08/30/2011 10:53 pm ET | Updated Oct 30, 2011

A Pairing of Television & College Majors

By Jenn Pedde
University of Southern California

What did you want to be when you were younger? Most of us wanted to be doctors, nurses, or teachers because those were the professions in our childhood stories, or some of the first careers we can remember hearing about. Once we got a little older and started watching more cartoons, maybe those dreams changed to something like a pilot, farmer, or astronaut. If you're anything like me, maybe you wanted to just be a billionaire like Scrooge McDuck in Duck Tales.


I know I wasn't the only one influenced by television characters, so in thinking about what TV shows would best correlate with your average college major, I've put together a list of paired professions and their silver screen counterparts.

Major: Political Science
TV Show: The West Wing

In many ways, you can learn more about the ins and outs of Washington merely by watching this Aaron Sorkin classic than you can by taking Poli-Sci 101. True-to-life scenarios including budget battles, wartime decisions, election campaigns and Supreme Court appointments make The West Wing the consummate and authoritative D.C. politics show. Martin Sheen is convincingly presidential as Commander in Chief Josiah Bartlett, but the show is elevated by the cast of characters that surround him and make up his team of closest advisors and his cabinet. The break-neck speed of politics in D.C. is reflected by the unique style of walk-and-talk scenes made famous by the show.

Political Science majors who hope to one day work in the west wing (maybe even in the Oval Office) should jump feet first into this series, a captivating drama with a credible and impressive political focus.

Major: Sociology, Criminology
TV Show: The Wire

Sociology is the study of society, and The Wire offers a look into one of the most fascinating and terrifying segments of American society. Set in modern-day Baltimore, The Wire chronicles the rise and fall of drug lords, the perilous tribulations of the police force, the bureaucracy and hypocrisy of City Hall and the everyday life of the city's youth. However, it is in how all these factors intertwine and influence one another that the beautiful terror of the society unfolds.

The characters become much more than their "occupations" suggest and we are able to see them as people and not just as cops, criminals or crooked politicians. The structural stagnancy of a city that neither its government, nor its police force, nor its school system can alleviate is as fascinating as it is upsetting as it is educational and should be on the must-watch list for any student pursuing a degree in sociology.

Major: Business
TV Show: Shark Tank

ABC's Shark Tank features entrepreneurial hopefuls pitching their ideas to a panel of "sharks," which are business moguls with money that they are willing to invest if the contestant presents an attractive idea. Business majors who intend to pilot startups will need to attract investors to their businesses and Shark Tank gives a raw account of how brutal that process can be.

Sometimes the sharks will recognize a profitable idea in the contestant's pitch and will compete by making attractive offers to the entrepreneur. More often than not, however, the sharks will dash the hopes of the contestant and either refuse to make an investment at all or make a proposal that would effectively hand over control of the startup company from the contestant to the shark (a highly undesirable deal for the entrepreneur). Watching this show not only provides tips for getting investors, it's reality entertainment at its best -- when money is on the line. A great real world example of business at work.

Major: Social Work
TV Show: In Treatment

The American version of a highly acclaimed Israeli program, In Treatment is an HBO series that invites the audience into therapy sessions with an array of complex and complicated characters and their therapist, Dr. Paul Weston, the series' main character. The doctor presides over the meetings with his patients that range from a traumatized war veteran to a suicidal teenage gymnast. The hour-long installments focus on one client per episode, giving the program a distinctly true feeling. Nothing is rushed, nothing seems forced; instead, we are given a veritable reconstruction of what many therapy sessions are truly like. Social Work majors can learn a great deal about the patient-counselor relationship from In Treatment, while the rest of us can enjoy what is truly television drama of the highest order.

Major: Nursing
TV Show: Grey's Anatomy

The throne that was once inhibited by NBC's ER has been abdicated to the extremely popular ABC medi-drama, Grey's Anatomy. Many aspiring nurses fantasize about working in hospitals much like the one featured in Grey's -- a constantly bustling, high-energy workplace with a confounding number of attractive attendants and doctors. Aside from the saccharine story lines about workplace relationships, the show enthralls its viewers with medical incidents that make the heart race while simultaneously pulling on its strings. The cast of characters is as wide and varied as a hospital is hectic, and doctors play as big and influential a role as their supporting cast. Indeed, nurses are in high demand in the show and often make the crucial medical decisions that save a patient's life. Students in nursing license programs might try to emulate the characters on this hit show, as they fill the vast number of nursing positions that have begun to open up across the country.

This post is written by Jenn Pedde who is the community manager for the Master in Social Work program at the University of Southern California, one of the top ten ranked MSW degrees in the country by "U.S. News & World Report". She's an avid traveler and loves photography.

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