Unless your graduate program or career requires occupation-specific skills, your major isn’t that important.
Stressed about choosing your major? It might not be as important as you think.
One of the most difficult decisions college students face is choosing the right major. Even with general education and liberal arts degrees that provide skill sets suited to a wide range of employer needs, the idea that you must choose your life-long career while earning your undergraduate degree can be daunting.
Only 55% of college graduates find jobs matching their fields of study, according to a 2006study by John Robst of the University of South Florida. The majority of this 55% are majors in technical and hard-science-related fields, such as engineering and computer science, and occupation-specific skills for growing job markets such as health professions and education. The remaining 25% ended up in jobs partially relating to their majors and 20% were employed in jobs completely unrelated to their majors. The study explains that “majors with the highest prevalence rates [of mismatch] include English and foreign languages, social sciences and liberal arts [because] these majors provide more general skills than occupation specific skills.”
Being a real go-getter can change any major into the best possible choice. A discussion of this topic on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” illustrated that there are two sides to the issue. Some highly focused students have used their college years to build an experience and knowledge portfolio that set up their desired careers right after graduation. For example, Will Shortz designed his own major in enigmatology and became the puzzle editor and WEEKEND EDITION Sunday puzzlemaster for The New York Times. Others view their college education as a way to enrich their analytical thinking, social skills and personal interests that they could continue as hobbies. They can then be effective in any number of jobs not related to their majors (the old-fashioned liberal arts approach). One of the callers to the program was a pharmacist that majored in linguistics, and she believed it made her happier and better at her job.
In my own family, there’s a psychology major who became a truck driver (then a technical writer), a social science major who became a nurse and an informatics and multicultural issues major who has had various managerial and design-related jobs at tech corporations.
What you should be asking yourself is what you want to do, and which of your experiences can correlate to the job or graduate program for which you are applying. You will most likely use a great deal of what you learned in college in whatever post-collegiate career you choose. Think of the famous example of Steve Jobs and the calligraphy class he took in college that influenced his font creation.
Unless you are applying for a job or graduate program that requires specific technical or scientific skills, it really doesn’t matter what you choose as your college major. There is plenty of research to help you choose a major based solely upon expected earnings, but will the money buy you happiness?
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