With college tuition continuing to climb and students taking out more loans, experts are advising students to pick a major that will lead to a big-paying career, like engineering or technology.
My major, English, tops nearly every, "Most Useless College Majors," list. While I'm not exactly raking in millions of dollars every year, I have established a pretty good career and I am glad I based my college major decision on my strengths and passions rather than on perceived earning potential.
Your major does not determine career success. You do
Every major teaches students skills beyond what fits in the cookie-cutter mold of the major. While business students are learning the dos and don'ts of starting and running a successful business, they are also developing their imaginations, improving their people management skills and practicing making quick, important decisions. Similarly, English majors do more than just read books all day. By the time they graduate, they are expert problem solvers and critical thinkers, not to mention they are well practiced at finishing projects quickly.
Yes, it's a good idea to gear your studies toward a specific type of career. Many students complement their major with a minor in another field, or even another major if they have the time and money. But at the end of the day, it's the effort you put into your education that will help you succeed in any career, not the classes you take.
Furthermore, a major's worth shouldn't be based entirely on career success. The skills and knowledge you acquire in college can be passed on to your family and friends. Whether you develop your skills further in a career or at home, you will make an impact on those around you.
Not everyone gets a job within his or her major
A lot of people end up in careers that have nothing to do with what they studied in school. This isn't always a bad thing. Many employers care less about employees with a specific education background and more about their work ethic and how well they fit in with the company and its goals.
And while it's important to have a college degree, sometimes work experience holds more weight. I've met people who started out as entry-level copywriters and went on to hold VP positions at profitable companies. If you limit yourself to what fits neatly within your college major, you will deny yourself some fabulous growing experiences and may even miss out on a career that will bring you more satisfaction (and money) than the one you originally set out to get.
So even if you don't land a job in your field right after graduation, simply having a degree opens up so many doors for you. Use the un-advertised skills your major taught you and work your way to where you want to be. Eventually you'll find a fit that works for you and your family.
A major's usefulness should not be based on its potential for a six-figure salary
It's no secret that some majors have significantly more earning potential than others. A study by Georgetown University reports that jobs in engineering and technology make the most today, with salaries around $100,000 per year. Students who major in the humanities, on the other hand, often start at about $30,000 per year.
But society needs all types of students — the engineers, the musicians, the doctors and the teachers. We need those who are good with numbers and those who have a gift for creating things. And no matter what you choose to study in school, you will always have that knowledge to pass on to your children and your community. Knowledge enriches society, no matter where your expertise lies.
If money is still a concern, focus first on being smart about how to fund college tuition, even if it means going to a different school. Don't base your college major decision entirely on practicality. You are the one who will establish your career, not your major. It is possible to support your family doing something you enjoy doing, as long as you're willing to work for it.