By Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor
RISMEDIA, July 24, 2007–Perhaps the most persistent — and often most annoying — question college students hear throughout their years (second only to “What’s your major?”) is “So what are you going to do with your major?”
The truth, for many of them, is that they simply don’t know. And that is totally OK.
While choosing a major will help you prepare for a career in a specific field, it can also provide a solid basis for pursuing a career in a seemingly dissimilar field. For example, history majors can go into government, journalism or even museum work, and it’s not unusual for theater majors to work in business.
Before you think about what you’re going to do with your major, find out what you can you do with your major.
So daddy wasn’t thrilled when you announced that you were switching from pre-med to art history, eh? “At least I’ll be rich in spirit,” you offer as the smallest hints of tears replace the dollar signs in his eyes.
But art majors aren’t necessarily destined to be starving artists. You can go into any number of fields, ranging from commercial art, media and photography to art therapy. If you’ve still got a place in your heart for scrubs, supplement your studies with psychology or counseling courses to pursue art therapy. If commercial art appeals to you, intern with a photographer, magazine or other media outlet and compile a portfolio as you go along. The same goes for studio art, wherein interning or volunteering for a museum will help you see the administrative side of this field.
Lest you shy away from concentrating on the biological sciences (biology, microbiology, zoology, etc.) because you don’t want to go to grad school, know that there are plenty of career options for those with bachelor’s degrees in biology. Not only does an undergraduate degree prepare you for a career in the rapidly-growing healthcare industry, it also qualifies you to work as a laboratory assistant, technician, technologist or research assistant.
Should you feel the need to break out of the lab, you could also do non-technical work like writing, illustration, sales, photography and legislation by signing up for relevant electives, doing part-time work or interning.
Yet another major that seems to ensure that, unless you have a graduate degree, you’ll be reduced to spouting Freud to the patrons you serve at the local café after graduation.
Not so. Psychology provides a strong liberal arts background, allowing graduates to pursue work in several fields like public relations, retail management, sales, market research, advertising and education. Again, it’s important to pursue outside interests in different fields, both to further your work experience and make contacts.
Majoring in English isn’t just for future teachers anymore. Those with a background in English have a variety of options when it comes to choosing their fields of work, including law, public relations, advertising, publishing and well, okay, teaching. English majors looking to work in law should obtain summer work at law firms and tweak their speech and debate skills. Picking up an LSAT prep book probably wouldn’t hurt, either.
Yes, you’ve taught all of your friends dirty words in three different languages, but what else can you do? Well, a lot, actually.
For one thing, the government (including the FBI, CIA, Customs Service and the Library of Congress) is one of the largest employers of people with foreign language skills. Foreign language majors can also go into arts and entertainment by working at museums, book publishers and film companies, or into commerce and work at American firms abroad or international firms in the U.S.
Travel, tourism, service and education are also popular industries for foreign language graduates. Try to become as accustomed to the culture of the language(s) you’re studying as possible, in any way possible, from studying or working abroad to renting foreign language movies and books.
So you want to go into politics, but you’re neither an Austrian bodybuilder/movie star nor a former professional wrestler… that’s probably okay. In fact, some might say a more typical approach would be to supplement that political science major with participation in student government, a model United Nations or local political campaigns if they hope to go into government, law or politics.
Other career options include journalism, non-profit work, business, broadcasting or education. A degree in political science can also be good preparation for post-graduate studies in psychology, law and business.
Whatever your major, keep your options open by volunteering, interning, doing part-time work or taking classes in other areas that interest you. Involve yourself in community events and get to know local professionals who can give you contacts, advice and references.
And the next time someone hassles you about what you’re going to do with your major, resist the urge to tell that person where you’d like to stick it; instead, say with every confidence that you have a variety of options to pursue, but you don’t want to narrow them down quite yet.