A Major Decision
Written by Kelly Martinek and Kendall Hitch
As an incoming college freshmen, students are expected to narrow their focus to just one out of hundreds of majors.
But what does a college major truly mean for a student’s future?
In 2007, Groves graduate Kendall Wyllie set off on a four year, 120 hour credit journey as a history major.
“I was unique in that I knew I wanted to major in history before I left high school,” Wyllie said.
Six years later, Wyllie has found herself in medical school. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in history, she fulfilled all the pre-med requirements at Denison University.
“My major really had no effect on my path or internship oppurtunities,” Wyllie said.
According to Wyllie, the only way her major affected her career path was as a talking point during interviews.
Major choice did not control the future career path of 2008 Seahom graduate Jordan Kristopik. In contrast to Wyllie, Kristopik stayed in the same industry as her original major.
“Your major really has little effect on your job,” Kristopik said. “It’s important to network, go to jobs fairs, and put yourself out there. Be a leader, make a difference.”
Kristopik is currently a employee at Marwood Group, a a health care investment advisory firm in Washington, DC.
Kristopik, who studied at University of Michigan’s Business school, said that what you do with your college experience is more important than your choice of major.
“However, the Michigan Business School taught me invaluable knowledge in finance, accounting, management organization, and economics that puts me at an edge over my co-workers.”
Kristopik’s experience is at odds with an October 12, 2012 press release by the US Census Bureau that found that major choice has a significant effect on a student’s post-college earnings
According to the survey, the choice of a college major could ultimately mean a difference of millions in overall career earnings. For example, engineering majors were found to earn an average of $1.6 million more than education majors.
Seaholm counselor Toby Loukmas said, while choosing a major is important, it does not necessarily determine the course of a student’s career.
“It’s really important for some occupational areas,” Loukmas said. “There’s positions for which they’re saying ‘we want someone who has a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in X…’ there are some that are more broad.”
According to University of Michigan admissions officer Erica Sanders, it comes down to the type of field students are looking to go into.
“That’s industry specific,” Sanders said.
Seaholm Career Counselor Judith Stahl said colleges do not expect a student to have their entire life mapped out while in high school. However, having a general idea of their desired career path could be beneficial to a student.
“It is not expected for 17 and 18 year olds to have chosen a career path prior to entering college,” Stahl said. “However, many colleges do encourage students to determine a “pathway” to help guide classes or a college within the institute.”
While choosing a college major is a quintessential part of every student’s college experience, all universities have a slightly different method for selecting majors. Many present students with the option of beginning college undecided.
According to Sanders, about one third of students choose to remain undecided during the application process.
As students go through college, a major change is a relatively common practice.
According to Loukmas, it is also not uncommon for a student to change majors two to three times throughout their college experience, using their freshman and sophomore years to explore the different options schools have to offer.
“If a student switches a major midstream in college, it may take that student a year or two to gain the prerequisites/credits required to graduate with this new degree,” Stahl said. “The only impact I can think of would be the length of time required to acquire the new degree.”