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Does College Major Matter?

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If you went by the amount of attention it receives during the college selection process, choice of major would be the most important decision you ever made in your life, right up there with whom you marry and whether to choose a city based on its most popular food product. (For the record, Philadelphians, you might be on to something with the cheesesteak.) The real question, of course, is does major matter more than other factors?

crooked path 

(Photo Credit: Josephine Wentholt/Unsplash)

In a word: no. As part of this year’s College Salary Report, PayScale asked several successful people about their choice of major in college, and how it related to their eventual career after graduation. What we found is that while things like which school you go to and what you study while you’re there are important, what you do after making these decisions matters, too.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

In #College2Career: It’s What You Do in College That Determines Success, we spoke to:

  • A developer who went to “a no-name school” in Tennessee and went on to work at Microsoft, thanks to participating in their student ambassador program and Imagine Cup contest.
  • A self-professed B student whose aunt dragged her to a career fair … and into a $19 per hour internship at Lockheed Martin, and from there to jobs at Honeywell and Northrop Grumman.
  • A former pre-med student whose work in the lab convinced him to skip medical school and get a PhD, instead – which set him up for a career as an entrepreneur.

In fact, everyone we spoke with told a similar story: at the end of the day, college major was just one of many important choices they made on the road to their eventual career. Internships, volunteering, and building their professional networks proved to be equally, and in some cases, more crucial to their success.

The takeaway for you, if you’re looking at college right now? Choose wisely, but know that you’re only making the first of many decisions that will eventually take you were you want to go. Building a satisfying career means continuing to learn all through your life, long after the ink dries on your diploma.

Tell Us What You Think

If you had to go back and do it again, would you choose the same major? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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james
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james

If you can get a government job. You probably won’t get laid off and make a decent pay without having to kiss everyones ass. My cousin was laid off after 15 years on Christmas Eve(Merry Christmas). A good friend was fired after 49 years for no reason but for the company to make more profits. You’ll have good benefits and probably live longer and healthier.

Maria
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Maria

Absolutely not. I majored in English because I enjoyed the subject & I loved writing. After I got my BA I went to work at my college in the Admissions Dept. Within a year, I was laid off. Then came odd jobs, finally a clerical job in a hospital. I hated this job. Stuck it out till retirement. I was smart as a child, could read & write at a young age. Too bad I wasn’t encouraged to pursue science. If I could do it over, I would have majored in science. Perhaps I would have become an optometrist. Maybe… Read more »

Dan
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Dan

I like your sarcasm Carl.

My dad was a physics major and he worked on the Hanford nuclear project, in the fifties. Yes, truly, he did.

Carl
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Carl

Yes, My BA degree is in Physics/Math. Yup, a BA not a BS. i found out that my selection of Electives really helped me move up the ranks in engineering. I graduated with a C+ average, and had 3 Job offers within 2 weeks ofter returning home. One from Brookhaven National Lab working on a liquid Sodium Cooling loop for a Nuclear reactor. another from a Local HS teaching math, and the one I accepted from Grumman Aerospace as a flight test engineer. My personality and background plus my love of Aviation got me my dream job. 30+ years of… Read more »

Vince
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Vince

YES! Or maybe I should try again to get into my field. The problem is that I like to eat.

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