard the phrase “Medical School is an endurance test”. Or the advice “Prepare to be at the top of your game consistently.” And whoever told you those phrases has a valid point. But there are some things people forget to mention when it comes to medical school:

● Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember that you have been intensively tested before obtaining a spot in medical school. And if you’ve made it this far, you have a very strong reason to trust that you have the potential to make it all the way through.

● Choosing to be a physician is a highly noble thing. And not just so your family can brag about you being the only “doctor” in the family. No. Being a physician requires so much humanity, selflessness, empathy, and sensitivity. (I don’t want to exaggerate and say that those social skills matter more than scientific knowledge, but -hypothetically- they do!).

● It is very common among medical students to regret their choice, especially in the first two years when contact with patients is not frequent. But once they start treating patients, they will understand the gravity and the value of what they have chosen to do with their lifes!

● And also, I’m just gonna put it out: you need sleep to function!

3. Dentistry

Dental school is not necessarily easier than medical school. It’s just a different environment! If you join dentistry because it’s an easier form of medicine, you might want to rethink your evaluation criteria.

Just like medical students, in the first part of the course, called pre-clinic, you acquire basic knowledge and skills to understand the human body. In order to be able to help people in your later profession, you must be able to explain the general processes in the body, for example, like where pain comes from.

The dental profession is a craft profession which is why theory and practice go hand to hand in this major. From the first semester on, you practice your manual skills so that you can apply the knowledge you have acquired. At first, you will only practice on phantom patients, in the later semesters, you will also treat patients yourself under the supervision of experienced dentists.

As a dentist, you will be very close to the patient during treatment and will most likely come into contact with body fluids. So if this sounds disturbing to you, you might want to look for another, less practice-related major.

4. Biotechnology

Biotechnology is both a technical and a scientific field. The discipline is generally based on the combination of biology and technology. During your studies, you will encounter various scientific fields that you probably thought were unrelated, such as – but not limited to – Physics, Mathematics, Process Engineering, Environmental Technology, Materials Science, Microbiology, and Programming.

The biotechnology course covers a broad spectrum of topics. A “rainbow code” divides the different fields of application. The best-known areas are red, white, and green biotechnology. In addition, other areas such as grey, brown, and blue biotechnology are currently emerging. So, here’s the summary of the rainbow code:

  • Red BT: devoted to medicine and human health
  • White BT: industrial biotechnology
  • Green BT: devoted to the development of agriculture
  • Yellow BT: nutritional biotechnology
  • Grey BT: devoted to the problems of environmental protection and waste management
  • Blue BT: research of marine (aquatic) regions
  • Brown BT: an area of BT in which researches study desserts and dry regions for environmental protection in general (overlaps with grey BT)
  • Gold BT: connected with bioinformatics, computer science and chip technology
  • Violet BT: deals with law, ethical ,and philosophic issues related to biotechnology.

A biotechnology degree-course is the right choice for you if you are interested in scientific connections!! The ability to merge your knowledge of different fields is crucial for this major.

5. Computer Science

Computer Science (CS) and Computer Engineering (CE) are two completely different disciplines. CE blends together CS and electrical engineering. CS will focus more on programming (software) whereas CE will focus more on process (hardware and software). Not that each won’t overlap, but the focus will be different (somehow similar to the relation between Mass communication and Journalism). When choosing between the two, keep your career plans in sight. If you want to work in cybersecurity or system administration, CS is your best bet. If you are planning on being a Computer Hardware Engineer or even an interdisciplinary computer engineer, you will need to pick the more general CE major.

The study contents in CS can vary greatly. However, each Bachelor’s degree program in CS initially includes the following basic subjects:

  • Mathematics
  • Algorithms
  • Database Principles and Applications Software Engineering
  • Communication Technology
  • Programming
  • Business Administration
  • Operating systems and software architecture

In the further course of your studies, you can focus on one or more subject areas of computer science like Business Information Systems, Media Informatics, Technical informatics, or navigation and environmental robotics.

Logical thinking is the sine qanoon of studying CS. Don’t expect to enjoy your study if you’re not all about solving tricky mathematical problems!

Not being a team player can be a deal breaker for you if you major in computer science! Group projects are weighty and more frequent than you might think.

6. Physiotherapy

The physiotherapy course is very practically oriented. Nevertheless, in the first semesters, you will acquire numerous theoretical basics in order to get to know the human musculoskeletal system, the theory of motion, neurology, psychiatry, and medical ethics in detail.

If you want to study physiotherapy, you should enjoy exercise. A healthy lifestyle is necessary for you to pass it on to your patients! Furthermore, physiotherapy is not a path that you should only take up for financial reasons. The salary is not always guaranteed to be high, so it has to be a dream job for you.

7. Literature

The contents of the literary studies program include linguistic and literary disciplines. You will learn to deal with the building blocks of language, such as semantics, syntax, or different stylistic devices. You will also learn how language is created and gain insights into ancient languages. You will have to deal with literary epochs and concrete works by renowned authors.

Here are random examples of the seminars you will be attending: literary history, literary criticism, the Romantic era, the genre of crime thriller, or the literature of the 18th century. If those keywords don’t resonate with you, you might want to start reading about them and checking if they align with your interests.

A particular amusement when dealing with language and culture or media relevant content is a requirement for this major so you don’t find it boring and monotone halfway through. If you write yourself, casually play with different text forms and take pleasure in analysing or critiquing other authors’ works, those are solid indicators that the major suits you!

So to keep it short: for creative minds with a penchant for language, majoring in literature is just the right choice.

8. Psychology

Psychology describes and explains human actions. In experiments, psychologists try to predict how their subjects will behave in a certain situation. In order to be able to do research yourself, you will receive all the necessary basics in the Psychology Bachelor’s degree. Statistics, design of experiments, and research methods are some of the most important skills you will acquire during your study.

General Psychology, Biological Psychology, Social Psychology, and Developmental Psychology are different subdivisions of the Psychology major. I know they sound similar or maybe even identical but they’re not. You might want to research the differences in case your university offers specialization in one of them during the higher semesters!

Analytical thinking is a necessity when studying psychology. You will read a lot of philosophical, mostly baffling texts that can get extremely cognitively challenging. So if you quickly get bored reading or if hard seemingly redundant texts make you unmotivated to continue, try considering the Psychiatry major, which is far more medically oriented!

Since statistics and probabilities are a big part of your studies, you should be comfortable with numbers, data, and calculations.

(Very important: In the study of psychology, you research human behaviour. Solving personal problems is neither part nor goal of the study.)

9. Political Science

Just like all other majors, PoliSci starts with introductory courses on general political science and scientific working methods and statistics. You will assuredly deal with the following topic fields: Political Theory, Political systems, Economic Policy, Political Philosophy, Legal basis and laws as well as the incredibly interesting Peace and conflict studies.

In the higher semesters, you choose individual specializations in which you deepen your knowledge. Comparative Policy Research, International Relations, Political sociology, and contemporary history are popular specializations.

Young people who like debating, political discussions, and watching the news every day tend to get drawn to the PoliSci major. These are very good prerequisites, but they are not enough on their own! One should not underestimate the high level of a political science degree. During your studies, you read a lot and deal with the detailed theoretical background of political actions and events such as elections and demonstrations.

The philosophical foundations of political and social theories can sometimes be complicated. Abstract imagination and an analytical way of thinking are very helpful to understand the texts you will have to read and analyze. Not to mention
the importance of language skills (whether native or foreign) when it comes to text comprehension.

10. Architecture

Right from the start, architecture students get assigned with many practical building projects. The feasibility of the ideas is always just as important as the creativity of the design. For this reason, you will also learn the basics of construction, such as building physics, structural analysis, materials science. Not only will you draw up construction plans to meet the feasibility factor, but also cost calculations! This is why you should not underestimate the economic and technical aspects of this major.

As a graduate in architecture, you are a real all-rounder and the main contact person on the construction site of your building. Therefore, you will also attend seminars in site management, construction management, and building law. It goes without saying that you will deal with all the classical subjects of architecture like building studies, art history, and design.

Although you will learn how to work with CAD applications, drawing is essential to the practice, culture, and progress of architecture. Remember that your grades in architecture school are far less important than the skills and portfolio you’ll build along the way.

Architecture school is the right choice for you if you are creative and artistic, have a good spatial imagination, and enjoy working in a team!
So… that’s about it!

Choosing a major is honestly one of the scariest and most stressful phases for us as teens, yet that should by no means allow us to rush the decision. We wouldn’t want to simply get the feeling that we have it all figured out, when in fact we didn’t. As I said at the very beginning, the more you research about your major beforehand, the fewer shocks and regrets you will feel once you are on the inside. So don’t give in to stereotypes and generalizations. Focus on your passion. Talk to other people who are majoring in your fields of interest. And as usual, the internet is your friend (if you find reliable sources of course).

If there are more majors you want us to cover in future articles, don’t hesitate to bombard us with them!