The Eternal Question: What Can I Do With This Major?

By: Thomas Ryerson | Date: May 8, 2014 | Categories: Organizing

The age old dilemma, you do all that work and wind up with a major in…what? Take your choice: sociology, psychology, ethnic studies, physics, classics, women’s studies, organizational behavior and…not English lit. You didn’t do a major in English lit, did you?

Well, whatever, don’t worry about it: what’s done is done. So there you stand, proud graduate, nervously grasping that diploma which consumed so much of your life, with late nights, burning the midnight oil, as you crammed for exams, losing yourself for hours in the library, all stretching back behind you like a trail of shattered dreams. It suddenly strikes you. Heck, what am I going to do now? What can I do with this major? Ah, yes, the proverbial real world is suddenly knocking at the window of your dorm room. But don’t panic, help is here.

However, let’s start with some precautionary advice. If by chance you’ve had the foresight to consider this question before registering for your major, there are some steps to take to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

1. At the risk of stating the obvious, you have to figure out what actually interests you.If you haven’t done that, do it immediately. One smart step is to carefully examine options for majors provided by your college of choice. Rank them in order of priority.

2. If you’ve already decided what major you’re interested in pursuing, or at least, once you’ve decided, start asking around. You probably know people who at least know people who’ve gone down precisely the path you’re considering. Find out what they did with their major.

3. Your high school and your intended college will have counselors and advisers who do just this sort of thing. Use the resources available to you.

4. Or, like, if you want to go totally crazy, why not have a shot at a focused Google search: something like, what in blazes can I do with this English literature major? (You might actually find something.)

No need to fret though if it’s too late for such proactive prevention. The fact of the matter is that all those suggestions in points 2 through 4 are just as good for figuring out what to do when you already have your major. Find what have been the career options and choices of those with the same major. However forlorn you feel about your future, rest assured that the college adviser has heard it all before. Furthermore, lots of universities these days have career centers. Don’t think for a second that you’re the first major in Renaissance poetry to wander in looking for career leads.

However, whatever else you do, make sure to dedicate some serious time to that Google search. You can find some pretty groovy stuff. For instance, it turns out that lots of colleges have publicly available online resources for researching just this sort of thing. As an example, check out the University of California career center online resources.

There you can find data on career possibilities for dozens of majors. They have some fairly obscure ones. Heck, they might even have yours!

For instance, check this out all you English majors. You can pull in an average salary of $43,589. (That’ll buy you a whole lot of Canterbury Tales.) Even better, have a gander at your career options. They include opportunities to work as an analyst, an editorial assistant, a product development coordinator or even…you’re going to want to sit down for this…a college adviser! Yes, my friends, that’s right: you too can lean back with an air of bemusement, while you rest your feet on the desktop, and fold your hands behind your head, smiling to yourself with each new glaze-eyed grad that wanders into your office, stammering the question: uh, what can I do with this major?

So, hold your heads high all you grads, even if you did major in the Victorian novel or the mating customs of the Australian Aborigine. Hope springs eternal for a real future. And, who knows, maybe even a pay check!

Thomas Ryerson has recently offered some great insight into what one should consider when consulting the Business Week MBA Rankings

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