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What do I base my college major on?

Should someone be choosing their major on whether they'll be making enough money in the future to financially support themselves or if it's a major that will in the end make them happy. I know the ultimate answer would be to do what makes you happy but is it possible to do that while being financially stable.

#money #financial-risk #college-major #college #career

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Lashay’s Answer

Hello Hanna: I used to get this question a lot from freshman I'm college. Primary, what topic is of interest to you. Secondarily, what you are capable of succeeding in. Third to consider is the the demand for that work which can be found in occupational outlook handbook, you don't want to spend a lot of money in college on a topic that's not in demand so review the site for things you are considering. Based on high school performance, try to recall what classes were more interesting than others. Typically, interests don't change. Also, plan on meeting with  a career counselor to take an interest assessment which may help you identify a broader array of interests. I truly hope this helps. Best of luck in your decision!

Lashay recommends the following next steps:

Visit occupational outlook handbook online
Consider past grades and classes of interest to you
Meet with the career counselor at your college, it's free and take an hour or so

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Maura’s Answer

I think it is important to choose something that interests you and leverages your strengths, something that will make you happy, but I think you need to balance these choices with your financial/lifestyle goals. Bottom line, I think it is not a one or the other decision. Rather, it is finding the balance that will allows you to enjoy your work and achieve security in your desired lifestyle financially. When they align naturally, that's great, but it typically will take some personal compromise. Plan ahead and stick to goals! Good luck!

Maura recommends the following next steps:

Seek assistance online by searching for career options or sites that help you align your interests and strengths with career choices.
You may be young enough that you do not have a complete plan in mind for your future financially, but start a plan. Start documenting goals or milestones and the age you would like to be when you achieve them.
Start mapping #1 and #2 together. Of the careers that interest you, are there any that will help you to achieve your financial milestones? Or, are there financial goals that you can compromise on a bit to allow you to pursue a career that may not pay enough to reach your first draft of financial goals?
When you look at your financial goals, take into consideration the savings that will need along the way to protect you if you are out of work for a period of time. There are lots of online sites offering advice about this.

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Lindsey’s Answer

Great question Hannah. I'm sorry it hasn't been answered yet! In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few links to other relevant Q&A on CareerVillage.org that should be super helpful to read through.

If you don't know what career to pursue how do you pick a major?

How do I know what major to choose?

What can make picking a major easier?

What was most helpful in helping you choose a career path?

I also wanted to chime in with some advice of my own! :)

I recommend working backwards. Before spending too much time on figuring out where to go to college and what major(s) to pursue, figure out what job and career path are most exciting to you. Once you have a better understanding of what your dream job is, then speak with people doing that job(s) and ask them how they got to where they are. What college(s) did they go to? What was their major? What work experience did they have on their resume prior to getting their first job out of college? etc.

So.. it begs the question "how DO I figure out what my dream job is?" which is easier to ask than it is to answer:)

One way of doing it is by reading job descriptions of roles within the departments that align with your passions and/or what you're good at, and find ones that excite you. Set yourself aside for a few minutes, and pick 10 companies you LOVE, whether it be because it's a brand of clothing you wear all the time, or a car company you think is awesome, or a nonprofit you admire, or even a movie production company you think is pretty cool. You'd be surprised how many jobs these companies need people to do to stay afloat and be successful! Jobs you've never even heard of before. Once you have your list visit their website, find the "careers" section, and start reading job descriptions until one makes you think "that sounds cool, I'd be good at that!".

Once you have the careers/job titles that excited you, come back here and ask questions about how people who do those jobs or ones similar got to where they are.

Work backwards and you may find it much easier to get the insight and information you need to make decisions about making the most out of your time in college! #life-advice

Lastly- I know it may sound cliche but when you end up doing a job you love the likelihood of you making a good living off of it is high. Throughout my own career it's been very clear that the more I work towards doing things I genuinely enjoy doing the more and more money I make. In other words, I don't think you need to choose between money and passion, quite the opposite. Choose what you love and I promise you will figure out how to make a good living off of it- if not while IN school, then shortly afterwards as you gain work experience in that field.

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Ly’s Answer

Hi Hannah,

What a great question this is! The sweet spot is where your interests, values, and market demand collide, right? The right answer is not just doing what makes you happy, it has to both gives you fulfillment and financial stability. So let's tackle this.

  1. Financial Stability: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm. I think this is a reliable place to start your research. Think about how much you spend and the lifestyle you want and then how much it would equate to.
  2. Fulfillment: This is a loaded topic. What do you enjoy doing? What makes you lose yourself? What are your personality traits? For example, I am highly curious and I enjoy learning and applying what I learn in real life. This sounds rather vague, yea? I personally believe the more vague your answer is, the more jobs you will find to be acceptable.
  3. Career Track: I would also consider this. Each major in college can offer a wide variety of career track. For example, I majored in Accounting. What do you think of when I said "accounting" besides "taxes, and a lack of personality"? Accounting majors can go to work for the government, consulting, public accounting firm, private accounting firm, etc. They can also segway into system functions, doing cool things and automating manual work by coding, etc. Accounting-related jobs are highly analytical and complex. They pose great challenges for the mind and require a keen eye for details. So if you enjoy processing complex details and you like knowing that things are properly organized, this might be something you are naturally good at.

In short, you need to dig deep to find tenants of what a major offers (the nature of the job you think you want), aspects of what you are naturally good at and enjoy doing (solving complex problems, curious, process streamlining, learning about technology) that are part of your personality. I believe doing so will open you up to a new world of endless possibility, rather than the stereotypical "starving artist, soulless corporate worker" contrast. And don't worry, career change is natural and common.

I will leave you with my story as an example: I enjoy thinking through complex issues, problem solving, economics, playing piano, philosophy, petting my cats, yoga, and being financially independent. I realized early on I could not make money playing piano and/do yoga. Doing so would take a lot of time and effort and I needed a job right out of college that would allow me to fully support myself. My brain is split between analytics and arts. I am also highly practical. First I majored in Business, then I thought Marketing. Then I found out I didn't enjoy selling things. I wanted a bigger challenge, so I went to Finance/Accounting track. Then I graduated with an Accounting degree. After college, I went to work for Verizon. I didn't fully understand what accountants do when I graduated. As it turned out, Accounting offers me an opportunity to solve complex issues on a daily basis, endless puzzles and a paycheck for me to see my sister in California every other month. I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up, but I will continue to take my own advice and discover what that is as I find out more about myself. Best of luck to you and I do believe those who ponder this kind of questions are destined for awesomeness.