Most Employers Don’t Care About What Your College Major Was

Lately it seems like there have been a bunch of studies that are making both recent graduates and parents of recent graduates regret the last four years of their college lives unless they were business majors (and white men according to one study). However, we at The Grindstone wanted to point out some other studies and personal stories that show contrasting data.

As a former Brain & Cognitive Science major who became a journalist that has never even come close to writing about Amaurosis Fugax, which is the temporary loss of vision in one eye due to impairment of blood supply through the internal carotid artery, can attest to this much to the disappointment of my Neuro-Ophthalmologist father. Despite what my mother says about some of my apparel choices I am not destitute and have not had to turn to prostituting myself on the streets because I don’t use my knowledge from Genetics 203 (though it did help me a little when I watched X-Men: First Class).

According to Katherine Brooks, director of Liberal Arts Career Services at the University of Texas at Austin and author of “You Majored in What?”, assuming a job has to be tied directly to your major is a very old-fashioned way of thinking. Employers think differently now. Brooks said “knowledge, adaptability, practical work experience and the ability to analyze from a well-rounded perspective” are more important to employers than what you majored in and even which school you attended. Take that study on Harvard, Yale and Princeton giving you a better chance at a job on Wall Street.

And with some majors you may not even realize how much they can help you.  Last month Google consumer products VP Marissa Mayer said the company was on a recruitment spree and was especially looking for humanities and liberal arts majors. Developing user interfaces is also as much humanities based as it is technologically, according to Mayer.

A psychology major who now works in advertising said “pscyhology helps a lot because I am involved in consumer strategy and also a lot of research/data analytics. I think a major could matter more or less depending on the industry.” When she is looking at resumes of potential hires she said “I am not looking for one major specifically, just if it’s in line with something to do with advertising. If someone was a biology major I would only wonder if they are genuinely interested in the advertising/marketing industry.”

Of course, some of those business-oriented practical majors can come in handy but maybe not for jobs you think they would. So this is for people whero picked the reliable, practical major but then went into a creative industry. One man who now works in digital content for MTV Networks said “I’m not sure if seeing “Economics” on my resume made MTV like me as a candidate more but Econ is the language of the business world so having a deeper understanding of how business works was definitely key to getting my job and doing well.”

University of Texas at Austin professor, Daniel Hamermesh, researched career earnings data sorted by choice of major and said “Perceptions of the variations in economic success among graduates in different majors are exaggerated. Our results imply that given a student’s ability, achievement and effort, his or her earnings do not vary all that greatly with the choice of undergraduate major.”

According to The New York Times, here are four reasons why your life will not suck if you decide to be a Classics major:

  • Most people will graduate with a higher GPA if they actually like what they are studying
  • There is a disconnect between what students think employers want and what employers actually want
  • Transferability of Skills – if you’re good at art, you may be a really good architect
  • You should study what you want to study because this is the only time in your life you get to do this

Photo: NBC





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    • Abernacky

      The more work experience you have, the less employers care about your degree (at least in IT). But if you don’t have any work experience, then they do care about your major.

    • Carolyn

      Thank you for writing this. I have a relational communication degree. I picked it because I LOVED nearly every class that was required for it. But it did not give me any direction or open any doors for me. I am wandering aimlessly (sort of) through the job world and I have come to realize that I will have to start at the bottom and work my way up. I think what the older generation doesn’t realize is that college is no longer meant to train you for a career. The purpose now focuses on learning to write, follow through on commitments, learn to critically evaluate research (which is so important with the internet (anybody can write the “facts” we read, versus the olden days of books, which you could trust because they are heavily researched. ) But anyway, I agree with everything this article is saying and I wish the old people in my life who repeatedly ask me “A communication degree? What’s that for?” would read it.

    • Andy

      How often does someone get a job in (insert type name here)-engineering without majoring in it?

    • CW

      I threw away 5 years of my life and all my income on a photography major…. i can’t even find a job now. FML

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