Choosing a major does not mean choosing a career

By Paulina Jankovic, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent 
(As originally published in the Ticker:

In college, you are exposed to a whirlwind of new things every day. You discover interests that previously you never would have thought that you’d enjoy. After being exposed to so much, it might become difficult to narrow your focus and select a major.

Sometimes students enter college with a specific career path in mind, but for many, that initial instinct is susceptible to change. On average, a freshman that declares his or her major will end up changing it at least 3 to 5 times before graduating.

As you move up the ranks and become an upperclassman, you may feel your level of anxiety heightening from having to officially declare a major. Choosing a major might make you feel like you are holding the fate of your career in your hands.

However, picking a major will not dictate your future, nor will it prevent you from pursuing career options that are not perfectly aligned with the major you chose.

Though your major is important and may set the groundwork for your potential career path, it is your college experience and the skills you build and strengthen that truly prepare you for the work world.

If you think your major predetermines your career prospects, there are some prominent examples that prove otherwise. Ted Turner, founder of the first cable superstation consisting of CNN, Cartoon Network, and TNT, studied classics in college. Despite the arcane choice of major, he went onto be a notable entrepreneur.

Conan O’Brien majored in history and comparative literature before becoming a comical talk show host. Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs and former secretary of the U.S. Treasury majored in English. Ken Jeong, the comedian of Hangover fame, went to medical school before launching a career in acting.

If you are unsure of your exact career path, there are many things that you can do. Try to develop transferrable skills that will be relevant in any job. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the most crucial skill an employer seeks is strong communication skills.

Following that, employers want you to possess interpersonal skills, teamwork ability, and integrity. Thus, to successfully launch your career you should strive to be a well-rounded student. Take advantage of internships and jobs, leadership activities, clubs, community service, and research opportunities.

Developing the work ethic required to excel in your classes is a transferrable and valuable skill.

Many students will need to commit to a major before committing to a career.  This means that there is have time to explore various careers. Focus 2, a career exploration application available to students through the STARR Career Development Center, helps you explore different careers and helps you choose a major.

O*Net, the national source for occupational information, allows you to explore jobs and their descriptions. Obtaining internships and setting up informational interviews can also provide you with direct exposure to positions, industries and fields.

If you wish to keep exploring and mastering a subject matter after you graduate from Baruch College, graduate school is always an option.

Beyond that, there are multiple specialized or technical careers, like engineering, accounting, or medical jobs, where you will face more stringent academic requirements.

These careers typically require that you take certain classes so you will be prepared for both the licensing requirements and the actual job responsibilities. If you are pursuing one of these careers, it is important to be forward thinking.

While it is always possible to make a career change, students can often feel anxiety around the idea of needing to catch up on academic requirements. To avoid this feeling, research these professions so that you thoroughly understand what coursework you need to be eligible for the roles you are targeting.

Choosing a major should definitely not be taken lightly. It is a crucial step in your college career and it helps establish the foundation of your knowledge. In addition, it is important to remember that a major does not dictate your career. Choosing a major is only one step in preparing yourself for the world of work.