There's a lot to think of when choosing a major. When I was in college, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I talked to my advisor. She said that we all think we're going to use our law degrees to change the world and better humanity, but the truth was that once we graduate and those student loans come due, we're going to take the first job we can find that pays the bills, and we will end up killing ourselves in an office 80 hours a week with no time for a life. Bettering humanity would have to wait. Yes, this is harsh, but that's the sort of thing you need to think of when choosing a major. If you're heading to college soon, these are some things to consider when choosing your major. .
1. How Will You Be Able to Use Your Degree?
This sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people don't consider this when choosing a major. I know a lot of people who wish on some level that they'd studied something else because they weren't able to do what they originally set out for. If something happens and you can't find a job in the specific field you're thinking of, you're going to need something to fall back on. My friends with engineering or computer science degrees have been much more able to find jobs related to what they studied than those of us with liberal arts degrees. I personally don't mind, but you might.
2. How Long do You Want to Go to School?
There are several careers I can think of that require at least a master's degree. For instance, I wanted to be a psychiatrist until I found out that I would have to study for at least 12 years-4 in college, 4 in medical school, 4 in residency/specialty. You may be able to fast-track some things, but you're looking at being in school until you're at least 30. That's an extreme example, but the point is that you should have these requirements in mind when you're choosing a major. On the other hand, some jobs in the IT field require program-specific certifications that wouldn't take half as long. Some don't go to college at all and go straight to the certifications. It depends on the person.
3. What Are Your Motivations?
Are you choosing a career path because it's what you want, or because it's what is expected of you? You're going to be the one living with your decision, so don't make it to please someone else.
4. What Sort of Life do You Want?
Like I mentioned above, some careers take a lot more of your time and energy than others. How much time do you want to have to yourself? Some people I know want to be teachers so they can stay home with their kids during the summers. Some only want to work part time for the same reason. Others don't mind working long hours as long as their work is fulfilling. It's up to you. Remember, though, that it's not just going to affect you; if you intend on having any sort of family life, they're going to have to be on board as well. This is especially true with jobs in the military or others that require you to be away from home for long periods of time. Is this something you can deal with? I couldn't, but perhaps you could.
5. How Much do You Need to Make?
I know, I know-it's not all about money. However, you really need to consider the earning potential of a field before you commit yourself to it. How much will you need to make to afford the lifestyle you want to have? Also, remember that some cities are more expensive than others. Depending on your field, you may very well have to move to a specific locale (NY, LA, Silicon Valley etc). How much will you need to make to make ends meet? Assume that you will need to support yourself entirely; the days when you could count on marrying into a second income are over, if they ever existed to begin with. Even if you do, you never know what might happen.
6. Is It Something You Could do Long-term?
I know we think we're indestructible when we're young, but we'll get older. I know “Grey's Anatomy” and the cop/lawyer shows make it look great, but how will it be in real life? We see it for an hour, but real people live it 24/7. Could you handle that? Also, some jobs have a higher “burnout” rate than others. There's a reason people in the helping professions-doctors, social workers, teachers etc-often find themselves seeking help too.
7. Even if You Could, Would You Want to?
A friend of mine studied accounting because she's good at math and could always find a job. Personally, I would rather stick my tongue into a burning-hot toaster than sit behind a computer and crunch numbers all day, but that's me. While her skill is definitely needed, is it worth it if it makes you miserable? She thought she'd learn to love it, but that hasn't happened yet. That's not something you should bank on either.
Hopefully I've managed to make choosing a major a little less daunting. Overall, just give yourself room to move. Ultimately, you may find that you're happy doing something you never thought you would or that the thing you wanted to do when you were younger wasn't all it's cracked up to be. What about you? Are you using your degree at all? I'm not using mine, but I'm using what I learned, if that makes sense. Have any of you found yourself doing something completely different from what you studied? What advice would you give someone who's choosing a career? Discuss!