Palmquist: All majors are created equal

Many college students feel as if the major they choose during college will make or break their success in life. 

Growing up, it is not uncommon to hear adults say things like “follow your dreams” or “do what makes you happy” or even “you can do anything you set your mind to.” However, once you enter high school and then college, all of that changes. Suddenly, it matters less what one is truly passionate about, and more about what major is going to place them on the most practical career path. 

Those majoring in fields such as business, law or medicine are praised for their interests, while those majoring in nontraditional fields like the arts or humanities are chided for partaking in ‘useless’ degrees. Such criticism is only supported by rhetoric from media outlets like The Daily Beast, which has labeled majors such as architecture, political science and even journalism among its “13 most useless majors.” 

Looking at majors as if one is more valuable than the other is just the kind of critique that college students should not listen to when selecting their major. While some majors may offer greater financial opportunities than others, this is not the only factor with which to judge them. Picking a career that one  is passionate about and will not grow tired of is just as important of a consideration as the economic aspects.

Kyle Santos, a career advisor for the University of Oregon’s Career Center, argues that students should consider the entire “spectrum” of factors that go into picking a major - not just the financial factor. 

“Find something that you’re good at; find something that you’re interested in, something that can help you get paid,” Santos said. “All of those things are definitely important on finding whatever is the next step for you after college.”

Santos  went on to express the importance of “changing all of the myths” that make students feel as though their passions are not worth pursuing. He believes that many of those myths stem from the societal view of what a “higher-end job” looks like and the amount of money that a person can make from that job. Another aspect of these myths comes from the lack of confidence students may have  and their ability to excel in their chosen career field. His advice for those students is to “strive to reach the highest.” 

“Don’t have any limitations; have confidence in terms of your majors and your skills and everything will fall into its place on its own,” Santos said. 

Picking a major that truly pertains to one’s interests can help prevent the boredom one might feel doing work they are not actually passionate about. A survey created by Robert Half , a human resource consulting firm, found that 22 percent of employees credited their boredom at work to a lack of interest in their positions. 

John D. Eastwood, a professor at York University interviewed by The New York Times, also claims that feeling boredom at work might be an indication of underlying resentment for goals gone unfulfilled. 

“If someone has sacrificed an important life goal, boredom may be an outward sign of “anger toward the self and the world” for not having been able to pursue it,” Eastwood told The Times. 

While picking a cost-effective major may prove to be a worthwhile decision for some students, for others, selecting a major that they are likely to be more passionate about may prevent them from experiencing regret caused by dreams they never pursued. Dedicating themselves to a career they find interesting could ultimately be a better choice than dealing with the boredom they might experience in another field that pays better. 

When deciding on a major, it is important to remember that not one of them is useless. Despite their unique differences, all majors are meant to educate students as they enter their lives as young adults. Some may not promise a high-paying career valued by society, but they all present opportunities for young adults to explore their passions and offer their own unique view of the world.