4 answers

Should I choose a major based on what my parents want for me or what I want, even if mine pays alot less?

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I want to go into non-profit work, while my parents want me to get a job that pays six figures. #college-major #nonprofits #parents

Hey Ashley! My advice would be to do what you want. It is your life, and it would be in your best interest to follow your desired major so you can go into a career you are happy in. I was in your position when I was a freshman, and was miserable. I switched my major from Business Management to Sociology and Anthropology and couldn't be happier I switched! I have so many options career wise, and I'm happy in my major. My parents were a little discouraged, but you are paying a substantial amount to be in college, so make it worth your while! Sydney H. Translate
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Maria’s Answer

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Hi Ashley!

What a good question! I wish I had CareerVillage.org when I was your age!

I had the same question when I was young. My parents were immigrants and they wanted me to a doctor or lawyer. I chose to work in nonprofit straight out of college because I wanted to help other people gain access to better education opportunities.

My best piece or advice is that you should follow your passion. We have one life to live, and if you feel like you want to help people through nonprofit work, I think your parents will eventually see you are doing good in the world and support you.

It took me a long time (maybe 5 years after college) for my parents to really support me and be proud of my career choice, but I don't regret it for a second. Now, they are so proud of me because they see how my work helps create education and economic advancement opportunities for other minorities .

It also took a lot of discipline to live in new york city and work for a nonprofit, but I felt the lower salary was worth it for the opportunity to help more people.

We need more people like you in this world (now, more than ever)! Nonprofit work is really important!

Keep going and know that there are lot of people cheering you on!
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Julia’s Answer

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I think that Maria has great advice for you. What I would add to that is that there are a number of ways to serve nonprofits and still earn a strong income.

Nonprofits need legal help, medical professionals, mental health providers, financial officers, business managers- and many more professions that can demand a strong salary.

I would encourage you to find what you are most talented at, develop those skills, and then use them for good wherever you go.

I've worked in the nonprofit industry for almost 20 years and one of the challenges I see them face is a lack of professionals that work in the nonprofit space. Sure, perhaps a lawyer won't make as much working for a nonprofit as in a private company-- however they will still make a strong salary.

Check out the IRS 990 form for your favorite nonprofit organizations and you'll find that many people at the top of those organizations make well over six figures. But they are the people that hold the top positions.

If you are talented enough to go to school for an advanced degree- go for it-- and then find an organization you want to use that knowledge to serve.

Best wishes to you in your studies and in life. We are lucky to have students like you that want to serve others by working in the nonprofit industry.
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Ollie’s Answer

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I echo everything the others said. Good for you, etc.

Two things to add:

1. Find yourself a mentor. Ask the executive director or another accomplished non-for-profit person to give you advice over the next few years as you get yourself educated.

2. Beware educational debt. The less you owe, the more choices you have about what you can do.

Be compassionate toward your parents. They've known you a long time, and they want the best for you. Give them time to adjust to your decision-making for yourself. Be aware of this: when you say you want to follow your dream instead of heading to Wall Street or something, they won't smack their foreheads and say, "oh we're so silly, of course you should follow your dream." They'll resist. That's OK.

If they say, "OK if you want to do that, fine, but you're on your own, no more support from us!" that's different. That's part of why you need a mentor.
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Amy’s Answer

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I always recommend focusing on what you are interested and not what your parents want to do. Otherwise it makes for a miserable college experience. With that said, maybe there’s a major you can pick that could work in multiple fields. What kind of nonprofit work do you want to do? If it’s something like social work, that’s pretty cut and dry as far as a major, but if you’re interested in fundraising or communications, you have a broader range of majors to pick from that could work in both nonprofit and corporate sectors. Whatever you decide to do, I highly encourage trying to find an internship or volunteer gig at a nonprofit to get a better feel for the kinds of jobs you enjoy. Good luck!
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