Help — I Hate My Major!
By Nancy Mucciarone, Syracuse University for The Real College Guide
Whether you thought you’d love, love, love [insert your major here] but are in over your head; or your parents pressured you into following the family legacy; or you were in it for the love of money but now want to go after your true passion …
Don’t panic. It’s never too late to make some adjustments to get yourself on a satisfying career track — even if that means changing your major (or not). Here, are five ways to get your educational goals on track in a more positive direction.
1. Diagnose the problem. Figure out exactly what it is about your major that’s driving you nuts and don’t let one bad class or professor ruin it for you, says Dr. Larry Chiagouris, author of The Secret to Getting a Job After College: Marketing Tactics to Turn Degrees into Dollars. If it’s the subject in general, examine specifically why you don’t like it so you can avoid these aspects when you choose a new one.
You’re majoring in journalism and have figured out you have a nose for news but that you hate to write? Switching to marketing communications probably wouldn’t be the best decision in this case. But you could also consider redirecting your career to broadcast journalism, which doesn’t require as much writing.
2. Understand your major. If it’s early on in your college career, switching to a new major won’t be difficult — it’s making sure you don’t choose another wrong major that could be a problem. Barbara Cooke, author of Parent’s Guide to College and Careers: How to Help, Not Hover, says that before making a decision, students need to understand that there are two types of majors:
* Specific-content-skills majors train you for a specific job. “In classes in these types of majors, you are learning the skills to do that particular job,” says Cooke. Majors like accounting, engineering, interior design and pharmacy all fall into this category, so students need to make sure they want a career in that particular field before committing. “It’s really important to get out there and talk to several people who are working in that career just so you make sure the job is what you think it is.”
* Functional-skills majors prepare you for a wide range of potential careers. These are typically liberal arts majors, like English, history, psychology and communications. They give you general skills to use anywhere in the workforce. “If you’ve ruled out majors that train you for a particular job, it really doesn’t matter what you major in,” says Cooke. “Pick one that intrigues you and that you can see yourself studying until your senior year.”
3. Pick up a minor. If it’s a little too late in your college career to change your major completely, Chiagouris suggests taking on a minor that is consistent with your passion. That way, you’ll have a basic foundation of the skills in that particular subject. Plus, you will look more attractive to hiring managers with the addition to your resume. This will help you get into the field you’re interested in without ever actually picking it up as a major. 4. Don’t skip the internship. “All students are strongly encouraged to immediately get an internship in what may be their new area of interest if they do not have the right major,” says Chiagouris. Take on a variety of internships and employment if you’re still up in the air as to which field you want to pursue.
Cooke points out that those who have an aforementioned functional-skills major can easily segue into other areas of interest through such opportunities: “A psychology major who works at Gap could easily go into retail management at graduation, while a psychology major who interns at a mental health clinic could be positioned for a job as a psychology technician.”
5. Stay an extra semester. If a minor isn’t going to cut it and you want to go into a completely different field, extending your anticipated graduation might be the key to your dream major. At this point, most of your elective courses will be finished so you’ll only have to focus on a couple semesters of core classes. Chiagouris says this has its advantage, as students who graduate with a double major are considered to be well-rounded. If staying at school is not an option for monetary reasons, check out your local community college to see if you can take the majority of your extra classes there.