4 Tips to Pick a Major that Pays Well | Scholarship America

4 Tips to Picking a Major that Pays Well

Support During College  |  4 minute read

A common question for students heading to college is: What major should I pick if I want a good job? Read this article for advice on choosing a major.

It’s one of the most common questions college-bound students have: what major should I pick if I want a good job?

Well, as with most questions about college, the answer is sometimes frustrating: it depends. In this case, it depends on your areas of skill and interest; in the type of college you want to attend; in the time and money you can devote to classwork; and in a thousand other variables that can change at any time.
Fortunately, even though there’s no one solid “correct” answer to the question, there are ways you can narrow down the possibilities and find the right fit for you. Here are our top four pieces of advice.

1. Look at the statistics, but don’t obsess over them.

There’s no shortage of research out there purporting to tell you the five or 10 or 25 or 50 “highest-paying majors” you can pursue, and it’s valuable to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the data.

Unsurprisingly, the current most in-demand jobs in the United States are in healthcare and technology fields. Engineering, computer science, information systems and cybersecurity continue to experience massive growth; so do medical fields ranging from home health service to nursing to biochemistry and biomedical engineering.

These STEM-centric fields show no sign of slowing down; 14 of the “25 Best Majors for a Lucrative Career” on this Kiplinger list, for example, are in engineering or computer science. One of the non-computer fields, nursing, finance and business management made the list.

Judging by the numbers, then, you’d be foolish to major in something other than STEM, medicine or business. But those stats don’t tell the whole story.

2. Picking a major isn’t just about the next four years.

In many cases, the lucrative health, STEM and business fields that populate these kinds of lists don’t just require a four-year degree. Take a look at this College Consensus roundup of the Top 10 Degrees in Demand: 7 of the 10 are at the master’s degree level, which means at least an additional two years of college after earning your bachelor’s degree.

It’s true that higher levels of education mean potentially higher salaries and better opportunities, but rising college costs also mean you could find yourself deep in debt by the time you complete your course of study. (Or, worse, that you might have to drop out short of a degree.)

If you’re concerned about affording college, limit your initial searching for in-demand majors to those that pay off with a bachelor’s degree — or consider a different route entirely.

3. Make your passions and your skills work for you.

With the “in-demand major” lists being so heavily populated by STEM, health, computer and business fields, it can be discouraging if your strengths and interests don’t fall in those areas. But don’t despair: every major is what you make of it, and passion and skill are ultimately far more important than national rankings.

Take Kiplinger’s “Worst College Majors” list, which is filled with lots of students’ “dream majors:” theater, radio & TV, art, animal science, athletic training and more. It’s true that these are popular fields, and that the job markets for most of them are overpopulated. But there are still opportunities for the best and brightest to shine — and there are also majors that incorporate these skill sets in ways that the current working world values.

For instance, a passion for sports may help inform a future career in physical therapy or orthopedics. A love of language can turn into a degree in speech communications, public relations or even politics. An eye for art can lead to a bachelor’s degree in information design, user experience or app development.

And, in some other cases, a degree might not be the right path to the career you want — but that’s not to say it’s not valuable.

4. Learn for life, not just for a job.

There are plenty of careers where the most valuable learning can’t be done in a classroom. From great chefs to photographers to entrepreneurs, learning-by-doing is often the only way to truly discover a career path.

In other cases, it’s the major that doesn’t matter much. Especially in the current working world, lots of employers are more concerned with your ability to think critically, overcome adversity and solve problems creatively than they are with your exact field of study. You may not become a nurse or a chemical engineer without very specific skills, but the persistence and determination required to get a bachelor’s degree are the kinds of values all employers look for.

In addition, a well-rounded degree in arts or sciences means you’ll be able to be flexible when it comes time to join the workforce. Even if your dream job isn’t out there the day you graduate, your college career will prepare you to excel in lots of fields — and the connections you make on campus may help you discover new passions you hadn’t thought about when you were a freshman. And, while picking a major is important, that’s how college can truly pay off.

Continuing Your College Planning Journey

As you look to find the right college major, have you wondered how much college will cost? Check out our eBook to get a break down of all financial aid options to better understand the cost of college.

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