Some perspective on undergraduate majors and employment

Some perspective on undergraduate majors and employment

Here is a re-presentation of a discussion I initiated on Twitter about choosing an undergraduate major sparked by the first hour of the Diane Rehm Show today (http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-08-29/derek-bok-higher-education-america).

  1. One of the most frustrating aspects of the higher ed discussion: persistent, and false, assumption that undergrad majors are tied to jobs.
  2. Having a “marketable” major doesn’t guarantee a job in that field anymore than having an “unmarketable” major guarantees unemployment.
  3. @ShaunHuston A “marketable” major means you have to compete w/ everyone else in that market.
  4. @ShaunHuston Why not major in what make you shine differently than the others who are crowded into marketable majors. Be unique. Be you.
  5. @l1brar1an yes; and you will lose in that market to people who have more native skill and passion for the field than you do.
  6. There is no one-to-one relationship between one’s major and one’s post-graduate employment.
  7. @ShaunHuston & it ignores the “real world” our grads must navigate- choosing a career & staying in it forever w/o change is not the norm
  8. @ShaunHuston that’s pretty much limited to those who get post Bachelors degrees & is a privilege sign. But ignoring that allows us to 1/2
  9. @ShaunHuston blame students for choosing the wrong major when they don’t meet the success metrics of those who had opportunities they don’t
  10. @amlibrarian yes. Part of this discussion is about denying structural and contextual factors in (un)employment. Blame the individual.
  11. Many factors will play a role in where, and whether, you get a job after graduation. Some in your control, some not.
  12. @ShaunHuston I’ve been trying to write career advice for some young friends, and I keep stalling. It’s much harder than when I graduated.
  13. @sultryglebe i think you can honestly tell your friends that their undergraduate major most likely won’t be a barrier to finding a job.
  14. @sultryglebe getting employment and trying to work in a specific field are not the same. No, there aren’t many jobs in philosophy, but …
  15. @sultryglebe … plenty of philosophy majors have good jobs (and I’m using philosophy as one example of a major that gets derided).
  16. @sultryglebe students are still better off majoring in a field they care about, then majoring in something solely for job-reasons.
  17. @sultryglebe for most people, in most cases, the undergraduate degree is more important than the major.
  18. @ShaunHuston It’s just knowing that when I double-majored in Romance Languages and History, college cost less and job market was better.
  19. @ShaunHuston I wouldn’t change my schooling, but we need to go back to that same (or a better) level of opportunity for after.
  20. @sultryglebe yes. but those are questions about issues beyond the control of any individual.
  21. In many cases, your major will be one of the least important factors.
  22. Students: don’t major in something solely because you think it will lead to a job. That will diminish the value of your education.
  23. @ShaunHuston related maxim – Don’t feel you have to major in something just because it comes easy to you (if it doesn’t also excite you)
  24. @amlibrarian yes. choosing to challenge yourself could be another way to distinguish yourself to employers cc: @l1brar1an.
  25. @ShaunHuston @amlibrarian Or in my case choosing not to take another year in French means you graduate with w/ Sociology instead of English
  26. Major in something meaningful to you. Most people get jobs because of a wide range of qualities.
  27. What everyone pressuring you to major in something “practical” won’t tell you is that most people don’t end up working in “their field”.
  28. Major in dance. Major in lit. Major in sociology. Major in geography. Major in religion. Major in whatever moves you.
  29. Your education is more than your major. Your major is a small part of what you can offer employers. A job is only one aspect of your life.
  30. @ShaunHuston uJourney helps students choose wisely. However, there’s only 1 job for every 2 college grads, so even good majors struggle.
  31. Here’s the thing: in the U.S., the tendency is to want to make everything a matter of individual choice.
  32. Don’t have a job after college? It’s your fault for choosing an “unmarketable” major.
  33. This line of thinking masks the underlying dynamics of the economy.
  34. If we blame 20 yos majoring in theater for their own unemployment, we don’t have to confront how power is exercised in a capitalist culture.
  35. That string of tweets was sparked by the first of hour of @drshow today, particularly listening to callers, not so much Derek Bok.

Read next page

Did you find this story interesting? Be the first to
or comment.

Liked!