You chose your major because it sounded interesting, you wanted a career in the field, you wanted to learn more about the subject matter or maybe you wanted a flexible approach to your education. Perhaps 3 or 4 years into your degree you just wanted to graduate so you found the major with the fewest credits to get you out of school the fastest.
How you got there doesn’t matter, the result is a degree in a field that you are finding hard to market. As you start to do research or are in the thick of the job hunt you are finding that the money seems to follow certain majors. When looking at your looming student loan debt payments the idea of following your heart to pick a major doesn’t seem like the best idea now.
According to a recent survey by the National Association of College and Employers (NACE) the winners of the class of 2015 will be engineering graduates. They lead the way with a projected average starting salary of $62,998 while those specializing in petroleum engineering are likely to earn an average salary of $80,600.
Rounding out the top four are Computer Science at $61,287, Math & Sciences at $56,171 and Business at $51,508. Students majoring in Humanities were given the lowest projected salaries of $45,042. Some reports say that liberal arts majors earn can expect to earn on average $36,000 per year.
So where does that leave you as an upperclassman or recent graduate? How can you get anyone to even interview you and then how will you overcome the questions about your preparation based on your degree program? All hope is not lost! Create a plan and a strategy and you will find the right position. I can’t promise that as a History major you will walk into a $68,000 per year job, but you can walk into the start of a promising career.
Here are a few things that can help you boost your marketability and embrace your major while on your job search.
- Get an internship. Even if you are a graduating senior it isn’t too late to try and get that last spring or summer internship done. An internship allows you to build skills and demonstrate that your degree translates into real world application. You can learn and add valuable transferable skills to your resume and give employers confidence that you can make an immediate contribution. As a communications major, I did eight internships including placements in marketing, sales, business, and public relations that allowed me to compliment my communications courses. Do as many internship as you can starting now until you graduate.
- Volunteer. If an internship isn’t in the cards for whatever reason, you can consider looking for volunteer opportunities. Many non-profits and religious organizations need assistance in a variety of capacities. If for example you are a wiz at social media, you can lend your skills to building a following for a cause or learn marketing skills by recruiting volunteers.
- On-Camps groups. Have you gotten involved in your campus community? Student groups can provide a chance to beef up your business skills. Getting involved in an E-Board position can help improve your leadership, financial acumen, marketing and problem solving skills based on your role. When coupled with a strong volunteer or internship experience this can be a nice addition to your resume.
- Double major or add a minor. Depending on where you are in your academic career you may elect to add a major or a minor. If adding a major or minor will extend your degree by more than a semester then you need to consider the financial implications of another year of school. You could pursue some of the other options on this list without incurring more debt.
- Understand how to market your degree. If your particular degree required a lot of writing, research, or more analytical skills than people realize then capitalize on that. On your resume you can list a few of your classes that demonstrate the depth and variety of your studies.
- Get a part time job or ask for a promotion at your job. If interning isn’t an option because you are already working, get creative and figure out what you can do at your current job to add another dimension of skills. Ask to build the social media following, create and host a community fundraiser, start a blog about the business, redesign the website, or move into a role as a supervisor to build your confidence and make prospective employers more confident in what you can bring to the table.
- Network. Get involved in your local alumni association, professional organizations and visit career services. Get out there and meet people who can connect you the right opportunity. You will meet other professionals with liberal arts or humanities majors who can share their varied career paths and show you how they applied their degrees. They may also be able to direct you to employers and positions that want people with your academic background.
- Know that you’ve earned it. A lot of people will start down the path to a degree and for various reasons not complete their education. No matter your choice of major, you fought through 4-5 years of papers, midterms, projects and final exams so be proud of that!
Getting the first job might be the toughest but the further along you get in your career your major is less of an obstacle. When I’m going through resumes for clients to fill open positions, I am focused on what candidates have done and what they can potentially do for that employer. Generally speaking (with the exception of a few professions) the more years experience you get, the less your major is the determining factor in getting the job. Don’t get down, get working.