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Demosthenes's avatar

How important was the specific major you chose in college?

Asked by Demosthenes (8592points) 1 month ago

I majored in linguistics and I had no shortage of people telling me it was a “joke major” and I needed to major in STEM for my college education to mean anything. Of course, I didn’t want a high-paying job in tech like many of my Silicon Valley peers, I wanted to go into academia, so my choice seemed apt for that (I am currently in grad school). That said, I have many friends who went into tech and they majored in everything from art history to psychology. The specific choice seemed irrelevant. What was relevant to employers was that they were able to stay committed and complete a four-year degree, something that is often more valuable than the specific choice of major in many cases.

How relevant is what you studied in college to the career you ended up in? Did you ever regret your choice of major? Have you had the experience of having a “useless degree”?

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24 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I majored in Journalism. I can’t tell you how relevant it was because my Dad pulled me out after my sophomore year. Girls don’t need a college degree.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Very. I studied art on a scholarship and have worked for myself as an artist for years.
I have no regrets as I love what I do but the average customer of mine isn’t concerned so much with my background. They just buy what they like.

jca2's avatar

I have a Bachelors in History. It’s not relevant to my job, except that I needed the Bachelors.

It has given me skills in research which have helped, but the degree itself was not relevant to the job title or titles for the past 20 years .

Dutchess_III's avatar

I actually got my degree in education. It has proven only marginally relevant. It just looked good on my resume.

gondwanalon's avatar

I majored in zoology because I planned on going to vet school. But I didn’t get the grades. My brother in law called me a floundering failure. So I looked at my options. All I needed to become a medical laboratory technologist was to take a few clinical science classes, get accepted into a one year medical lab internship and pass national and state registry/license exams. That’s what I did. Worked in hospital labs for 38 years. No regrets. (My big shot brother in law died from alcoholism 12 years ago).

Good luck and good health!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Majored in zoology but was a floundering failure. That’s hilarious!

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It’s critical if you are going to be the breadwinner in the 21st century. It’s also critical that people be frugal financially when they do go. It’s a simple equation that too many people get so horribly wrong.

I studied electronics and ended up in that field. My first degree was an associates and paid for itself in the first couple of paychecks.

ucme's avatar

Never went through college, straight into work for me earning a crust.

Demosthenes's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Sure, but the cost of tuition has risen exponentially, at a much higher rate than wages.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Irrelevant in terms of finding a job, but useful as I became an adult because it gave me a cultured and intellectually curious view of the world.

Demosthenes's avatar

@Demosthenes I feel that what I studied in college has done that as well (not just linguistics, but also the philosophy and religious studies courses I took). Would I have studied something more practical if I had had a specific non-academic career goal in mind? Probably. But at this point it’s hard to imagine studying anything other than what I was passionate about.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Demosthenes Sure, I know that all too well. A single class, in-state at a state school runs about $2500 these days by the time you pay for books and fees. That’s why it’s very important to get the “payback” math correct.

It’s possible to get into the trades without a degree and that’s a great place to be right now but even they are starting to require Associate degrees. At least they’re still affordable. In my state your first Associates degree is likely going to be free.

cookieman's avatar

Very. I went to art school and majored in design and I have been a designer for twenty six years.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What do you design @cookieman ?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I changed my major over 11 times. Usually a combination of psychology and philosophy. I ended up with physical education and a minor in environmental science.

Zaku's avatar

Degree major had effects on various things, but being a literature major did not keep me from jobs as a software engineer. It doesn’t seem to have had any effect, although it’s possible I would have had more responses to job applications with a computer science degree.

But then I would not have such good writing skills, nor as much contact with good literature and other interesting subjects, and i probably would not have also had a job as an editor, and who knows what else.

It has effects, but majoring in non-STEM, especially as an undergrad, definitely does not mean you can’t get a job as a software engineer.

Getting a good tech job, at least of the types I’ve had, requires knowing how to do the job, which is about aptitude and having learned it… somehow. College courses are not the only way to learn that. I’d tend to consider it a waste of a college education to mainly learn computer skills. The opportunities for learning different subjects seem to me much more uniquely available for other subjects there. Computer skills can be learned from books, online courses, and practice, at least by people with a knack for it.

Hmm… and, it’d be good if more programmers had more non-computer language, communications, and social skills.

stanleybmanly's avatar

History, and here’s the thing. I majored in History without a clue on any remunerative applications of the “useless” degree. It was simply that I understood pursuit of a degree in History to be for me the equivalent to a task centered on sampling ice cream or fine chocolates and calling it “work”. It was just too easy to pass up.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Zaku has reminded me of an alternative career path: certification. Certain jobs, especially IT don’t require a degree for entry. They require specific training and passing certification exams. Cisco certs are one example like the CCNA or CCNP that will often land you a job paying 50k+ with no degree at all. Coding boot camps are another.

SergeantQueen's avatar

I do not have a career in the field yet.
BUT
I am majoring in Criminal Justice. I have gotten a lot of “It’s so useless”.
I want to be a victim/witness advocate. The job postings I’ve seen so far want a bachelors in psychology, human services, or criminal justice. Some allow for an Associates (which is what I will be getting) in either of those three PLUS 3–5 years of experience in the CJ field.
I do not believe it is useless for what I want to do, and I believe a lot of the people who say it’s useless say that because so many cops have one, you just don’t stand out with one anymore. I do not want to be a cop.

I feel like an idiot when people say it’s useless and that getting a degree in IT is more worthwhile because I dropped my cyber security degree to be able to do criminal justice, also because IT was boring.
I’d have paid a little less that $9,000 by the time I graduate, based on how much I’ve spent this year.

Sagacious's avatar

My major was the best choice for my profession.

Mimishu1995's avatar

I have a pedagogy degree, and it’s pretty much the only thing that got me my current job.

Right now I’m studying for a Master degree for linguistics. I don’t know where it will take me, but I have gained a lot of useful skills from the program, such as research skills and reading skills. I also find myself more open minded than before, and my writing has more depth too.

Even if I don’t find any practical use for my degree, I don’t regret signing up for it.

JLeslie's avatar

My specific degree helped me, but I didn’t work specifically in that field. I have a Marketing degree. It’s part of the business college so I took a lot of business courses. Statistics, finance, accounting, HR, all useful. I had taken accounting in high school so I already had the basics, but most students don’t before college I don’t think. I worked in retail for years, then real estate. Now, I’m a business manager for a small business.

What I didn’t do is take a packaging engineering to at least try it, and I wish I had. I was lazy and worried about the money. That degree would have been very specific and likely put me on a better career path.

Some degrees directly relate to being able to work in a specific field. Things like accounting. Other degrees are not so perfectly translatable to the job market, but as you say, a degree shows employers determination and the ability to learn.

LuckyGuy's avatar

My STEM degree absolutely helped me in my career. I started out in Physics, then Mechanical Engineering then Engineering Science.
That covered most aspects of traditional engineering: electronics, computer science, mechanical, materials, statistics.
I was recruited by a major automotive OEM and was immediately placed in the Advanced Research Dept. I loved every minute.

Coolhandluke's avatar

After the Army, I got my Criminal Justice degree, applied for the state police and dropped out because my daughter was born and I didn’t want to be gone from her during the academy or risk one day leaving her without a Dad.

I’m working on my Environmental and Health Science degree to become my company’s EHS Coordinator.

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