Choosing the right major has never been more important:
- School costs more.
- Inflation is rising.
- The workforce has changed dramatically with work from home.
- Part-time college students aren't graduating until 27.
Simply put, it's more expensive than ever to be in school, and it's taking longer to graduate.
But it's also essential to enjoy the work that you do (because: despite the planet burning, we're all living longer and retiring later). Genuinely enjoying your field of work significantly impacts your drive to succeed and your ability to withstand burnout. So choosing a major you like isn't just about chasing dreams—it's about having the fuel to stick out the hard times in your career.
So how do you balance following your interests without sacrificing a stable career with a solid paycheck?
We've put together a few tips to keep paths open to your dream job while preparing for a solid backup.
1. Do Your Research
It's a great idea to research your fields of interest to ensure you clearly understand the job opportunities, typical salaries, and outlook of the field. Research work-life balance, retirement age, and other important factors too!
For example, engineering jobs take most of the top ten earning slots (Computer, Aerospace, Chemical, Electrical, Industrial, Mechanical, Civil, General, and Miscellaneous). Business and Finance jobs fill the rest: Economics, Business Analytics, and Finance.
It's also a great idea to interview people in the field to get more ideas on how they feel about their job if they have news about new opportunities, etc.
On the one hand—it's intuitively-ish understandable that jobs requiring rigorous training, complex mathematics, and human life dependencies would pay more money. (Designing rockets that don't explode shortly after launch... is admirably hard!) But also—here's the other hand—we don't all want to be (nor should we all be) rocket scientists! I for one find contemplating space very cold and boring. Eclipses suck.
So what's left? Well—
2. Pick a Less Specific Major
Many dream jobs have a specific degree: acting, fashion, cooking, photography, and more. But these are all highly competitive fields, with historically few job openings and primarily low-paying jobs. Only a few make it to the big times with the big paychecks, so pursuing these fields is risky.
Still, you can prepare for these fields while taking a less specific major. Business administration, finance, communications, and marketing are all helpful skills for those speciality fields, but they also line you up for other jobs too! No doors closed. Many transferrable abilities. Chameleonic possibilities for self-renewal and shapeshifting.
3. See if Alternative Training is a Better Fit
A college degree can be a great asset. But sometimes, the traditional four-year degree isn’t the most helpful for achieving your career goals. For example, paralegals are qualified after a two-year associate's degree, so don't waste time with a four-year degree if a two year will do it!
And photography and graphic design are much more about practical skills than college degrees. So you can focus on some other training for the practical skills. We'd direct you to tip number one if you still want a degree.
4. A (⚡️Bonus✨) Final Consideration!!!
You're likely to choose your major based on a combination of factors: the influence of your parents or guardians; the level of difficulty you're comfortable sustaining for four years (do you wanna be in a study carrel on a Friday night or at a house party?); your actual passion/interests (you love Jane Austen! you love anime! you love... outer-space 🤢); and the pull of your friends pursuing their own degrees. Money might be an entirely inconsequential factor!
And that's fine.
This post is not about discouraging you from following your heart. It's about making one definite factor this consideration: how you will earn a living after college. And "a living" shouldn't only mean money. It will necessarily also mean "make life worth living." And we all have individual metrics for that.
At Kora, we know how hard it is to balance classes and navigate the changing world of money. Our blog breaks down big concepts, keeps you in the know, and helps you maximize your experiences and your money. Follow us to stay in the know!