My #1 piece of advice for picking a college major.

your major doesn't matter

Steven S. via Flickr

Are you torn between a “practical” major that offers a clear career trajectory and the course of study that speaks to your heart but feels useless when it comes to finding a job?  If so, you’re not alone.

It’s a tough decision, so let me offer one insight that I hope will make it easier:

Your major does not matter.

A degree is important to your career and will impact the kinds of jobs you get, but in most cases, your focus of study is irrelevant.  Employers want to know that you can complete something, that you have had exposure to a wider world view and that you have the basic skills needed for the knowledge economy:

  • teamwork and leadership
  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • the ability to synthesize and present information
  • self-direction
  • digital competency

These are skills you can develop in ANY degree program.  Your specific, and ultimately most marketable, skills will be learned outside of school – in your first job, in your volunteer work, in whatever side-hustle you’ve put together.

Yes, higher education is hugely expensive and it’s important to make it a worthy investment.  But you know that – you don’t need all the caveats from me.  Do your research. Talk to your professors and counselors.  And then, if your path is still unclear, just choose a topic that is going to hold your interest for 4 years.

Focus on learning and exploring.  If you’re in the Humanities, take a few business courses.  If you’re into science or technology, take some Philosophy courses.  Be open and creative.

And most of all, don’t confine yourself to what you think you know about your future career path.  It will emerge on the job, as you discover your professional interests and strengths.

It will not be what you expect and that is a good thing.

 

(Photo by Steven S. via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

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3 thoughts on “My #1 piece of advice for picking a college major.

  1. robertlfs

    Very on-target advice. Thanks so much for putting this out there. I agree completely that the degree is less relevant than demonstrating what you bring to the position on the first day.

    Reply
  2. polianthus

    Good advice – I’d like to add an additional one – If at all possible, whatever your major, if you want to expand your career horizons, learn a second language, travel outside your country, or volunteer outside your country if you can, AND do have a good reason for the major you picked, after all, if you cannot pick a major with passion, how will you work passionately on something an employer cares about?

    Reply

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