Career Advice

Major Considerations When Choosing A Major For Today's College Student

With the high cost of tuition, students cannot afford to take lightly the decision surrounding choosing a major.  While job seekers do not always develop a career based upon exactly what they study in school, the days when you could major in liberal arts and get a reasonable job straight out of college are over.  The exorbitant cost of a bachelor’s degree, which often includes a fair amount of student debt, is forcing students to take a closer look at the monetary value their education will bring.

In assessing the potential majors, it cannot be all about money.  Students must strike a balance between what excites them personally and what will realistically yield a lucrative career.  Someone who is passionate about elementary education, for example, cannot force themselves to be a financial guru on Wall Street. 

According to a Wall Street Journal article by Mary Pilon, those who have completed college, even in difficult economic times, typically earn more than their counterparts who only have a high school education; but the actual income earned after expenses isn’t as lucrative as it once was. This does not mean you should not go to college!

It means that you need to do your homework before going to college.  Consider the projections of various careers that are published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, talk to career experts, and look at your options given your interests, with an eye toward what will bring in the big bucks. 

Don’t make the false assumption that going to an Ivy League school will be worth the extra expense either. Forbes recently published their list of America’s Top Colleges. Guess what? “The Ivy’s,” as they are affectionately known, did not always make the grade due to economic considerations.

According to a study conducted last year by the College Board, a non-profit agency, the annual cost of an in-state college averaged $16K when factoring in housing and other expenses; on the flip side, a private college can run you nearly $37K. The Ivy Leagues can cost upwards of $50K. With an extra $21-34K in your pocket, you could buy a lot of practical training in addition to a four year degree. You could even afford to do an unpaid internship to gain valuable career experience. 

What you major in can affect your income more than the prestige of your alma mater.  A recent groundbreaking study at Georgetown University analyzed 171 majors and determined that fields with almost no unemployment include geological engineering, military technology, and pharmacology.  Those fields that are in high demand can earn graduates up to 300% more than the fields that are flooded with candidates. Have a think on that when selecting the school and the major!

While the most lucrative fields tend to be in engineering, finance, and math-related industries, that does not mean that students who are not destined to be mathematicians can’t make a living. It just means you will have to assess the potential jobs within your area of interest more carefully to try to combine passion with some practicality when choosing a career path.