I’ve heard it a lot, and it bothers me every time: something along the lines of “I would have gone with [insert subject that I enjoy here], but it’s not like I could do anything with that degree, so I’m a [subject that society says is more valuable] major.”
The idea that you can’t get a job unless you get a science, engineering, or business degree is a misconception that can greatly alter how happy some may be with their overall college experience.
I’m not saying someone with a degree in history is going to have the same salary and opportunities to obtain that number as someone who majors in chemical engineering, because although that would be nice, it’s just not probable. What I’m saying is that, if you really love history, and getting a degree in that field would make you not hate life inside the walls of your classrooms because you genuinely enjoy learning about it, then think twice about skipping that option. Despite popular belief, there are jobs for hardworking people in just about any field.
There is also a misconception out there that you will have to get a job in your field of study. When people find out that I’m an English major, the main common question, “besides the classically passive-aggressive “what are you going to do with that,” is the more specific “so do you want to be a teacher?”
In a word, no. I do not want to teach. But I understand the question, because people assume that my options after graduation will be very limited due to my liberal arts background. Personally, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do after graduation, but I know that I don’t have to stick to the usual English teacher/librarian options that others tend to associate with my degree. English majors, if they want to stick with jobs in their field, can end up going into television, publishing, web editing and writing, politics, speech writing and lobbying, for example. I am currently working for the Barometer, and getting paid for writing, which I love doing.
The beauty of it, though, is that you don’t have to get a job in your field. My mother received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and became a flight attendant for Pan Am following graduation. My father got a degree in history and became a stockbroker before deciding to become a teacher. You are not limited to the degree that you decide to pursue, so why stress about it?
The point of this column is obviously not to bash people who go into STEM fields. I greatly admire people who have those skills, and probably most of the students in those programs love what they do, which is awesome! The point is that students who decide to go down other paths shouldn’t be less valued because of their choice of major.
Again, I know that it would be great to be able to pick a field of study that you love without ever having to think about your marketability after graduation, but I also understand that that’s not really how our society works. So, if you pick a major that prompts that “What are you going to do with that” question, just know that if your work ethic is strong, you form strong relationships, complete an internship or get involved some other way, that you can build a strong resume no matter the degree you pursue.
I understand that it can be hard to choose a major that society doesn’t see as valuable, or at least as valuable as other majors, but if it’s possible, at least take into consideration whether you’re happy in your field of study. If you think another option is going to make you happier, take a chance, do what you love, and prove the haters wrong.
The opinions expressed in Keating’s column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Barometer staff.