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College Majors in the News: Should You Believe What You Read?

May 25, 2011

Have you been thinking about what you might like to major in? There are a lot of options out there, and it can be tough to choose. Every now and then, news stories focusing on college will pop up. How much should you let what you read impact your decision?

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By Sarah Wright

Best and Worst Majors

Every so often, someone, be it a blogger or a journalist, decides to come up with a list of what the 'best' and 'worst' college majors are. A variety of criteria are used to determine this, from earnings after graduation to success at getting a job in the field. They typically name majors in the arts and humanities as the worst, leaving some clever folks thinking it's funny to make burger flipping jokes to recent liberal arts graduates.

college major degree

Because these lists often focus so much on the bottom line of money and success, it would be easy to say that they're somewhat cynical. Some of these lists focus on the fact that there are no jobs in philosophy or English, but that's missing the point a bit. The truth is that you can get a variety of jobs with any degree. Even if there is no specific career that seems to match up with the major of your dreams, going to college will give you skills in reading comprehension, writing, communication and research that will be useful in careers in law, education, journalism, business, government, the non-profit sector, health administration and design.

New Majors

Another trend in news coverage of majors is to cover the creation of new majors. For example, this year, Pitzer College announced that a major in secularism will now be available to students. The program will focus on deliberately non-religious topics, including a reading of the Bible as literature. This announcement received considerable news coverage, including an article in The New York Times.

News stories like this may lead new students to believe that certain majors are widely available, but the fact is that if the creation of a new major makes it into the national news, there's a reason. That reason is typically that the major is so unique or controversial, it is worth calling attention to. Even if you're interested in studying literature and the world from a secular point of view, chances are fairly high that your new school won't have a secularism major, unless, of course, you'll be attending Pitzer College.

college major subject

What Do You Want to Learn?

Ultimately, choosing a college major can be fun. In your first couple of years at school, you can take comfort in the fact that you will be able to switch majors without doing much, or any, damage to your ability to graduate on time. But reading news stories about college majors might make you a bit uneasy about your decision. Reading that your chosen major is the 'worst', according to some set of criteria, shouldn't necessarily scare you into changing your major.

While it's important to focus on practical concerns, majoring in a humanities or liberal arts discipline that truly captures your passion isn't going to prevent you from being able to get a good job. Doing well in school and building a work resume through jobs and internships is something that can be accomplished in any field. One way to decide on a major is to ask yourself what you are really interested in doing. Do you really want to spend four years studying business if you aren't truly interested in it, just because it's what your parents or friends say is the best thing to do?

College is an important time for you to lay a foundation for a future career. But it's also an important time to lay a foundation for who you will be and how you will act during your adult years. Going with your gut and choosing the major that you want, for reasons that you're comfortable with, rather than being influenced by some external factor, is a good first step to making sure that you'll live life with minimal regrets.

If you are concerned mostly with the bottom line of employment and income after college, there's nothing wrong with that. Here's a list of the top ten paying college majors that might help you decide.

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