Why Your College Major Doesn’t Always Determine Your Career Path
Choosing a college major seems like the biggest and most stressful decision you’ll ever make. Do you want to follow your passion and pursue a degree in Art History? Or do you want to ensure you choose a major that will guarantee you a job, even if you may not enjoy it, like Information Systems?
Once you choose one, you’ll realize it’s not set in stone, and you may be one of the college kids who switches majors three times before settling on one just so you can graduate on time.
But the thing is, choosing a major isn’t a life or death decision, and it’s not going to completely limit you from every pursuing other career paths or changing your mind completely.
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In fact, so many people end up doing something totally different from their college major. Like me, for instance.
I completed my first year of college studying Fashion Design, which involved a lot of sewing that I had nightmares about constantly. I ended up switching a Design & Merchandising, which was still fashion industry-based, but more business focused.
Now, I work full-time as a writer. And no, I didn’t take any journalism or writing classes in college — unless you count English 101 and 102. In fact, I sort of fell into this career by getting an internship, telling my supervisor I could write when she asked me to, and realizing I actually enjoyed and could get paid for writing.
But before I got an internship writing accidentally, I never saw writing as a career path. It seemed like one of those majors like Drama or Fine Arts that didn’t leave many opportunities for a lucrative career path.
Reddit user CJ_Guns had a similar experience. He’s now a film critic and journalist, but he avoided an arts degree because of his high school counselor and got a degree in Finance instead, even though he knew he liked to write.
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“In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t [gotten a Finance degree],” he says. “I ended up having moral reservations with the industry, and after interviewing at a couple places I knew I wasn’t cut out for it. It seemed like you basically had to be a sociopath to ‘make it’ (at least in NYC), and I’m not a competitive person at all. Just wasn’t for me.”
On the other hand, getting a Journalism degree doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up in media. Take Reddit user noraamitt, for example.
“I have a Journalism degree, now I work for an aerospace engineering company,” she explains. “I was working for a marketing company right out of school and wanted out, I saw a posting for a tech writer position for the company I’m with now. [I] applied, and they hired me. A fair amount of the tech writers here have journalism or English degrees.”
Unfortunately, with many “cool” majors you actually feel passionate about, you’ll find you’re not passionate about the paycheck–and that’s if there are paying positions available at all. But the good news is it doesn’t mean your degree was totally useless. I mean, maybe it was, but it’s okay, because college was fun, right?
“[I got a] Bachelors in International Relations, [to] focus on the developing world and non profit organizations,” said Reddit user MadDogMillionair. “Now I work for a finance company. Turns out saving the world doesn’t pay for your student loans.”
If only it did! Maybe this world wouldn’t be such a shit show.
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“I got a degree in philosophy,” says Reddit user marinated_pork. “Landed a job as a philosopher right out of college at a huge philosophy start up firm…Ehhhh, who the f*ck am I kidding? Never used that degree. I’m a web developer now and make more than all my friends with ‘practical degrees.'”
And besides, a bachelor’s degree in anything means you can pursue a master’s degrees in something totally different.
Take Reddit user jochi1543 for example. She majored in Japanese Language and Culture, went on to be a doctor for the money, but limits her hours so she can work on her side business as a chocolatier.
“It’s not like you go to school for X at age 18 and then you’re stuck doing that forever and there are no other options,” she says. “I happened to volunteer at a clinic one summer and realized I liked medicine. Ended up taking a few science courses, then eventually going to medical school. I enjoy my job as a physician, but I am very particular in terms of limiting my hours to under 30 a week so I can enjoy life.”
She makes a good point. After all, even if you get a job doing something you “love,” like writing or painting, it likely still feels like work when you’re stuck doing it all day for someone else. So why not do something that gives you a high paycheck so you can have extra time to pursue your passions without worrying about monetization?
“I started taking some baking courses because I wanted to get better at it, and the chef happened to also have a chocolatier diploma course,” she explains.
She then shuffled her schedule around so she could take the eight week course, and found that her friends and coworkers loved the chocolates she made.
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“Now I’m going to farmers markets and just acquired a food truck for the summer to sell some other dessert products,” she says. “The great thing about my main career is that I will always have work and that the income is good enough that I don’t have to worry about generating a mad profit from any of my side ventures. I also don’t have kids, so it’s not like I have to worry my offspring will go hungry if I don’t generate enough income from my chocolate shop in a given month.”
Honestly, she is goals.
But even if you don’t have the patience (or money) to go through eight years of medical school, you can find something you enjoy doing that pays the bills. In fact, Brandon went to school for Music Performance, but halted college when some personal stuff happened and he wanted to focus on making money.
“After I stopped school, I worked a retail job for a number of years until life happened again, and pushed me to make a move,” he says. “I needed to start a career that would give me the ability to work for myself eventually, as well as move wherever I wanted to once I was established.”
After doing some research, he decided on welding.
“It let me play with fire, electricity, heavy equipment, and constantly presented challenges and learning opportunities so I’ll never be stagnant or bored,” he says.
He then took a three month certification course and found a full-time job the day he graduated. He’s now been working as a professional welder for six months, which he loves doing.
You may not want to be a welder, or a chocolatier/doctor, or a journalist, and that’s totally cool. You may not have any clue WTF you want to do, and that’s also cool. The point is, your college degree won’t determine the rest of your life. Yes, you should try to pick something you actually see yourself using in the future. But you also don’t have to stay in an industry you hate just because you got a degree in that field. And if you don’t feel any college major is right for you, consider taking some time off to figure out what you’re interested in.
The bottom line is: stop stressing so much about planning out your future, and just do what feels right.