Major =/= Career
It makes logical sense for you to pick a college degree that you believe will directly lead to a career. After all, as the cost of education rises, you may think that it would be wise to choose a major that will have the most return on your expensive investment. Yet, it’s important to remember that choosing a major and a career are not the same processes. I’ll explain why soon.
While it’s true that college can prepare you for the workforce by teaching you valuable skills such as critical thinking and writing, it’s untrue, in most cases, that most majors prepare you for a specific career that you will follow for the rest of your life.
Of course, there are a few exceptions. If you want to be a nurse, you need a nursing degree. However, students tend to underestimate the diversity of college degrees that fills the workplace. Many engineering positions, for example, are filled with workers who have degrees in chemistry, physics, math, etc. Businesses are always looking for people with good communication skills, and workers with degrees like Communication Studies or Electronic Media and Communication are more than qualified to satisfy this demand.
Unfortunately, many students tell themselves, “Well, I don’t know what I could do with this major, so I probably shouldn’t do it.” If you were going to buy a house or car, you would research your best options, right? Well, the same principle applies here. If you don’t know what a particular major can do for you, find out! Every degree at Texas Tech can help you be successful after college.
Career Exploration and Major Exploration Are Different
While you are in college, you must answer two big questions. What do I want to major in? and What type of work would I most enjoy after graduation? They are not the same question because there is not always a direct link between your major and your career.
In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau found that 27% of college graduates had a job that was closely related to their major. This statistic does not devalue your college degree, nor does it necessarily indicate that there is a big labor-market problem. Rather, it could just mean that, while many jobs do require you to have a degree, those jobs will not require a specific field of study. This is good news for you because you can pick a major you actually want to do as opposed to picking something you feel like you have to do to be competitive.
In most cases, a major is not something that will teach you how to perform a specific job. Rather, a major is a field of academic inquiry and study that can provide you with soft skills like leadership, humility, and critical thinking that will prepare you for success in many different areas after college.
Choosing a major requires you to think for yourself about yourself. Making sense of your life means not just understanding who you are, but also where you are. What subject genuinely interests you the most? What area is the most FUN? I know this is school, but you can have fun in class if you want. And you’re more likely to have fun when you pick a major that you are excited about.
When choosing a career, you must consider much more than just what kind of classes you want to take (after all, you can’t make a living by taking college classes. Trust me. I’ve tried). For example, what kind of people do you like to be with? Do you prefer questions with answers, or questions that lead to more questions? Do you enjoy physical challenges? Do you like persuading people to change their minds? At the end of the day, is it important to you to see something physical and tangible that you made that day?
As with choosing a major, if you don’t know yourself, then it will be hard for you to find a fulfilling career.
No Degree Speaks for Itself
Employers hire and promote people based on the quality of their work and dedication. Productive and well-paid employees tend to be people enjoy their jobs. So if you’re forcing yourself to complete an accounting degree, for example, because you think that it will be a “guaranteed” job, then you might not be as competitive for those jobs as other people who have more passion for what they do (by the way, there’s no major that provides guaranteed work).
Many students choose majors that they believe will lead to high paying jobs. I have discussed the issues with this at length here. In short, majoring in an area you think will lead to a high paying job after college does not mean you will do well in that area or that you will enjoy the subject. It wouldn’t be wise to major in engineering, for example, if you don’t like math and science.
Again, you’re more likely to find success (and money) in a career for which you have passion and excitement. When you like what you do at your job, you’re more motivated to work hard and go the extra mile. This kind of work ethic is much more important than the title of your undergraduate degree. No college degree speaks for itself. Your college degree is worth as much as you are.
We spend so much time trying to predict how our lives will unfold, but it’s hard to do this because we can’t always predict how we will change over time. Were you the same person 5 or 6 years ago? Could you imagine what you would be doing now if you were forced to make all of your major life decisions at age 14?
We can’t always predict the events we will experience, the people we will meet, and the opportunities that will come to us. You will not be the same person when you graduate, but that’s okay. As your personality develops and changes, make certain that everything you do, whether it be in college or in your career, matches closely with your strengths, interests, values, and goals. You are more likely to be successful and HAPPY when you have pursuits that align with these four areas.