Why Your College Major Doesn’t Matter

I studied pre-med for exactly one year before I realized that my life plan wasn’t as solid as I had hoped. By the end of my first year, I’d failed two classes, had several breakdowns, and one major realization: medicine just wasn’t the path for me.

Up until the choice was mine, I thought that changing majors was for silly college students who were unfocused and underprepared for life. I thought that having to change my major after being set on my goal for so long would have been a failure.

It took a long conversation with the dean of my college and a lot of thinking to make a really tough decision: it was time for me to go home and choose a different path. So, that’s what I did; I transferred to my hometown university and decided to major in linguistics instead. It’s the best decision I could have made.

What the Big Picture Looks Like 

Whether you’ve decided on a career path for yourself or not, there is one important question you should ask yourself about your degree, “Do I want it to be useful, or do I want it to be in something I’m passionate about?”

This doesn’t necessarily have to be an either-or situation. If you’re lucky, you might be able to fulfill both of these options. But, if you’re one of those people who don’t know what they’re passionate about, or you just want to prioritize practicality over what you enjoy, you might want to choose a major like business or computer science.

On the other hand, if you just want to study something you really love, go do it. You will not be successful in a major that you find excessively boring, especially if there is another one out there that you know you prefer.

How Often Grads Actually Use Their Majors 

The number of jobs requiring a degree is steadily increasing as more and more people attend college. However, a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that“…only 27 percent of college graduates work in a field related to their majors.”

That means that there is only a one in four chance that you will end up working in the field in which you studied. It probably won’t matter what you major in because your career path will likely be different anyways.

It’s more common to utilize your degree to support your career as extra background knowledge. In my case, a degree in linguistics might have directly translated into a role as an interpreter or teacher. Instead, I’m using it to support my career in writing with the knowledge I acquired regarding language structure.

When Your Degree Could Matter

This is not to say that your degree won’t matter, just that, more than likely, your job will not follow what you majored in 100%. However, there are times when having a certain degree will make following your path easier.

Going into medicine, for instance, is usually much smoother with a bachelor’s in the pre-med category. It’s also generally less of a hassle to enter a graduate program with a related undergraduate degree.

But, as my mom always liked to say, “So long as you get the prerequisites done, you could major in underwater basket-weaving and still go to grad school.”

The Bottom Line

More than 1 in 3 students will change their major at least once in their undergraduate career. Many things can happen in four years to pull you away from the decision you made as a freshman.  This does not mean you failed. It does not mean that you are irresponsible. And, most importantly, it is not a big deal.

Figure out what you want to do, and then, go graduate.

About the Author

Jordan is a recent graduate of the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics. She enjoys writing about her experiences and sharing her thoughts with those who might, hopefully, find them useful.

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