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RossM240B 05-22-2004 17:17

Advice on a College Major

I hope this is the right area to place this post. I did a search before posting this but couldn't find anything.

I have been in the Army for abour four years now; three years active duty and one year here at West Point. When I was enlisted I fell in love with the Army and decided to spend my career as an officer, rather than simply serve a single term of service as most men in my family do. When I was enlisted I was privileged to be in 3rd Ranger Bn, which admittedly still colors my view of the Army as a whole. However, while deployed to Afghanistan I came in contact with several professionals from Special Forces, and after learning, reading and researching I decided to do everything I could to become an 18A.

I know nothing is guaranteed. I could take over a platoon and make an ass of myself. But I am firmly convinced that I have what it takes, and I intend to be there in about 6-7 years.

Now I have a question, and I don't really have anybody impartial to turn to for advice. There are several SF officers here at West Point, but I have found that each of them is very partial to their own field of study, and each tries to convince me to major in their department. There is also a huge pressure for professors to convince cadets to major in their given field; while I feel that the professionalism of those officers is probably beyond this, it may play a part, even if unconscious.

Do you feel that there is any major which would be helpful to a prospective 18A? It's certainly possible that one's college major would have little bearing on performance as an officer. On the other hand, I would like to major in something that will be useful. I am very proficient academically and could major in almost anything. While a pure math major might be tough for me, I could get by in an engineering or science field. However, I am drawn more toward humanities courses. I am being heavily recruited by the History department here - they have an excellent deparment and history was my first love. I am also looking seriously at the Military Arts and Sciences major - while we certainly get plenty of exposure to the military lifestyle, in some respects our tactical education is somewhat lacking and the MA&S major would fill some of that gap. Right now I am leaning toward International Relations because it seems applicable, and it is flexible enough to allow me to draw from several other fields for electives. Still, there is an appeal in something like Human & Regional Geography, or Leadership from the Psychology department. I considered majoring in a language(s) but have been warned that this deparment is somewhat lacking - however, perhaps I should start early.

Have I ignored a good major? Am I thinking too much about this? Will any of these majors have any applicability to an officer, regardless of branch? Or do you wish there was someone that had guided your steps when you were in my position? To the team NCOs, would you feel your commander would be better prepared with a grounding in one of these fields? I am fast approaching the point where I have to make a decision. Essentially, I have this summer to ask any final questions from cadets and officers, and I have to declare soon after returning in the fall. I would greatly appreciate any guidance from anyone on this site. Thank you very much for your time. Respectfully,


NousDefionsDoc 05-22-2004 17:34

I can't and won't answer your question, but I wanted to say that is an outstanding post and an excellent question. Well done.

Razor 05-23-2004 16:25

Ross, if you don't mind I'll pass along my opinion. You hit it square on the nose when you said that your major won't play an important role in your performance as an officer. Whether you were a mech engineer or a philosopher won't make much difference when the time comes to lead your men. You have to be able to adapt to the current environment and quickly learn new skills required to get the job done, regardless of your college background.

I kicked around the same questions when I was in your shoes, and here's the line of reasoning I used to make my choice.

First, pick something you enjoy studying (and can manage to pass). That makes the hours you'll spend pouring over the subject a little less painful, and your TEEs a bit less traumatic.

Second, your job as an officer (as you probably already know) will be heavily involved in planning. Fate is a fickle bitch, and there's no guarantee you'll end up doing what you want to do in life, so start using your planning skills now. If for whatever reason you end up getting out of the Army far earlier than you intended, what is your alternate plan for life? What type of job would Mr. Ross (vice LT Ross) want to do? You can use the ideas that question generates, in conjuction with finding a subject you enjoy, to pick a good major.

As it turns out, I'm glad I chose the path I did, based upon the above criteria (with more emphasis on #2).

Good luck, and try to avoid earning your STAP star. ;)

NousDefionsDoc 05-23-2004 17:31

Outstanding advice Brother Razor, as always. Just what I was going to say, but since I ain't a college boy...

Razor 05-23-2004 17:49

And look, I didn't use a lick of French in the entire post. ;)

NousDefionsDoc 05-23-2004 17:56

Yeah, but you said "French" and "lick" in the same sentence. LOL

The Reaper 05-23-2004 18:03

Great post, Razor, as usual.

I would also add that you look at a major that will let you take a primary branch that you enjoy, in case the SF thing doesn't work out.

As an AD officer, because of timing you will only get one shot at SFAS. As we have way more officers applying than we need right now, you could complete SFAS and still not be selected for SF Training.

Best of luck and hope that you make your goals a reality.


Razor 05-23-2004 18:31


Originally posted by NousDefionsDoc
Yeah, but you said "French" and "lick" in the same sentence. LOL
The ladies never complained. ;)

brownapple 05-23-2004 21:12

I have a BA and MA in History. I found it useful in my military service. On the other hand, there were times when I needed to know something about other disciplines and needed to research them. I have a good friend who was a industrial management major. Did fine, understood machines, and could run a forge and make knives and guns. Useful stuff. Another friend was a Poly Sci major. He had a pretty good grasp on how the political system worked whereever we found ourselves deployed.
The point is that no matter what your major, you will find ways to apply it to SF or you aren't the kind of Officer that SF needs.

A language major won't make you anymore fluent in a language than a minor or just taking language courses.

Take what you find interesting, what you enjoy. In the end, what is important is having that BA or BsC.

RossM240B 05-23-2004 21:44


Thanks to you all for your input. I had a feeling that I was worrying a little too much about this whole thing. I'll try to focus more on the immediate goals (ie. getting a commission) before I worry about what may or may not happen years down the line. And many thanks for creating and maintaining such an awesome site - every time I come here I learn something new. Back to lurking. Very respectfully,


Team Sergeant 05-23-2004 21:48


One sign of a good SF officer is to know when to ask a question.
Good luck on your endeavor.

Team Sergeant

(BTW, Tell the Special Forces Master Sergeant (MSG W) assigned there at West Point to get his butt on here ( Tell him his brother was just here at my house eating me out of house and home!)

RossM240B 05-23-2004 22:01

Sergeant Major,

If I've promoted you I apologize, but I figured it was a lot better than demoting you. I'm on pretty good terms with MSG W, and I'll be sure to let him know about this site sometime this week. I get up to his office a good bit, so I'll get this message to him in person. It's a shame he won't be here next year, but he seems happy, which is all that matters. Respectfully,


Team Sergeant 05-23-2004 22:04

No Ross, I'm a retired Master Sergeant.(E-8)

Tell the MSG we'll be waiting for him.

(BTW, his brother is retired Special Forces.)

Team Sergeant

DanUCSB 05-23-2004 22:39

While I am not SF-qualified (yet!), I am a soldier, and more cogently, currently also a university student. As for majors, while there is no 'best' one, I do believe that there are some that are better than others. If you're inclined to the humanities, then history is the king. Humans don't change--the same fears, desires, and motivations that have existed down through the centuries will continue to take place into the future. And the best way that we, as humans, have to understand the future, is to understand the past. For sciences, I'd say economics... economics is the master science that goes a -long- way in explaining just about everything that goes on in this world, from political science to international affairs to business.

The most important thing, however, is choosing something that you will enjoy. The future is always uncertain: you could get stuck in the regular Army, for instance, or find yourself not in the Army at all; even if you do serve out until retirement, you've still got decades of life left afterwards. So the key is doing something that you love. I know it's a cliche, but it's true: if you find a job you love, you'll never work again.

McKagan13 05-24-2004 09:41

well, I have no military affiliation...
just trying to get into OCS now since I just graduated the other day. But, hopefully I won't step on the any feet or be outta my league by posting this. But, from what I understand, there is no single "better" major for any branch or military career. There is only a "better" major for the individual seeking a military career, if that make any sense. In the end, from speaking to a few 18A's, it doesn't seem your major in college has much influence on your military career. Instead, what it depends on is your actual performance which for an O entails leadership abilities number one.

But, I can give a little insight from an engineering standpoint. I just graduated with a degree in Mech. Engineering. I personally believe that by having a degree in engineering will help me out if I make it into the Army as an O over others who have a degree in say liberal arts. If you ask any engineer, no matter what their personal field is what they are first, they all say "a problem solver." That is the main skill that is taught to us in school, to solve problems in a capacity that I never thought I could, and as a result coming up with the most efficient, optimal solution possible. Opposed to other majors where someone has to study or memorize cuorse material, as an engineer you are training to solve problems. I would imagine this will help me quite substantially if/when I get accepted to OCS.

But again, coming from a non-military associated stand point, I would think that you should choose your major based on what your personal interest are, and what you think you would like to do down the road outside the realm of the Army.

Sorry if I crossed my border, just wanted to give a little insight to the main aspect of engineering.

Good luck at West Point. Wonder if you know a senior cadet EJ? Wont say last name, would assume there to not be too many EJ's at WP.


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