Advice to a daughter

A mother wrote to me: “My daughter will go to college next year and wants to study business administration. My husband worries about the job opportunity of this field and wants her to study information technology instead. We have discussed for several weeks whether we should allow her to study business or convince her to study Information technology. I do not know which would be best for her and for our family. Please advice.”

Answer: Today career discussion between parents and children is differing from the past where parents give order and children often obey. Of course, every parent want the best for their children and the economic recession have made them more worry about their children’s future. They know about the unemployment among college graduates so they prefer that their children will study something that they can easily get good job.

However, today young people are also well aware of this fact too. With much information available on the Internet, Social networks, and news media they know that they will have to work harder to survive in this competitive workplace. If your daughter has made a decision to study Business Administration, she probably has a reason. The best thing is to have a conversation between parents and children about career planning and direction. You need to listen to your daughter’s view on her choice with an open mind as she may have very good reason that you may not even know. Forcing children to study something that you want is NOT a good solution and should NEVER be done. Even if she listens to you, how do you know that she will do well in a field of study that she does not like? What will happen if she fails? What will happen if she get a degree but could not find job? Since no one can predict the future, it is important to have an open discussion where both sides listen to the other without any hastily decision. After all, it is her life and her future, not yours.

However, whether she studies Business Administration or Information Technology, her future success will be based on her skills in business, technology, and soft-skills. No matter what field that she chooses, she will have to learn about information technology as every business is using information technology to automate their processes and increases efficiency. As the world is changing, information technology will be applied everywhere and in everything. Regardless of what people do, they will have to learn information technology. Therefore, parents need to support their children’s decision, whatever they choose, and understand that every good paying job require skills, NOT just a degree.

Rather than discourage her to study what she likes, you should encourage her to focus on developing skills that she can use in her future career such as problem solving skills, communication skills, leadership skills, and most of all – lifelong learning skills. Nobody can predict what will happen in the next four or five years as the law of supply and demand will determine whether there will be jobs when she graduates. If she has the needed skills, the degree or the field of study is not that important, because she will get good job.

Of course as parents, I am sure that you are still worrying. In discussing with your daughter about career planning, you may want to suggest another third option or a back-up plan. There is a field of study that combines both business and information technology called: Information System Management (ISM) which focuses on the application of information technology into business organization. This is a popular field in many countries today where students learn to manage information system in a business environment. You may let her know that there is a flexible plan in the field that she likes. She still learns business, accounting, finance and management courses but she also learns about information technology such as database administration, data mining, business intelligence and concept of Big Data. By having these skills, she can work in many places such as bank, finance company, marketing company AND information technology company, cloud computing service company or even software company. There are many options open that she should investigate further because she should have choices to select what she likes to succeed. She must understand that a degree is no longer a guarantee for job but having skills in both areas, she will not have any problem.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University