ISYE vs. Business: two sides to the same coin?

Photo courtesy of Jason Juang, Student Publications

In my first few months at Tech, I found myself in a position not uncommon for many students—choosing my major. Specifically, I was debating the merits of two great majors, business and industrial engineering (ISYE), and what impact they would have on my future career. The stress of my indecision wore on me, and every time I saw a brochure or email advertising the benefits of either major, I felt another weight added to the growing anchor of my concerns.

To an impressionable freshman, the two seemed identical. A seemingly fruitless meeting with an ISYE alumni bore one memorable statement, “I’m basically a business major except I can say that I’m also an engineer”.

None of the information that I gathered was helpful and the impressions that I gained felt like ISYE was a more advanced and successful version of Scheller. The process of debating either major was extremely drawn out. I whined to my advisor, scrolled aimlessly through LinkedIn, and panicked to my friends who were probably equally panicked.

From a course perspective, industrial engineering leans far more into the sciences, with math requirements including Discrete Mathematics, Physics 1 and 2, and another pair of sequential lab sciences. Conversely, business provides a broader course selection with math requirements up to Linear Algebra and only 2 lab sciences.

The decrease in STEM requirements allows Scheller students to take general management classes such as Foundations of Strategy and Technical Communication. Unsurprisingly, industrial engineering and business share few classes past the general curriculum besides Accounting 1.

While there are students who fervently align themselves with the strengths of industrial engineering, the theoretical learning of process improvement, statistics, and data modeling, I found the curriculum to be overwhelming for someone who didn’t immediately engage with those topics.

I found business to be much more welcoming to a student who didn’t particularly enjoy math. The requirements of Discrete Math were not in my future career goals of consulting, info technology, and pre law.

Granted, math will have a place in my future, but I don’t think I will use the level of mathematics that IE prepares its students for. A majority of the ISYE curriculum hinges on completing ISYE 2027, the gate way into the rest of the ISYE curriculum; business majors face no such gatekeeping through its curriculum.

Business’s biggest pull, its wide flexibility, was also what drew me to Scheller’s curriculum. While I can enroll in classes that introduce me to a multitude of business related topics, I also can explore more classes in my Pre-Law track where I could take classes such as Intro to Social Justice without worrying about falling behind in my major.

A notable shortcoming of business is its lack of exposure to computer science in its general requirements whereas Industrial Engineers are required to enroll in computer science courses such as CS 2316 and 4400. However, business students who are still interested in obtaining a CS related competitive advantage can concentrate their major in Information Technology Management and get certificates in Business Analytics.

This allows business majors to stay competitive with their IE counterparts while having the same business major “flexibility”.

For the foreseeable future, I will be staying in Scheller as a business major, and I will continue to explore the topics that pique my interests. IE and business, as close as they seem, are not the same.

The breadth of business allows Scheller students to explore fields that might not be as accessible to IE majors, but it still lacks the depth that Industrial Engineering students are able to reach through their highly analytical curriculum. There are merits to each major, but I found it most helpful to think about my future goals and how much math was required to get there.