If you are heading off to college in a few days, or you have a child who is going, you're probably concerned about majors. Just what should you (or your child--but it's really not mom and dad's decision) study to be successful? I asked some CEOs and Founders what they studied in school. Maybe their successes will help you determine what is right for you.

English and Art History

My first major was business management, but I transferred to art history and English. Looking at art helped me interpret the world. Majoring in English made me a strong writer. Together, they made me come alive.

In graduate school, I studied city planning. When I started my business, I lamented the fact that I transferred out of business school. But the truth is, I wasn't ready for management at 19. My path has been about finding what I love, and voraciously acquiring knowledge and experience. Today, I've circled back to study business leadership, so I can build a better firm.

Tanya Mooza Zwahlen, AICP is Principal and Owner of Highland Planning LLC in Rochester, New York.

Accounting

I originally set out to study marketing, but one day in my accounting 101 class (actually dropped accounting 101 two previous times) we had a visitor from the FBI. After hearing him talk, I was set on being an FBI agent specializing in forensic accounting. He told me that a degree in accounting or finance was what the FBI was looking for, so I changed majors.

Well, that dream fizzled but another prospered. I realized that wherever my career took me, every business needs accounting, numbers, analysis. It the meat and potatoes of every business. If anything it does not limit me to any specialized industry.

I have matched my skills in accounting, with my passion for technology and overall business operations/administration to shape my career and brand.

Quickly understanding all functions of internal client teams is a must. Accounting has given me the skills to spread my wings across all operations to understand their language, respond to their operation requirements and successfully lead their transitions during seasons of growth.

Chad Naphegyi, is President/Moveoligist, Relocation Strategies  in Philadelphia, PA.

Graphic Design

I studied Graphic Design, which essentially became Web Design by the time I graduated in 1999. The combination of learning to build Web pages coupled with the diversity of work I did at a creative agency helped me become "problem agnostic" while having the skills to develop digital solutions to business problems. When your career has you jumping from creating children's museum to e-commerce websites, you learn to not fear the unknown. I knew very little about the recruiting space and existing recruiting technologies when I started Jazz. That ignorance (in the true definition of the word) and a lack of fear greatly contributed to our early success.

Don Charlton, is the Founder, Jazz.co in Pittsburgh, PA.

Accounting, Psychology, Divinity, and Metaphysics

So, I am a CPA and work for myself (after about 10 years at Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Young). As a CPA, I'm sure it's no surprise that I majored in Economics and Accounting in undergrad. Not really another choice there! It was critical to my success in all my business ventures - from hot rod shops to crafting at the farmers market. I credit my dad for telling me that, no matter what I want to do in life, to take at least one accounting course. (He is a CEO.) He was SO right.

What you may find interesting is that my MS is in Psychology and my PhD is in Metaphysics (there is a Masters of Divinity with that). Believe it or not, they have really helped me in business. As a business professional/advisor I deal with people in crisis all the time. Being able to connect with them effectively and help return them to a peaceful, effective place is strongly supported by my graduate work. Furthermore, as every person is different, being able to customize my approach to each person is very helpful when it comes to delivering solutions that actually work!

I have even had people who called me for help with their taxes because of my psych degree. Very interesting.

Sheri Muntean, CPA, PhD, is the Founder Shamballa Centre, in Anacortes, WA.

Published on: Aug 18, 2016