How many people do you know from college who ended up employed in careers entirely unrelated to their degrees? I know a few…actually, quite a few. Indeed, I would venture to say that a sizeable majority of college grads are now doing exactly what they did not set out to do. Out of survival necessity, or because a new dose of reality changed their interests or plans, they defaulted to something that simply did not figure into their original thinking. Dave has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Washington, but, six years of stock clerk jobs later, along with some significant re-schooling, we see him working as a software engineer with Lockheed Martin. Janet has a B.S. in art history, but marriage, children, the cost of living, and the job market have directed her to re-train as a medical assistant. She is now working at a major hospital. These are both fictional characters and events, but they are based on an army of real cases.
So, if you are a student early in your college career and you are still thinking about choosing a major, or if you are a high school graduate looking forward, here is a piece of advice — don’t choose a major. Choose TWO majors. Particularly if your chosen major (which you are passionately attached to) is not something “hot”, as the job market goes, you may want to explore a second major that piques your interest but at the same time will afford you practical work opportunities as soon as possible after you graduate. In other words — HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN. This may mean taking a few extra courses. This may mean re-orienting your thinking a little about your future and your dreams. Here is a good first step in that direction: Check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook online by going to bls.gov/oco.
This is an excellent and comprehensive source of information about a variety of occupations. It is produced and updated by the U.S. Department of Labor and it is entirely online — no need to purchase or order anything or complete an online registration form. For hundreds of occupations, this Handbook will tell you about training and education required, salaries, what the workers do on the job, the working conditions, information about the job market for each state, and, perhaps most relevant to our topic — expected job prospects and job search tips. After you have done a little homework with this and any other sources you can get your hands on, then look at the school programs and requirements related to your choice (or short-list of choices, as the case may be).
Always remember that, no matter what your career passion is at the moment, it is a good thing to diversify. Go for two or more skill/education sets, rather than one. You may be glad you did…and you may have a little more control over your future as a result, instead of the other way around.