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Campus Overload
Posted at 03:33 PM ET, 05/26/2011

Does your college major dictate future success?


Lately, experts of assorted ranks and noisy relatives of all types have gently told some members of the Class of 2011 that their job-finding woes started years ago. Back when they picked their majors.

Does it really matter what you major in?

A report out of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce this week found that engineering, computer science or business majors make as much as 50 percent more in a lifetime than those who major in the humanities, the arts, education or psychology.

Meanwhile, a report out of Indiana University earlier this month found that 92 percent of alumni from arts programs were employed, and 90 percent were happy with their training.

During Campus Overload Live on Thursday, Beverly Lorig — director of career services at Washington and Lee University — was asked if students should pick their majors based on employability. She answered:

“I encourage students and their parents to focus not so much on the major, but the quality of skills needed to survive the volatile economic changes now and in the future. Learning to learn new disciplines, succeeding in the team work environment, STRONG writing skills,  ability to critically apply knowledge to new situations — these are the lifelong skills that create success. The major is relevant typically in the first job but becomes less each year of experience... [S]tudying for major based on today's job market can back-fire.”

Andrea Koncz of the National Association of Colleges and Employers also joined the chat and answered:

“NACE has found in our annual Student Surveys that students typically choose their major by what they “like” to do. Despite the fact that engineering, computer science and other “technical” majors are paid well, enrollment in those programs remains low. If you are thinking about a particular major, you may want to explore some of the employment opportunities that will be available upon graduation, and use that to help you consider your major.”

And then a reader who graduated with a political science degree five years ago wrote in:

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for humanities majors to take quantitative courses. In all of my job interviews the employer was most impressed by my statistics courses, quantitative research skills and computer programming experience. There are so many liberal arts graduates who can’t/won’t do math that even just an extra quantitative class or two will put you at the top of a pile of résumés. Employers are looking for social science majors who can write programs to analyze data and English majors who can write about technical subjects.”

What do you think? Does your major matter?

You can read the full chat transcript online. And make sure to check out Campus Overload Live every Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

By  |  03:33 PM ET, 05/26/2011

 
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