Pursuing Dreams Over High Salary Degrees


Adam Fondren

Cap and Gown with ’18 School of Humanities tassle in Salt Lake City, UT on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 (Photo by Adam Fondren | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Madge Slack

Many students entering college and even those well into their degree are plagued by the question: Am I in the right major? Business, science, humanities, they all have stigmas attached. Business majors are supposedly more successful, but there is a lot of money in engineering so if you are interested in English, best quit while you’re ahead. In reality, none of this is necessarily true.

Eric Bloomquist, assistant director of the Career Center on campus, said, “Data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers consistently indicates that a student’s major is not the first factor recruiters consider when hiring university grads.”

A degree might not be as important as you thought, but this is no simple concept to live with. If this very expensive piece of paper isn’t everything, then what in the world are we all working so hard for?

“A big part of a student’s job search success will rely on their ability to articulate value in their knowledge, skills and experience,” Bloomquist said.

This can be heartening news. If we don’t have to complete the perfect degree to get hired, maybe we can actually spend part of college having fun instead of being buried in books.

Even if you’re not buried in books, it can be hard to have fun when you are buried in bills. According to Forbes, 45 percent of students in the United States are paying tuition on their own. Only 9 percent have parents paying the majority of their bills. This means a massive amount of young people are graduating with staggering amounts of debt. You better plan a lucrative career to pay that off or you’ll be paying off  loans the rest of your life.

These numbers are terrifying and drive many students to degrees like business or engineering, where there seems to be a promise of profit. Unfortunately, profit is a result of hard work, intelligence and some amount of being in the right place at the right time — which I call luck. This means you should take a breath, forget the numbers and focus on what you love while you still have the chance.

Business is a great field to pursue if you are actually interested in running, starting or being a part of a business. Likewise, engineering is great for the science-minded who get excited over chemical compositions and enjoy math. For the rest of us, the top tier of people in any industry, meaning the top 2 percent, usually make good money. Perhaps it’s better to focus on getting really good at what you love instead of trying to hack the system through another major with a tenuous promise of success.

When I switched my major to English, people asked me what I was going to do with that degree. Then I would explain I used to be a theater major, and suddenly English was the more lucrative choice. It’s more important to pursue the people, career and life you want to live than to look for money around every corner. I have friends all over the country who are successful artists without side jobs and have been their entire careers. Every piece of text you read, from Facebook to commercial slogans, is written by someone, and those people are often well-compensated. No major is going to determine your success, failure or even your income. Enjoy the opportunity to explore and pick something you actually want to do for the next 60 years. It might just be worth the risk.

[email protected]