Does Your College Major Affect Your Career?
Choosing where to go to college is a major decision. There are many factors to consider, including the cost of tuition, distance from home, campus culture, and what you want to study.
If you’re already in college or in the midst of the application process, you’ve likely had someone ask ‘what do you plan to major in?’ Put simply, a major is a concentrated area of study, such as psychology or business, that a student specializes in through their college coursework. They may follow a set list of classes or offer various options and tracts for students to choose from.
It’s okay if you haven’t settled on a major just yet, as many colleges and programs don’t require students to declare their major right away. Still, thinking about what subjects you’re interested in can help narrow your search and find a major that aligns with your goals.
Your chosen major can also affect your job opportunities after graduation. Here are some key things to consider when picking your major that can help get you on the right track for your career path. Plus, we’ll share some of your answers to our #MoneyMonday Twitter sweepstakes question: What was your major and what is your career today?
What College Majors Are Available?
On one hand, a variety of choices means that there is a likely program suited for any interest. On the other hand, it can be overwhelming to pick from so many options and figure out which is best for your career.
There are hundreds of college majors offered by schools across the United States. Even for the same major, the required coursework may vary between different colleges. Many college department websites provide a course list with description, including electives and core classes that are needed to complete a major and graduate.
Choosing a Specialized or Broad Major
Certain college majors are directly aligned with a specific career path, while others cover a broader subject or discipline.
Many of the more career-aligned majors have the same name as the actual profession, such as accounting, nursing, engineering, and interior design. Such programs will often teach a combination of traditional classroom learning with hands-on skills that are directly related to the profession.
This isn’t to say that broader or more theoretical majors aren’t relevant to a career or valued by employers. Students in such programs can expect to develop their critical thinking and writing skills in addition to expertise in that subject area.
“I majored in Environmental Science and work in the engineering field today.” – @threefourpfeif
Does Your Major Affect Your Internship Chances?
Internships are an opportunity for students or recent graduates to gain experience with an organization or company through a short-term work assignment. Internships can be paid, counted for college course credit, or on a volunteer basis that can still be used on a resume.
Some colleges or specific majors may even require students complete an internship to graduate. In these cases, advisors might play a more active role in helping students secure an internship.
Ultimately, getting an internship depends on a candidate’s credentials and ability to sell their skills and interest in the position during an interview. However, your major could have influence on the likelihood of getting a paid internship.
The 25 highest paying internships in 2019 in 2019 were predominantly with tech, finance, and engineering companies. Majors related to these fields could be in a better position when it comes to finding well-paid internships.
Furthermore, a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) stated that 70.6% of returning interns were hired by the organization they worked for within a year. While trying out different fields and internships will expose you to more fields and careers, sticking with an internship can show commitment to an organization and help land a job.
“I majored in criminal justice and counseling …Today, I teach English as a Second Language.” – @natmmom
Which Majors Can Help Get a Job After Graduation?
Education is an investment of money, time, and hard work, so it’s very understandable that securing employment after graduation can be a factor in choosing a major. Finding a job that meets your financial and personal goals can require striking a balance between what you’re passionate about studying and the available job opportunities.
Keeping in mind that jobs can fluctuate over time between industries, LinkedIn reported the following careers as among the most in-demand positions in 2019 open to recent graduates.
• Software Engineer
• Registered Nurse
Yet, your chosen major may not be the only factor employers consider in the hiring process.
According to a Boise State University survey, more than 92% of employers expect students to have prior professional experience, such as an internship, under their belt when they graduate. This suggests that a major alone is often not enough to qualify, or at least stand out, for some entry-level positions.
“I graduated with double majors: Counseling and English and I currently work as a Tx Health Inspector and an Adjunct College Professor!” – @NicolesChoice1
What Majors Earn the Most Money?
Securing employment is important, and so is earning enough money to cover expenses and achieve your financial goals. College is expensive, and many students take out student loans to pay for college tuition and living expenses.
According to a 2020 NACE report, these are the highest earning types of majors for students with a bachelor’s degree, based on their projected average starting salaries.
• Engineering: $69,961
• Computer Science: $67,411
• Math & Sciences: $62,488
• Business: $57,939
• Social Sciences: $57,425
While STEM and business majors top the list of disciplines, students majoring in social sciences and other subjects can build translatable skills for related jobs too.
“I majored and received my degree in Business Management and I work in the health insurance field.” – @disneyfan40
Does Your Undergraduate Major Affect Graduate School Admissions?
Graduate programs vary in scope, with some geared towards preparing students for a specific profession and others focused on academic research.
Students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree could benefit from choosing a major in their discipline with opportunities for research, such as writing a thesis or capstone project. To give context, a PhD takes 8.2 years on average, so a commitment to a specialized field is essential.
Students in professional degree programs (MBA, MPA, Law School, Medical School) may come from a broader range of majors. Checking the graduate school’s admission requirements online is an easy way to learn what majors may be accepted into the program.
More than 13 percent of American adults have a masters or doctorate degree. Depending on your career interests, graduate school may be necessary or simply a way to acquire specialized skills and stand out in the job market.
“I have a degree in Spanish and linguistics and currently working towards a Masters degree in education to teach online spanish and elementary education.” [email protected]
What About Minors?
For students with multiple academic interests, pursuing a minor on top of a major may be more feasible than double-majoring. Similar to majors, minors are a concentrated area of study that students can declare and have listed on their diploma. The key difference is that minors traditionally require fewer classes and credit hours than majors.
Depending on the college and type of minor, the total courses needed can range considerably. For example, a public health minor at UCLA requires seven classes, whereas students can complete a religious studies minor at NYU with just four classes.
That being said, there are other factors to consider for a minor beyond the required number of courses. For instance, minors can help students with more theoretical majors acquire and demonstrate hard skills, such as programming, a foreign language, or statistics.
Also, combining a minor and major can prepare students for multi-faceted sectors. For example, majoring in journalism and minoring in politics would demonstrate a specialization within a field with many niches.
“Degree in Communication Arts and Typography. I work in Communication Arts, Design, Web Design, and Typography, and am an artist and art teacher.” – @j4four
How Else Can You Prepare For a Career?
Figuring out your major is just one piece of the puzzle. Internships and other extracurricular opportunities can also improve job prospects by building skills and industry knowledge.
SoFi is here to help with your career-related questions too. SoFi members can utilize career coaching to revamp their resume, navigate the job market, and plan for financial independence.
Members can arrange one-on-one sessions with an experienced career coach at no additional cost.
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