What Should I Major In College? | Top 5 Factors cont…
Welcome back to this short, 2 part series entitled “What Should I Major In College”. In a previous article, we began discussing our top 5 factors that should go into your decision and covered 3 very important aspects that many students and families overlook. In case you are a little late to the party, these are the areas we talked about were…
- The Price Tag of College Tuition
- Academic Rigor of Your Chosen College
- Degree Duration, or How Long It Will Take To Graduate
If you missed it, get yourself up to speed by taking a quick look here: What Should I Major In College? | Part I. Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s continue with the last 2 factors that you should seriously consider when choosing a college major.
Earning Power of Your College Major
When we are talking in terms of earning power, we’re referring to your chosen major’s potential salary over the course of your career. As most people know, there is such a thing as “entry level salary”, but that salary grows with time, experience, higher education and promotion. Many careers can start out with a somewhat low salary, but may have the potential for a significantly larger salary with 5, 10 or even 20 years of experience.
When you begin to look at college majors, you should be weighing your major’s earning potential against the cost of the colleges or universities that you are interested in. The simple reason for that is because you do not want to pay in excess off $150,000 for your college education if you are majoring in an area where starting salaries are in the $30,000′s. Here’s an example…
Let’s say “Sally” has always wanted to become an elementary teacher and has decided that will be her chosen major in college. Sally is a very bright student, one of the top 5 in her high school, and has been accepted to The University of Notre Dame. She decides to attend this prestigious university and accepts their offer to enroll.
That’s all fine and good, but Notre Dame’s tuition cost alone is over $41,000 per year (HERE‘s proof), and that doesn’t even include living expenses! Now, we’re not taking anything away from Notre Dame. It is a top university in the country and their academics are second to none.
But if you look at the cost of a teaching degree from Notre Dame versus what Sally will make as an elementary teacher, you really have to ask yourself: “Is it worth the price?”. She will more than likely have to take out a student loan, and the monthly payment on that amount of money will seriously limit her ability to afford a home, car and other bills once she graduates and is out in the “real world”. Burying yourself in student loan debt just so you can attend the school you’ve always wanted to go to might not be a wise decision in the long run.
Choosing a College Major Based On Interests
On the flipside of “Sally’s” situation above, we see many students who choose a college major largely based on earning power and potential salary. This is another common pitfall that can really end up costing you a lot of wasted time and money in college. For instance, going into the medical field just because the salaries are so lucrative is a huge mistake if you are not good at upper-level science and math.
Furthermore, students that have little interest and/or experience in medicine stand a MUCH higher chance of doing poorly in college courses, and loosing interest in that major. This all translates into a lot of heartache when you are forced to change majors, or worse…transfer to a different college!
Our recommendation to students and families is to choose a college major that relates to your interests and strengths as much as possible! This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many students only see the “dollar signs” associated with a lucrative career that they have little interest in. If you have a college major in mind because you could have a starting salary over $100,000 in your first year, make sure it’s associated with a field that you have a true interest and passion for!
Remember, you will be doing this for the better part of the rest of your life. If you don’t enjoy what you do but make a lot of money doing it, that will only take you so far.
You cannot put a pricetag or salary on happiness. Ask anyone who makes a six figure salary, but dislikes their job…they’ll tell you! If you are unhappy in your career choice, that makes for a very long life.
Good luck in choosing a college major! If you stick with what you enjoy, the salary will follow!