Major matters: many paths can lead to a solid career

Zarana Sanghani

Senior Staff Writer

Which came first: choosing a major or choosing a career? Sometimes students will tailor their choice of major to a career path, and sometimes they can find a way to make a career of a major.

"Students understand that the university is an expensive place to be," said Associate Director of University Studies Division Catherine Murphy. "They have to give their time, energy and resources. They want to get (a good career) out of it."

When choosing a major, Murphy said students should consider more than just the possible career options that will result from it.

Students should major in areas of interest so that they will do well in their major, Murphy said.

"I see far too many students who choose a major because they think that's what other people want for them," Murphy said. "I think they will be unhappy."

Pre-law English and political science major junior Leena Ninan took an aptitude test when she could not decide on a major.

"I was thinking about doing pre-law before I took the test," Ninan said. "When I got the test back, the first (career suggestion) was 'musician,' the second was 'stewardess' and the third was 'law.'"

"I wouldn't say that it told me what to do, but it justified what I was already considering," she added.

Director of Psychology Services and Training Ken Waldman said tests and advisors are not trying to assign careers to students. Rather, he said they try to help students better understand their interests.

"The more frequent problem is that students know what they're interested in, but they don't think that they'll make as much money in that as they would like to," Waldman said.

Students can find ways to study areas of interest while securing future career opportunities, Waldman said.

Murphy said a combination of majors and minors can sometimes solve the problem.

For example, a psychology major may feel the job market is too small for psychologists. If the student minors in mathematics and has a strong statistics background, his or her opportunities will expand, Murphy said.

Students concerned about majoring in social sciences or arts should try to market the skills they will learn.

"If you're a history major, you're not going to get a job in 'history' unless you teach," Murphy said. "But you have reading and analyzing skills that employers like."

Junior business major Niti Patel said she considered and took courses for four other majors before deciding on a business major.

"I got a good view of the classes UH had to offer," Patel said. "But later, I had a lot of hours to complete because a lot of my hours do not count towards a business major."

Both Patel and Murphy said it is not uncommon for people to choose careers that are totally independent of their majors.

"I don't know even if I will use my major," Patel said. "I'm thinking about going into the Peace Corps after I graduate, (then) come back and do a masters in something totally different - probably women's studies."

The business major, she said, "is a fall-back kind of thing."

Visit The Daily Cougar