Choosing the Right College Major

Choosing a college major(s) can be stressful when thinking about life after graduation. Focus on interesting classes as a great first step to discover one’s life work.

One of the biggest myths about the college experience is that a person must choose the major which will get him or her a job right after graduation and writing a dissertation. Liberal arts majors are acutely aware of this problem: they might have a greater appreciation of the world and their place within it but how can they avoid fast-food work?

W.B. Yeats is credited with saying, “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” That sounds all well and good for students discovering their interest in literature, science, philosophy, history and the like, and understanding the human condition–primary reasons for attending college–but will all this help pay the bills after graduation?

Career Majors versus Career Skills

It’s natural for students to consider their life after graduation when choosing their college major–what better major for a business career than business? However, for many employers what really matters is a person’s set of transferable skills—those which he or she can apply in many situations. Nick Corcodilos, executive headhunter and designer of, identifies such skills as (to use his words):

  • Defining problems and tasks.
  • Mastery of information retrieval systems (libraries, books, periodicals, Internet, personal interviews).
  • Planning and executing research.
  • Organizing ideas and solutions.
  • Writing and communicating.
  • An open mind to new ideas and approaches.
  • Disciplined work habits.
  • A critical eye and ear.

With papers, presentations, exams, and tough reading loads, many college majors provide ample opportunities to use these skills. Liberal arts classes help students develop a ‘critical eye and ear’ through exposure to new ways of thinking about the world such as different cultures (their people, politics and histories), different views of the world (e.g. novels, poetry, essays) and different approaches to the world (e.g. science, philosophy, the social sciences).

Extracurricular activities provide opportunities to use such skills as event planning and organizing, leadership (e.g. team captain, club president), writing (for college newspapers), entrepreneurship (starting a smaller business), and creativity (e.g. starting a band). And, don’t forget the value of internships!

Well-Known People in Entertainment, Government and Business

Use the Internet to search and check out the backgrounds of some well-known people in television, entertainment and government who pursued work outside their college majors such as Martha Stewart (art history), Mira Sorvino (Asian studies),David Duchovny (English literature), Regis Philbin (sociology), Scott Adams (economics) and Jon Stewart (psychology).

Prior to studying law, Thurgood Marshall and John Paul Stevens graduated as humanities and English majors (respectively)!

The business world also has examples. Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina graduated with undergraduate degrees in medieval history and philosophy; for John Mack of Morgan Stanley it was history. Patrick Byrne, CEO of, holds a Ph.D. in philosophy!

College Majors as Keys to One’s Passions and Life’s Work

A better alternative method for a person choosing a college major is to give himself or herself a profound gift–the joy of learning–by choosing a major that appeals to him or her. Meeting people with similar interests might kindle a person’s imagination for his or her life’s direction. People in today’s world must be life-long learners, so why not discover the true joys of learning?

Any person uncertain which direction to take after graduation should also check with career counselors at his or her campus—these counselors love to help people with their life journeys!

Then, people armed with good examples of their skills in action can head out there and impress their future employers!

Beatrice Howell, writer and editor for

A high qualification, experience in students newspapers, Beatrice works with dissertations, essays, articles, reviews, summaries and other students work, help in university selection and preparation to entry exams.



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