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Choice of Major Does Impact Jobs

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Replies to: Choice of Major Does Impact Jobs

  • homerdoghomerdog 5369 replies100 threads Senior Member
    HA. Kids are NOT lying. Too late to make the change.
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  • twogirlstwogirls 7377 replies7 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2
    My D recently graduated from a well regarded public university as a biology major with a double minor in chemistry and Spanish (she is fluent). During her 4 years all I ever heard from her is that a career doesn’t matter...she is there to learn and engage. She accepted a gap year(s) position with a salary that allows her to live in a major city and support herself. She can stay longer...but will eventually return to school.

    She was also offered a few other jobs:
    - editor for a research publication
    - research assistant (a true research scientist in her field requires a PhD)
    - scribe/patient liaison
    - office worker with an opportunity to shadow, get involved in research, attend conferences, and join what they called “networks” in science.

    I know bio majors who graduated and obtained lab positions within pharmaceutical companies and mental health facilities.

    One of her friends from school was a journalism major and was hired by an engineering company.

    Her friends from school in policy and sociology are employed. One will eventually return to school. Her friend from school who majored in psych works in a school on the campus of a well known top university.

    D’s resume consists of several leadership, teaching, and volunteer positions, as well as multiple research positions with pending publications. She got her current gap year job through one of her volunteer positions on campus.

    edited October 2
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  • twogirlstwogirls 7377 replies7 threads Senior Member
    edited October 3
    I want to add a few more comments:

    Most (not all) of these entry level jobs that I mentioned for bio or chem majors are not particularly high paying (the one my D accepted is actually not so bad). They are really great learning experiences for 22 year olds who are looking to work their way up ...or eventually return to school. Many of these positions offer opportunities to attend conferences, meet influential people in the field, shadow, help with research, lead workshops, take classes, etc. These lab positions, editing jobs, research assistant positions, etc ...also don’t pay more money to graduates coming out of higher ranked schools. My D’s current roommate is at a school on the level of MIT. She was a chem major who spent a year as a research assistant and now works in a small clinic. Her salary is not particularly high (so says the roommate). This leads to the next question....

    Do grads from top schools have an employment edge because of the higher ranked school? Do chemistry majors from these schools bring skills to the table that grads from other schools don’t? Or...do the superstars from “Lower Ranked School-Honors” also have an edge because of their experiences as a big standout? Do these kids also bring skills to the table...such as strong writing, out of the box thinking, etc? Some of these first jobs can get hundreds of resumes. Other positions don’t...and seem to come from a professor or alum etc. Some gap year or research positions have very low acceptance rates...under 20%...with a lengthy interview process. My D spent 3 months interviewing for a position with a 15% acceptance rate, average pay, and a work environment that is not glamorous. Who gets those positions? Grads from top schools? Kids from regular schools? The answer from what we have witnessed....is both.

    My D will be spending the next 1-2 years working with recent grads from Yale and similar schools, as well as from “Regular State U.”

    This lends credence to the theory....it’s not where you go, but it’s what you do when you get there. I am not suggesting that students should not attend top schools if they are affordable and a good fit...they should absolutely attend. What I am suggesting, however, is that many entry level jobs (with not so great pay)in fields such as biology etc....also depend on the resume and what was accomplished over those 4 years.





    edited October 3
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  • gwnorthgwnorth 392 replies8 threads Member
    @twogirls wrote:
    This lends credence to the theory....it’s not where you go, but it’s what you do when you get there.

    Absolutely and it applies equally to those doing more traditional professional programs as well. I remember reading a post on a forum from a student who had graduated at the top of his class from a prestigious engineering program and couldn't find a job. Digging more into the details it was more an issue of 1) he didn't do any internships or join any clubs while at school (stereotypical 1 dimensional STEM student) and 2) turned down the job offers he had been given because he thought the salaries offered were beneath him. One of the things we stressed to DS19 going into his first year was to join clubs and make sure he took advantage of all opportunities presented to him and he's off to a good start on that front. Hopefully this summer he will also put more effort into getting some work experience (preferably paid). Landing relevant internships is going to be more challenging if he doesn't have any work experience to put down on his resume.
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1139 replies3 threads Senior Member
    Looking at this from a “resume” perspective shows how the student and college influence career opportunities. I just pulled up a sample resume for a CS graduate from the CMU career website. Here are the main sections (after name and contact info) in order with some thoughts:

    Education. Most resumes will lead with the name of the school the graduate attended, type of degree, gpa, and selected coursework. I know that many will say that a school’s brand promise is meaningless. If so, it’s the only thing in life where brand value does not have any influence. Edge to graduates from well known, high-visibility schools/programs with strong and relevant coursework.

    Skills. Skills can be learned through coursework or outside experience. Edge to graduates with skills relevant to desired position.

    Experience. Summer internships and part time jobs during school. While showing any work experience is helpful, having a track record of paid internships in the graduates’ career field is a plus. Having experience at a top employer is an added benefit. Edge to graduates with several internships at flagship employers.

    Projects. Supplements work experience and demonstrates ability to work in teams. Edge to graduates with multiple projects that are relevant to desired career field.

    Great resumes will rise to the top of the stack. Has the graduate maximized their college opportunities and work opportunities? Has the college offered enough relevant opportunities?
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  • natty1988natty1988 685 replies9 threads Member
    I think students do need to get work experience and do everything they can to maximize their time in college. Networking is VERY important! Talk to friends, family members, fellow alumni, everyone! Also, keep an open mind..you never know where and when you may get a good opportunity! I know people from all sorts of majors who have jobs that they love and they make good money....
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  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing 2195 replies102 threadsForum Champion Williams College Forum Champion
    edited October 3
    Look at the last page of this profile, with the colorful circular graphic. I always have loved this graphic based on the relationship of major to career fields. It demonstrates so powerfully how a world of possibilities is open to graduates of all majors.

    https://admission.williams.edu/student-profile/
    edited October 3
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1455 replies35 threads Senior Member
    In this environment where there're a lot of uncertainties and technologies are advancing rapidly, it's better for a student to prioritize building a solid foundation to deal with these uncertainties and changes, than specializing early, if s/he has to choose (some obviously can do both).
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79054 replies702 threads Senior Member
    edited October 3
    1NJParent wrote: »
    In this environment where there're a lot of uncertainties and technologies are advancing rapidly, it's better for a student to prioritize building a solid foundation to deal with these uncertainties and changes, than specializing early, if s/he has to choose (some obviously can do both).

    Most* BA/BS degrees in the US require some specialization (a major that consumes about a third to half of one's course work) as well as what colleges consider "a solid foundation" (general education requirements covering areas outside of the major, although each college can define that differently).

    *Yes, there are a few exceptions, like Evergreen State which requires neither a major nor general education requirements.
    edited October 3
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79054 replies702 threads Senior Member
    edited October 3
    Look at the last page of this profile, with the colorful circular graphic. I always have loved this graphic based on the relationship of major to career fields. It demonstrates so powerfully how a world of possibilities is open to graduates of all majors.

    https://admission.williams.edu/student-profile/

    Of course, the "world of possibilities" open to Williams students is different from the "world of possibilities" open to South Dakota School of Mines and Technology students. A similar graphic for the latter school would likely have no or very little consulting or banking/finance, but lots of engineering that is absent from Williams' graphic. The "world of possibilities" open to Sarah Lawrence College students would look different from either of these other two schools.
    edited October 3
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  • twogirlstwogirls 7377 replies7 threads Senior Member
    edited October 4
    There are people who graduate with accounting degrees (for example) and work as accountants for 40+ years. Others graduate college and have lots of twists and turns. Several of my D’s professors have multiple degrees and have had many different careers over the years.

    I think choice of major can impact your career initially...but matters less as the years go on...for some.

    One can be a physics, sociology, psych, English, history etc major and teach for a few years directly out of college through one of the programs designed for non-education majors...several of which are very competitive. Major doesn’t matter, as sociology majors may be asked to teach history or English..

    Following 2-3 years teaching history or physics or English...you may follow up on an email asking if you are interested in a startup (many of these programs come with opportunities) or unique STEAM program that is opening across the country. You may be a psych major now working in a STEAM program.

    You may work in one of these programs and discover your interest in education policy, or decide to go to law school. Or..
    You may stay in the STEAM program while completing your PhD in education research...meanwhile you may have started out in this process as a sociology major.

    I know somebody who graduated from a top LAC with a degree in sociology. She accepted a tutoring position for a year through one of the competitive Americorp type programs and then spent 2 years in the Peace Corp (these are competitive programs also btw). Following this she decided to go into nursing, where she also participated in research, and is now a nurse practitioner. She began as a sociology major.

    Some grads have many twists and turns....and their major may not really matter once they get going. Others start out at the age of 18 with one major...and remain in it.







    edited October 4
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1455 replies35 threads Senior Member
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    In this environment where there're a lot of uncertainties and technologies are advancing rapidly, it's better for a student to prioritize building a solid foundation to deal with these uncertainties and changes, than specializing early, if s/he has to choose (some obviously can do both).

    Most* BA/BS degrees in the US require some specialization (a major that consumes about a third to half of one's course work) as well as what colleges consider "a solid foundation" (general education requirements covering areas outside of the major, although each college can define that differently).
    By "building a solid foundation", I don't mean satisfying some general education requirements or some "core" as defined by some colleges. A solid foundation to me means much more. It means honing one's critical thinking skill, problem solving skills, writing and presentation skills, and some basic understanding of how the world around us works economically, politically, socially, and scientifically.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3108 replies39 threads Senior Member
    Well, studies have indicated that most American colleges do quite a poor job of honing critical thinking skills regardless of major.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79054 replies702 threads Senior Member
    1NJParent wrote: »
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    In this environment where there're a lot of uncertainties and technologies are advancing rapidly, it's better for a student to prioritize building a solid foundation to deal with these uncertainties and changes, than specializing early, if s/he has to choose (some obviously can do both).

    Most* BA/BS degrees in the US require some specialization (a major that consumes about a third to half of one's course work) as well as what colleges consider "a solid foundation" (general education requirements covering areas outside of the major, although each college can define that differently).
    By "building a solid foundation", I don't mean satisfying some general education requirements or some "core" as defined by some colleges. A solid foundation to me means much more. It means honing one's critical thinking skill, problem solving skills, writing and presentation skills, and some basic understanding of how the world around us works economically, politically, socially, and scientifically.

    Something similar to that is often the rationale for colleges' core curricula or general education requirements. Whether effective or not depends on your point of view.
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  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger 2890 replies161 threads Senior Member
    It means honing one's critical thinking skill, problem solving skills, writing and presentation skills,

    Writing skills can be very application specific. What makes a good novel isn't what makes a good legal brief, that meticulously parses each word of a statute, which isn't what makes a good engineering journal article that contains mathematical derivations.
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  • barronsbarrons 23055 replies1955 threads Senior Member
    Yes, major matters less--IF you go to Williams and the like.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1455 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited October 4
    Well, studies have indicated that most American colleges do quite a poor job of honing critical thinking skills regardless of major.
    I agree that many colleges don't provide an environment to critically examine some ideas and beliefs. Even ideas that have been validated in the past may still contain defects, or have become faulty as a result of new circumstances or inapplicability of some underlying assumptions. We question less the truths of many orthodoxies. We substitute critical thinking with googling for "answers" on the internet. A new form of groupthink?
    edited October 4
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  • kiddiekiddie 3500 replies220 threads Senior Member
    This is purely anecdotal. I know 3 Yale grads who were liberal arts majors and 1 Williams grad who had a combo Math with something else major. Their problem straight out of college, was not getting a job, but figuring out what kind of job they wanted. All had good college grades & excellent resumes (good summer activities, etc.) Their liberal arts education had them believing they could do anything, but each had no idea what their next step should be, what they wanted to do. Two are now in grad school (after 2-3 failed attempts each at some other direction/career.) One is still trying to figure out what kind of grad program to apply to and is earning money as a tutor. The last one is on job number 2, in sales.

    Some college majors have clear career paths (accounting for example as mentioned above) and others don't (many liberal arts degrees). So not only does choice of major impact jobs, it may impact the amount of career guidance you receive and need.
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