Stressed about picking your major? Or feeling pressure to pick a major that’s “practical” or tied to a particular career? Here are five reasons why your major may not matter all that much:
1. Employers aren’t interested in what you think they’re interested in
Think your future boss is primarily interested in your major? Nope. Want proof?
A.) A 2013 study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93% of the employers surveyed believed that critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills were more important than a candidate’s undergraduate major.
B.) Author Zac Bissonette points out that “There is a disconnect between students’ perceptions of what employers want and what employers actually want. He cites an article in the Canadian HR Reporter, which claimed that, according to a survey by Toronto’s George Brown College, generation Y (aged 18 to 35) tended to believe employers are looking for experience, when in fact most employers found communication skills to be the most important skill for a candidate to possess. “So if your goal is to develop written and verbal communication skills,” writes Bissonette, “a finance major may not be the best bet.”
2. Medical Schools and Law Schools don’t really care about your major either
Forbes recently reported that, “according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), medical schools accepted 43 percent of the biological sciences majors, 47 percent of physical sciences majors, 51 percent of humanities majors, and 45 percent of social sciences majors who applied in 2010. “Admission committee members know that medical students can develop the essential skills of acquiring, synthesizing, applying and communicating information through a wide variety of academic disciplines,” the AAMC states.
According to the Forbes article:
The American Bar Association agrees: “The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline.” A study by a Chicago State University professor bears this out: the top ten majors with the highest acceptance rates for law school include philosophy, anthropology, history and English.
3. Majors don’t necessarily lead to careers
According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, only 27 percent of college grads work in a job related to their major.
And let’s face it, not everyone was meant to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. There are other options. That may be obvious on the surface, but if you’re getting pressure from your mom or dad to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer and you don’t deep down want to be one of those things, it may not feel like there are more than those three options. So I just wanted to remind you: there are more than three options. And, if you think about it, most people are not doctors, lawyers and engineers.
4. Your job may not exist yet
Here’s a list of ten jobs that didn’t exist ten years ago. The list includes app developer, sustainability expert, social media manager, and (one of my jobs) educational consultant. Who knows what new careers will exist in ten years? Maybe yours.
5. Your major won’t always define your pay
Here’s the one you didn’t expect. But check it out: a recent study by Payscale Inc. shows that “the subject you major in can have little to do with your long-term earning power.”
So when should you worry about your major (when does it matter)?
When your major does matter, says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career is “when it comes to your happiness and fulfillment in college.”
Here’s my advice: major in something that will allow you to study the things you love or think you might love. One added benefit of studying what you love is that it could help build self-esteem, since some evidence suggests that your self-esteem is not a measure of your general self-worth, but of how well you perform in the areas you care about. So why not get better at the stuff you care about? Who knows to what kind of work your passions might lead.
Want proof that your major doesn't lead to your career? Gregg Murray, Associate Director of College Counseling at Viewpoint School, has his students look up someone they admire on LinkedIn and see how ALMOST EVERY CAREER PATH IS RANDOM. Someone I admire is my friend Mignon (aka Grammar Girl), who used to be a science writer.
Want more tips for making the most of your college experience?
Click here for some great advice.