Friday, April 19, 2024

College major does not define future

College is a place where many of us find ourselves and begin to gravitate toward a particular field of study. Those students who didn’t declare a major going into freshman year likely did so within a year or two. And those who did have a major, may have changed it.

It’s fine to make adjustments if you realize you’re not clicking with what you’re studying. But, prolonging your college stay because you’ve persuaded yourself that your major is useless is not fine.

For some students, the problem may not be with choosing their major, but with their academic success in their field of study.

According to a recent New York Times article, slightly less than half of the nation’s students graduate in four years. When given two more years to get the job done, the percentage rises to only about 60 percent, which then brings the burden of additional tuition.

For students whose grades aren’t an issue, settling on a major might be. Although, your major doesn’t solidify where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing post-graduation. However, there are few exceptions. Occupations in engineering, computer science and other fields do require certain skills acquired from studying them in college. But in most instances, that’s not the case.

A 2013 Liberty Street Economics study found that 62 percent of recent college graduates are working in jobs that require a degree, yet only 27 percent of college graduates are working in a job that relates to their major.

Journalist and ABC World News anchor David Muir said that the commonality among the people he works with is that: “We all majored in what we were interested in. The curiosity and the willingness to adapt are more important than what the degree is in.”

What’s essential during your college career to help ensure your future employment is that you mature and gain practical work experience. Involving yourself in clubs and groups surely doesn’t hurt either.

Jeffrey Selingo, editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education, said hiring managers complain that they find today’s college graduates lacking in interpersonal skills, problem solving, effective written and oral communication skills, the ability to work in teams and critical and analytical thinking. Selingo recommends seeking out passionate and engaged professors in order to gain more from your college experience. He also advises working on a major research project and going on a transformative global experience.

In a yearlong study, PayScale Inc., an online provider of global compensation data, surveyed 1.2 million bachelor’s degree graduates with a minimum of 10 years of work experience. The study found that liberal arts school graduates’ median total compensation grew by 95 percent after about 10 years, from $45,747 to $89,379. It also said history majors who pursued careers in business consulting earned a median total compensation of $104,000. Meaning you don’t necessarily have to study business to be a consultant, and you don’t have to study English to be a writer.

“With a liberal arts degree, it’s what you make of it,” Al Lee, director of qualitative analysis at PayScale said.

It may sound like he’s stating the obvious, but too often we students forget that. We’re prone to scaring ourselves into believing we’re wasting our time and that we won’t find careers after we graduate. Abandon that mentality and divert your focus toward excelling at college and enjoying the experience. Work diligently in the present to secure a rewarding future after graduation.

And remind yourself that you decide the worth of your degree, not the other way around.

Email Steve Levy at

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