Written by: Sarah Miller for Student Choice
It can be a daunting decision to finalize your college major. What if you aren’t successful or don’t like the classes? What if you change your mind? (That’s ok – just try not to do it more than once!) You may also be wondering what the job outlook is for your industry, or how much money you could make. You should consider all of these factors in your decision, and of course one other very important question: are you pursuing something you’ll enjoy for years to come?
What’s It’s Worth – Today and Tomorrow
Majors in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields continue to be wise choices. When Forbes shared the highest paying college majors in 2013 and 2014, engineering and technology-based jobs were at the top of the list. According to the 2013 article STEM jobs were growing 60% faster than other industries and offered more competitive salaries. In other words, if you major in a STEM field you’re more likely to find a job when you graduate and you’ll bring home a nice paycheck as well.
If the idea of a science major leaves you running the opposite direction from the lab, all is not lost. Students who choose to major in a liberal arts field may not find short-term rewards but will enjoy greater earnings down the road. Graduates in the humanities are more likely to pursue an advanced degree which can result in a significantly higher salary.
It’s Not All About Money
While money is important, it isn’t everything. Remember to focus on your strengths and passions in when your choosing a major. If you hate math, odds are you’ll be miserable as an engineer. Or if you hate writing essays, an English major probably isn’t the best choice. If you’re interested in an area with a lower job placement rate, you could shift that area to a minor instead (perhaps majoring in business with a minor in dance). You’ll still be able to explore a field you love, but you’ll have the foundation for another career if you need it. What if you’re still stumped and have no idea which direction to go?
Career inventory surveys from your high school or college career center could be helpful. You can also visit different departments and speak with professors to find out more about programs and jobs in their fields. They may even be able to set up job shadowing opportunities with alumni. Most colleges also offer excellent advising opportunities to help you figure out what’s right for you before you spend four years pursuing your degree in a field you may not enjoy.
Is That Your Final Answer?
Remember, while it’s important to choose a college major that will bring you happiness and success, there’s a good chance you’ll still end up working outside your field of study. A 2013 Washington Post article reported that only 27% of college graduates were employed in a field related to their major.
Many jobs simply require “an associate’s degree” or “a bachelor’s degree” without specifying what the degree must be in (some exceptions may include those specialized technology jobs we mentioned or education). In other words, don’t get so hung up on picking a major that you switch it five times and end up burnt out in six years – with no degree to show for your time in college.
Three steps to remember:
- Choose a major based on your skills and enjoyment.
- Make sure there is a decent market for those skills.
- Get a degree.