Business majors study less than others, survey shows

Business majors spend less time studying than other students, according to a new survey.


In the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement, St. Thomas was one of more than 600 colleges, universities and special administrations from the U.S. and Canada to provide data on students in different majors.

The survey found business majors spend fewer hours studying outside of class compared to students majoring in biology, English and psychology. Fifty-four percent of seniors majoring in business said they spent 11 or more hours per week studying outside class, compared to 58 percent of psychology majors, 69 percent of English majors and 71 percent of biology majors.

St. Thomas’ results will not be available until this summer, said Michael Cogan, director of institutional research and analysis. Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs Georgia Fisher said the percentage of St.Thomas business students studying more than 11 hours a week is probably higher.

“I look forward to seeing how our students did,” Fisher said. “I would think that for our business majors [the percent of students studying more than 11 hours a week] is going to be significantly higher.”

Barbara Gorski, program coordinator for Business 200, said St. Thomas business students spend a lot of time learning out in the field, and that could affect the amount of time spent studying.

“If you ask the average student, ‘How many hours do you study?’ does that get defined in their mind as a solitary act of being with books studying?” she said. “So much of our curriculum is really set up around students doing work in groups, being out with a company and consulting with them.”

Business adviser Betsy Lofgren said although students from other majors study from textbooks, business students are evaluated differently.

“Business classes have more projects, or not as many tests, compared to a psychology class or a science class maybe where they’re actually studying by reading a book,” she said.

Sophomore business major Kristen Wise said the amount of time business students study depends on the class.

“A lot of things in business are just common sense, like management is just common knowledge,” Wise said. “But for accounting, or a business class that’s difficult, people study more.”

Business: a default major?

Critics of the survey have said some business majors are not spending as much time studying compared with students in other majors because they chose business as a “default major.” Often thought to be a major that will guarantee a job after graduation, business attracts students who are not sure if they are interested in the field but want to secure employment, according to some critics.

Lofgren said some parents pressure their students to study business but cannot imagine a student defaulting to the major.

“We sometimes see students whose parents really push them to do business, because the parents are so interested in them in being able to find a job,” Lofgren said. “But I can’t imagine anyone just defaulting to something like accounting or finance.”

Business adviser Jean Gabler said many prospective students want to attend St. Thomas because of its business program.

“There are many prospective students who we see that are coming in intending to major in business,” Gabler said. “So certainly there are a large number of students who chose St. Thomas because of our business program and know that it wasn’t their default.”

But senior Laura Becker, a business major and a student worker in Academic Counseling, said this may not always be the case.

“I’ve seen students come in looking for advice who use business as a default major all the time,” Becker said. “They’ll say ‘I either want to major in this, this or business,’ kind of as a last choice.”

Work overload

According to the study, another reason business students are studying less is because more have jobs compared to other majors. The survey found 54 percent of seniors majoring in business worked more than 10 hours per week at an off-campus job. This was the highest percentage of working students in any major.

Fisher said she’s concerned with how much students are working.

“I don’t think it’s just business students, but one concern that we have is that our students are working a significant amount of time to be able to afford to be at St. Thomas,” Fisher said. “It’s one of the things that I hear from the business faculty.”

Management professor Phillip Anderson said there is more pressure on students to balance work and studying than ever before.

“Students are balancing their school demands, work demands and social desires,” Anderson said. “I think there are more demands on students’ time now than there were 30 years ago. I think all majors study less outside of class than what was expected back then. You were a full-time student and that’s all you had to do and you didn’t work at all. It was a whole different kind of environment.”

Senior and business major Marcy Warren said business students are expected to work to get “real-world experience.”

“From what I know of being a business student with full classes and an internship, it seems that it is expected we have a job or internship for the work field experience so we are able to draw from those jobs and opportunities to enhance our understanding of the workforce,” she said.

Despite the survey’s findings, Fisher said, business students are developing qualities that are attractive to potential employers.

“When we talk to [employers in] the business community, they’re looking for students with written and oral communication skills, good analytic skills and the ability to work with other people on a project,” Fisher said. “So that’s what we’re teaching our students, and we’ve been doing that for the last 15 years because that’s what [members of] the business community want since they’re hiring our students.”

Anderson said some companies, including Best Buy and Target, look to specifically hire St. Thomas business students.

“They like the skills that the students come in with,” he said.

Cynthia Johnson can be reached at

9 Replies to “Business majors study less than others, survey shows”

  1. I’m sorry… but duh. Sciences require more work b/c they are going into fields that require more schooling traditionally. Not only are they preparing for their next Professional program often, but also are required to typically have a wider knowledge-base for those science/math/engineering programs/professions. In addition – St. Thomas was 1 of 600 institutions responding… I’d be interested to see which schools these are. Internships are considered more relevant experience often times than textbooks. I think that if you did your survey again – you would find that internships are also very indicative of how students are placed in positions. St. Thomas has a five year average of 97% of students obtaining positions within 6 months of graduation – maybe they didn’t study as much as science majors – but they more likely had more real-world experience. If you equate that into the amount of hours spent “working towards betterment in education”… I think your story would be perhaps more successful and indicative of what UST students are doing…. succeeding.  

    As an add’l note.. as a St. Thomas Journalism alum – TommieMedia needs to do a better job at unbiasing stories & research before reporting. Also – try to promote the education rather than simply going for…

  2. I think something has to be said about the work that these students put in at internships and other part time employment. I am not a business major myself, but I have to say that I know that these kids are learning outside the classroom in real life situations. 

    Sure they may not have to sit down and study as the rest of us do, but they put in more hours in the field learning how business works in real life situations. I have to say that the entire point is being missed if this study is only looking at hours spent in the library, when many students are learning out in the real world. 

  3. I think that the point about buisness majors having to work and have internships is only mildly relevant here. Business majors are not the only students who complete internships or have jobs. As a former education major, I held down two jobs, four (sometimes five) courses, and have to complete a thirty hour field experience. Many business majors may be able to have their job and internship collide; others do not, and do work extra as well. The majority seem to be able to regularly take only three courses per semester, a luxury not afforded by many. I just think that business majors are the only ones who get “credit” for jobs and internships, while other majors have several components and requirements.

  4. I’m not sure if this was the case, but I think many business students may not always consider group work as “studying.” I’m a business major and I wouldn’t even think to put my group projects into the category of studying. As the article points out, students often think of “studying” as sitting down at a desk and reading a textbook. However, for business students (and for other majors as well) a big portion of the curriculum is group projects, some of which take up the whole semester. I think something should be said for the amount of work business students put into group projects. Personally, I have at least 3 group projects every semester, and I can’t even count the number of hours I’ve spent on these projects. So yes, the fact that business majors spend less time studying actual textbooks is probably true. That’s just the way things are. However, I feel that this article displays business majors as lazy and unstudious which is definitely not the case. We just tend to spend most of our time doing hands on projects, internships, and other activities that will help us in the actual business world. Let’s be a little less bias when we write articles about specific majors, TommieMedia. Business students at St. Thomas work hard for their degree just like other students at…

  5. “Let’s be a little less bias when we write articles about specific majors, TommieMedia”
    Considering the article went well out of its way to explain the discrepancy in a positive light and that the article specifically mentioned several of the ideas from your comment, I assume you read only the title before posting.

    No, Tommie Media is not bias. Their reporters (on top of being full time students) hardly have the time to write these articles, let alone purposely skew them to fulfill some evil plot. 

  6. Interesting article. I wonder if the concerns cited aren’t related to the survey itself, but the analysis of the results. 11+ shows that Business is the lowest on average – what if all Buinsess students selected 10 hours from the questionnaire, whereas the range/spread of data for the other subjects was much more viable? What’s needed is a proper analysis of the data — are the raw results available to look at?

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