This way or that? Image: Thinkstock
The only debate that has been running longer than the chicken and the egg debate is the Arts vs Science one. Which one should one pick, why, what are the prospects — the factors to consider are endless. Yet at the end of it all the primary question is which stream guarantees success?
Fortunately, the final question doesn't have an answer. I say fortunately because that means there is no right or wrong choice here. Yet, if you are one of those defiant kids who feel passionate about Arts and are willing to say goodbye to your folks' engineering or medical dreams for you, you have to be prepared for a few roadblocks along the way. Here's a roadmap to peace of mind.
Arts is for the weak-hearted
And somehow choosing Science makes you Napoleon? Jokes apart, be prepared to hear such (ridiculous) accusations the moment you express your inclination towards Arts. It can come from your parents or extended family members, or even nosy neighbours. Just ignore the latter two, but if it's your parents, sit them down for a chat. "Most of the time in situations like this, it is the parents who need counseling rather than the student," says Somdev Mukherjee, training head and counsellor, Techno India NJR Institute of Technology, Udaipur.
"There are various reasons why a parent may dismiss Arts as a viable career option — the idea that one will be restricted to only academics, which means they will earn less than an engineer or doctor is primary. However, there is a bunch of lucrative careers options to pick from — digital media and broadcast, corporate communications, research, law, management, etc — the opportunities are endless. And in a lot of cases, the salary structure is at par with Science students," he adds.
Arts is for stupid people
Parental and societal pressure aside, peer pressure and its adverse effects should also be taken into consideration. "One of two friends picks Science and the other Arts, and there's a striking possibility that the one who picked Science considers the other stupid. A lot of times, friendships break at this juncture, and it doesn't really get easier. The higher you move academically, the more difficult it is to score higher percentages in Humanities, while your friend in Science may be able to clock an 80 percentile," says Mukherjee.
Does that mean he or she is smarter than me? Absolutely not. "It's important to remember that the marking system of every subject is different. English will always fetch fewer marks than Mathematics, but Economics will score higher than English. Don't let the marking disparity get to you."
So Arts for now, and MBA eventually, right?
Remember Mr Pricetag from 3 Idiots? "Engineering kiya, MBA ki, ab bank mein naukri kar raha hai." Okay, not a bank technically, but he definitely deviated a bit from his initial career choice when he moved to investment banking. So the point here is it doesn't matter what you start off with but what you end up with. "A lot of students eventually move to MBA after graduating in Arts, and that is okay if that's what they really want. Even if you don't change later and stick to the stream that is fine, too. If the goal is really just a secured job that pays well, there are plenty of roads that lead there. And just because your neighbour's son opted for MBA doesn't make it a gospel," adds Mukherjee.
What about the marriage market?
Humanities is often considered the bench, you know just how footballers wait on the bench to be called to the field, it's assumed girls take up Humanities to tide time till they are married off. As ridiculous as that may sound, it gets worse for boys. "Boys are pressured into taking Science because apparently if they pick Arts their value will diminish in the marriage market. I've had parents come and tell me to convince their son into Science for this reason. My only advice to boys and girls who're facing a similar threat is to not encourage this notion. I'm not saying wage a war but the only way to change this regressive thought is to stand up against it as early as possible. Build your career and everything else in life will follow," adds Mukherjee.
Can Humanities guarantee you a successful career?
No. Can Science? "Two examples: First, an ICSE 6 pointer in Science picked Arts in 11th standard and went to become a lawyer. She now has her own firm. Second, an engineer after working with a tech giant for almost a decade gave up a corporate career and the pay cheque to become a professor teaching engineering students. He is thriving in his new role. Hence, instead of planning a career that will earn you the fattest pay cheque, opt for something that will make you happy," says Mukherjee. And that is truly all we need to know, don't we?