The dilemma of unpopular college majors
By: Nicole Kim
Those in the social sciences and humanities encounter the same question numerous times throughout their college career: “What exactly are you going to do with that major?” With the rise of the computer science major and the steady enrollment of those in business or engineering majors, students declaring other majors are constantly questioned on the plans they have for their futures. And from there, if you’re not on a commonly perceived “professional” track towards graduate school, then their questions grow even more. Though statistics provide evidence upon lower incomes of undergraduates with social science, arts, and humanities majors, does this mean that those of us who are intending to pursue these majors have no hope for a successful career? The correlation between undergraduate majors and the level of success in the futures of these students have been statistically proven to be true for many years. But does a higher income necessarily contribute to happiness? And is success based off of just your socioeconomic standing after graduating?
According to the Economic Value of College Majors report published by Georgetown University in 2015, those who had bachelor’s degrees in STEM were always placed on the higher income levels, while humanities and liberal arts majors were near the bottom half of the spectrum. With references to the labor market, these same majors ranked on the lower end of the incomes only comprised up to 20% of college-educated workers. However, when moved to an assessment of students of the same majors who had obtained graduate degrees, the results become significantly different. Graduate degrees are proven to make a drastic change upon earnings of students in every major, some in the arts, humanities, and social sciences being able to come close to their other more “popular” major counterparts. Therefore we can make the conclusion that graduate school provides a clear advantage upon those concerned about their level of earnings due to their undergraduate majors.
Especially for those of us placed in the high-stress environment of UC Berkeley, it is a struggle in itself not to be phased by such pressurizing notions of major selection. Everywhere we go, we see people dressed in professional clothing rushing to their next interview for a club or organization, jam-packed libraries even on weekends, and just competition in the air, EVERY WHERE. And despite this “major” confusion, in both literal terms and figuratively, it is important to note that it’s okay not to have a definitive goal. Your undergraduate career is not only there to determine your entire career but there to help you build upon your experiences and grow as an individual.
One of the definite benefits of pursuing a higher education is to learn about the subjects we are interested in, and this is just as important as your level of success after graduating. Your undergraduate major does not necessarily correlate to your future career, and it is of great importance to take advantage of your education to study the subjects that you are passionate to learn during your college career. Setting all materialistic goals aside, the major you choose that correspond to your interests will leave you with a goal substantial enough in studying something you love instead of choosing a major solely for the level of success and wealth it may bring to you in the future. Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut feeling when making decisions, hoping that passions will be there to pave the way towards your future.