UPDATE: Video and Audio Podcast below.
What should I study in college? How should I choose a college major? While seemingly docile, these questions are wolves in sheep’s clothing! Having to choose a major at the age of 18 which will become your career for the next several decades of your life can be extremely difficult and stressful. But never fear, College Career Success is here!! OK, lame; I know. Nonetheless, below are 5 tips to consider when choosing your (first, second, or third) college major.
- Engagement- will I be engaged, passionate, and fulfilled?
No, we are not talking about engagement to your dream boyfriend or girlfriend! You are, on the other hand, to be engaged to your future career in college. Whether you realize it or not, your MAJOR in college becomes your CAREER in life (typically). You will want to select a major (career) that you will be excited about today, tomorrow, and in 10 years. Choose something that you are passionate about – something that drives you – something that gives you purpose and fulfillment. It is common among all of us that when we feel like we are contributing to the betterment of our community and world, we are more fulfilled (happy, satisfied, less stressed, …you get it).
- Earning potential – (HINT! The most possible is not always correct for you)
When you graduate, likely you will be left with little to no to negative amounts of money to your name. But, you have a college degree that can (hopefully) earn you some money! That is… if your degree carries Earning Potential. Three basic things to be said about Earning Potential:
- Choose a degree that has it!
This may seem obvious, but there are some degrees that have little Earning Potential and/or a narrow window for potential. Carefully consider your future financial goals after college and use information available about your potential major (career) to determine if its Earning Potential matches your goals.
- Consider the Earning Potential at the time of GRADUATION!
In conjunction with the first point, consider also the timing of Earning Potential. If you desire to be an airline pilot because there is currently (when you enter college) a shortage of pilots and wages are high, be sure to consider the change in the industry from now until graduation (at least 4 years later). Things like market/industry fluctuation, governmental legislation, new technology, and competition can all change the Earning Potential of a career. Obviously, you cannot predict the future, so do not get overly anxious about this one. But, take time to consider the possible positive or negative effects time will have on the Earning Potential of your selected major (career) options.
- Some say ‘more money, more problems’
If there is one wrong way to look at Earning Potential, it is probably the idea of finding the major (career) that has the absolute HIGHEST Earning Potential. Your career should be so much more than just money. Personal satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy found engaging with family members and friends are all things that no amount of money can ever buy. If you select a major (career) simply based on the HIGHEST Earning Potential, most likely that major (career) will not be a good fit for you. Most of our grandparents would all tell us that money, in the end, is not what is most valuable in life. Although you want to be sure that your major (career) will be able to support you financially after graduation, consider joy and satisfaction in life as well.
- Time commitment – what will my work life look like?
Time commitment plays a large part of finding a good ‘work/life balance’. Consider people that are already in your major (career). Interview or shadow a professional in that field. How much time are they spending at work or handling issues/tasks from work. Take a look at your personal goals for your life in the future. Do you want to have a family with kids or be able to travel a lot? How much time will you need outside of work? Ultimately, consider the time requirements of your selected majors (careers) and how that matches your personal life goals.
- Flexibility – how much can I change or shift during my career?
These days, people change jobs… a lot. This is a good thing for the employee most of the time. You can shift to a role or company that better fits you. You can try new things and learn a lot of different things. So, how flexible are your potential majors (careers). Consider if you desire a career that will give you flexibility and then evaluate your selected majors (careers).
- Job availability – will there be jobs available when I graduate?
This goes along with the timing of Earning Potential. The timing of job availability is something very practical to consider. Currently (when you enter college), there may be a shortage of oil engineers and many jobs are available. But, when you graduate 4 (or more for some …) years later, will the situation be the same? Again, you cannot predict the future. But, consider how many jobs are needed in the country/world. Consider how many people will be graduating with similar degrees and skills alongside of you. Do your best to ensure that there will be a job waiting for you when you graduate!
Hopefully, these 5 tips have been useful. And, if you didn’t get it, let the point be made that your MAJOR becomes your CAREER! Choose your major carefully as best as you can and may your career be fulfilling and engaging such that the world is a better place thanks to your contribution!
Photo Credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr