Choose a Major, Develop Life Skills for Career Success

Evelyn Ryozaki is an academic counselor at Cerritos College and a member of the iFALCON team.

What job can I get with a major in…?

Many students ask what jobs they can get with a particular major. Unless the major they ask about is highly technical or vocational, for example nursing, or welding, I usually answer, “I don’t know, people with lots of different majors get employed in lots of different jobs.” Majors are not necessarily connected to a job or career.

Many students have the idea that going to college is equated with getting a job, and therefore a major is related to a job. A college degree does not guarantee a job, no matter what major you select. However, Labor Department statistics show those that have college degrees have lower unemployment rates than the national average. They also show the more education you have, the greater your earnings.

So employers do prefer those who have degrees. What are they paying for?
Skills that you gain in college go way beyond subject matter. Many people do not use their undergraduate course contents in their jobs. I asked a number of the counselors at Cerritos this question, “What is the most important thing you learned in college?” Here are their answers.

To be resourceful
To manage time effectively
To take responsibility
To be accountable
To network with professionals, including making contacts, learning professional ethics, dressing appropriately, using professional manners
To be a resource for my peers and be a leader for a peer support group
To be independent
To deal with difficult situations and decisions
To critically analyze arguments, statements, issues, etc.
To look at things from different viewpoints
To learn how to learn about anything, to do research
To work with others on group projects
To be flexible

Not one counselor stated a specific fact or idea that came from their course content, even one from their major. The things they said are more important are the competencies they learned through successful completion of their classes that are not specific to subject matter.

Advancing your skills by completion of excellent coursework in courses which require analysis, synthesis, problem solving, good reading, writing, speaking skills, exploring new ideas and developing a work ethic are how you learn and practice skills employers want. In addition, linking up with internships, volunteer work, participating in clubs, teams, other student groups and exploring new experiences which require interaction provide opportunities to develop the ability to work in productive teams, to learn group problem solving and leadership skills.

The same skills that make you a successful student are the skills employers want. Your grades can show how well you’ve mastered these skills. Tony Wagner, an educator at the Harvard School of Education came up with 7 survival skills for careers, college and citizenship.

The attendance, participation, projects and assignments in your classes and the college extracurricular activities in which you participate are your chances to learn and practice your employable skills.

Your major should be selected based on your interests and curiosity, taking into consideration your level of commitment, motivation, academic preparation and abilities. Think about which major includes subjects or topics that you feel passionate about, excited by, inspired by, and use it to help you develop and practice your habits of mind.

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18 Responses to Choose a Major, Develop Life Skills for Career Success

  1. Lynn Serwin says:

    This is such an important piece of information for students to learn. I really appreciate all the links to statistics and other studies to help drive home your message. I think that communicating, both spoken and written, are also key skills learned in college that can help with careers.

    I’m now a college professor, but I’ve had lots of other jobs, in fact, this is my second career. My first career was in journalism. I worked in Public Relations, which by definition means that I needed to know how to interact with others. I have fantasies of having some other career in the future, after I retire from this, where I get to do something creative with my hands all day, like photography or flower arranging, and parlay that into a business, one in which I’d need all of the management skills I learned in college.

    Thanks for reminding us that a roadmap for life is what we’re trying to get out of college, not just a career.

  2. Andrea Duarte says:

    I think this is really interesting and helpful for many students in college. I think that it is a good wake up call for many just as it was to me. College is not only for majoring something but to do something you enjoy so that your future is something you will enjoy in life. I also understand that college is just another stepping stone to being an adult because here one will learn to get their proirities straight and know that everyone has responsibilities. One does not have to stress though everything is done with time so that like that it is done correctly. Thank this really helped me and i really appreciate it.

  3. joseluis gonzalez says:

    I really enjoyed this article i felt as if it was a wake up call for me,i was under the impression that going to college and choosing a major was going to get me that great paying job.Now i understand that by just going to college a person is not guaranteed a job.Going to college and deciding on a major would help compete to get the job and prepare a person to be able to perform the also will teach a person how to be successful in life,with its homework and deadlines on assignments,attendance and many other requirements that one must master in college,help prepare a person to take on life and be successful.Thanks for such a great article.

  4. Kimberly Anzaldo says:

    I believe this article really makes me understand the importance of what you will do for the future.It not only made me realize it,but also many other students.Many people just have in mind the quicker the better,but it dosen’t always go as planned.Education is the #1 priority in every student,because the more education you have the more you will succeed in the future.This article hepls anyone get a deeper understanding in college and the majors.

  5. daisy castro says:

    At first I thought going to college was going to get me a good job and get paid more. But now that I read this article it made me realized that college it might give u a good job and get paid more but its not only that, college also opens your eyes and gives u opportunities that could get u ready on want u want to do in life. Most of the students in college don’t even have an idea what they want to major on. So that’s what college could be for, get u ready. By reading this article also made me think of what I really want to do in life, I love animals and I see myself working as a vet technician it made me think a lot and I think im going to stick to my education to become a vet technician. Thanks to this article it made me realized how college is important in peoples life’s because it gets u started and ready for whatever major u want to take. Im hoping all the students had a chance to read this article and hopefully it made them realized college might not only get u a good job but also a good education in life.

  6. Josefina (Josie) Rodriguez says:

    As I read this article things started to make sense for me. I asked myself the same qusetion and I finally have an answer. I will definitely read Tony Wagner’s “7 survival skills for careers”. Not only are College skills important for career success but also on a more personal level. This article makes me want to become a better person and it totally motivated me to try harder in what I do, that it’s never too late and to associate myself with people with the similar mindset that I have or better. Everyone is different and everyone’s priorities are different but overall the importance of a college degree is to live a better and healthier lifestyle, with patience and trust, We will definetly succeed!

  7. Faith Stevenson says:

    This article was very alluring and helpful. This is a opportunity for people to realize that picking a major doesn’t always have to be hard. I think people misunderstand the concept of going to college. Most people try to pick a common major that they know will probably get them a job that makes a lot of money. College students should pick a major based on their interest, skills, and knowledge. For instance, mine is Nursing so i will love to become a nurse or anything that has to do with the medical field. I love taking care of sick people and try to help them feel better . I think college prepare students to be flexible, more responsible, and independent and that’s basically what most jobs qualify. Any major that a student decide to take will train them for more then just what they have to offer . All majors don’t guarentee a job so students should just pick something that they love or interested in because if you pick a job that you love, “You’ll never have to work a day in your life”-wroten.

  8. Evelyn Sanchez says:

    I found this really helpful for me. I’m Undicided, i thought i had to have a major as soon as possible. I now understand that going to college is not about having a major to get a job. What I understood by this was that college is about learning new skills. Is not about one thing but about just exploring new things. So far what I gained in college is responsibility, manage my time, set my mind in ONLY school, and most important being independent. I feel much better knowing i do not have to have a major. I will just continue building new skills.

  9. Jennifer DeHaro says:

    In this article i learned that getting a major could be used in different types of jobs not anything in specific. A major doesnt guarantee a job but employers prefer people that have degrees in their establishments. Also you do not learn anything specific from one class but how you manage in the class and get everything done to complete the course. I learned plenty from reading this article, it helped me understand how it is not as easy as it seems. I believe anyone else that has read this has learned somethng new.

  10. Qing Jing Dao says:

    I found this article to be really interesting. It really helped me and taught me how to make organizational learning much more effective towards finding a career of my interest in the future. Before reading this article, I used to do my homework just to complete it because I was never had any interest on it. Because of this, learning made me tired. After reading this article, I am willing to use whatever I learn to build my skills, so I will be able to find a good job in the future.

  11. Jenifer Navas says:

    This article helped me understand better about college and major. Me as the first year in college i felt like i came to get a great paid job and now by reading this article it open my eyes to other majors. I know not every major will lead to a job but any exprience will help me become a better person . It will help me become, resourceful responsibile , and independent etc. All this skills can leed me to a better future. The more you learn the better it is to succeed in life because education comes firts. Thanks to the article now i am interested to try new things in my career .

  12. Brittany Vargas says:

    This article was helpful in understanding college. Many people stress over picking a major thinking its the path to that dream job, when in reality its just teaching you the tools and basics to that specific career. The article was very informative and I liked the advice that the Cerritos Staff gave to the students, its different to simply be taught but to hear about personal experiences just takes it that much deeper. College is a new chapter or for some an unfinished chapter in their lives, its a road we choose to take and decide to go to better ourselves and to gain more knowledge on our interests and skills. Thanks for the article, it takes away some of the pressures of knowing exactly what i want to choose as my major, and to grasp a deeper concept of what college is about.

  13. Edwin Medrano says:

    this was very helpful for me. i thought i would have to take a specific class depending on my major. i thought going to college was to get a career that pays well. College teaches you various skills and also teaches how to survive on your own and not depend on others because it will prepare you for adult hood. Im undecided and not sure what i want to major in but i know that whatever i major in well be a big step toward my success. This article taught me that not being in college is a big adavantage because you get to learn many skills and will most likely succeed.

  14. Huy Doan says:

    This article have totally change my opinion about choosing a major. I love animals and I want to have a job that related to them. I used to consider which one is more reality between my hobby and the job that pay me good money. I’m now feel more confident on my decision to become a vet because I know people won’t able to do their best unless they are willing to do it. By mastering those skills and satisfy my instructor requirements I belive that I will be able to satisfy my job requirements in the future.

  15. Javier Zavala says:

    This article has taught me a very good lession. Going to college and getting a degree is not guaranteed on getting a job but, it will help you keep a job longer than being unemployed. Having read this article i have decided to have more majors instead on having just one.

  16. Jesus Barajas says:

    this article helped me because now i will try harder. i may have a major already, but that doesnt mean i cant look forward to another career.most people dont know that and im sure that if they read this article, it will help them as much as it helped me.
    thank you.

  17. manuel garcia says:

    We are all still young and can change our majors and careers as we please. Even thou some students already have a career in mind others are still undecide. I believe once they read this it will give them a some what of relief of choosing a major and not being afraid to change it in the future.

  18. Emely Vasquez says:

    This is a good way to put College Students hopes up. We are at a young age that everything that we want we can make it possible which this leads up to many doors to open for us.This made me realize that anything can happened and never give up for what we want so i recommend other students to take at look at this twice and think positive and move on
    Thank You

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