Does Your Major Matter?
Does your major matter? Well, it depends.
On the one hand, CollegeGrad.Com conducted an online survey, and found that 44% of responding employers ranked a student’s major as the most important factor for job consideration. On the other hand, that information isn’t scientific; it’s based on an informal poll. Your degree could affect your ability to find employment, and will definitely impact your earning potential. A study in the journal Economics of Education Review showed that 55% of recent grads find jobs that reflect their major. Today’s engineering grads make a median of $55,000, while less specific arts and humanities post-grads earn $25,000 less.
My #1 piece of educational advice on the topic? If you aren’t completely sure what to do with your life, take your time deciding. If you feel compelled to decide today (for whatever reason), choose something that you’re interested in, talented at, and that teaches a skill. If you have to choose today, choose a major that correlates to a burgeoning real-world market. Be future-oriented.
When Your Major Matters
- Industry-Specific Majors: If you know what you want to do, go and do exactly that. Engineering, business, and pre-med students should begin planning as early as possible for their future careers. Many college majors provide not only necessary coursework, but a roadmap into the industry. If you want to be an engineer, a computer scientist, a nurse, a psychologist, or an accountant — major in it.
- Trade School: Similar to directed four-year degrees, a two-year associates degree or a vocational degree can be crucial for future career success. If you’ve worked in HVAC for several years, for example, and you’re ready to run largescale jobs or a crew of service technicians, don’t bother getting a certificate in plumbing. If you’ve already got a career to think about, make sure that your studies are directed, and focus on getting real-world results.
- Salary: If your focus is only on salary, you might want to rethink your educational priorities. If, however, getting a large paycheck is your only motivation to education, stick with degrees that teach technical skills and look for jobs that utilize them. Computer science, business, and medicine are great places to start if you’ve got your mind on the money (and the money on your mind). Engineering, physics, and mathematics degrees net the highest salaries, while drama, social work, and religion majors fare the worst.
When Your Major Doesn’t Matter
- Graduate School: When applying to graduate schools, your undergraduate major doesn’t always matter. It is crucial that you have a bachelor’s degree, but — as long as you meet your prospective school’s requirements — your major is less important. Your GRE scores and ability to succeed in the program are more paramount to a graduate school’s admissions council. Do be certain that you have some experience in the field (whether through college courses or job experience), as you should be absolutely sure that you’ve chosen the right path.
- Work Experience: Did your college job prepare you more for the real world than your college courses? Have you successfully participated in the workforce for several years? If you’ve got good jobs, experience, and internships under your belt, your major may not be that important. If your education provided you even one decent “in” to your dream field, consider yourself lucky (and your tuition worth it).
- You Were At The Top (or Bottom) of Your Class: If you made top marks at your university, your major matters much less than if you were an average student. Put your GPA on your résumé for at least five years after graduating from college.Conversely, if you were at the bottom of your class, consider leaving both your major and your GPA off of your professional résumé. Focus instead on your extra-curricular activities and work experience, and be prepared to have to prove yourself on the job from day one. You can get and keep a good job, you’ll just have to put in the extra time and energy to succeed if you’re not particularly gifted and/or disciplined.
Study Hacks: Does Your College Major Matter?
The Chronicle of Higher Education: What’s a Degree Worth? Report
USA Today: When Choosing a College, Does Major Matter?
Life Without Pants: Does College Matter After You Graduate?
StateUniversity.Com: College Majors: Do They Really Matter?
The College Investor: Your College Major Doesn’t Matter…Unless…