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College Major Myths and Truths

College Major Myths and Truths

By Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck


Do you have a son or daughter who is graduating from high school and going to college next fall?  If so, these myths about choosing a college major and career direction are important to share with your students so they don't waste time and money while in college.

Myth #1: The sooner you decide on a major, the better.

The truth:  One study found that the average college student who enters college with a declared major changes it three to five times. On the other hand, the average student who enters college with an undeclared major changes only one to two times. You may feel pressure to declare a major quickly; you will, however, benefit from first taking some time to explore the careers that best fit your gifts and abilities. Making career choices that fit who you are will then allow you to choose the college major that will best help you achieve your career goals. (While in most case you have two years before deciding on a major, there are some majors that are exceptions.)  If you need help in choosing a career and major click here.

Myth #2: People find a career and major they like eventually. If you just wait, it will come to you.

The truth:  Career planning has to be intentional. Unfortunately, many people in our country don't actually make career decisions. Instead, they let circumstances or people that they know make the decisions for them. For example, Beth's dad thinks that she should become a nurse because it will be a secure job area where she can make a decent salary. Since Beth doesn't know what she should do, she goes ahead and declares nursing as her major. While doing some field work in a hospital during her junior year, she determines that she doesn't really like nursing and feels stuck because it is too late to change her major and still graduate in on time.

Learning how to make good career and college major decisions involves actions steps that include assessing your gifts and abilities; exploring the right career options; learning decision making strategies and establishing action plans for meeting your goals-including choosing the college major that will prepare you for your chosen career direction. 

Myth #3: Looking at what is happening in the job market is the best way to figure out what major to choose.

The truth:  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the most popular college major is business. Pablo Tioseco at says, "There are various reasons why business is so popular for young adults. One of the main reasons is that the degree and its concentrations provide great training and a strong foundation for many entry level jobs offered in the marketplace." If you love business and have taken time to see how your skills, interests and personality traits would fit with jobs in the business field then majoring in business may be the best choice. If you are just choosing a business major, however, based on job availability or salary information, you could find yourself in the wrong career.  Career testing, counseling and planning will help you to make the best decision about your career direction as opposed to only looking at the job market.

Myth #4: The major field of study predicts the career of the liberal arts graduate.

The truth: San Bernardo in an article at reports that, "Within ten years, seventy percent of college graduates will not be working in a field related to their major. What are the causes? Some graduates, certainly, have little idea as to what they want to do and change fields, and to a great degree, this is not their fault. Some get laid off and begin anew, among other miscellaneous reasons.

However, at the foundation of this factoid is the sobering reality that many college students are being misguided by fulfilling the wishes of parents, society, or a personal desire to achieve much needed prestige and respect." He goes on to say that, "Ultimately, it's not even about what anyone else wants or a misinformed desire but more about a lack of focus on what the student wants...."

As Steven Covey describes, it is important to start with the end in mind. Related to choosing a college major, this means that you should begin by finding out what types of career and job areas would fit you best.   Then you can decide what kind of major would help you to most successfully enter that type of work. 

Myth #5: Once you have selected a major, you don't need to decide anything else until you graduate and need to find a job.

The truth: Choosing a major is only one of the steps necessary for college and career success.  Other important steps include knowing more about options that relate to your career; developing a network of people in your field of study; experiencing at least one internship, and developing marketing tools that will be needed for applying for internships and jobs in the future.

Myth #6: There is one right job for me.

The truth: The world of work is changing rapidly. There are many jobs today (such as social media director) that did not even exist a few years ago. Four years from now there will be many new jobs that don't exist today. A liberal arts college or university will prepare you to have a broad range of skills, experiences and knowledge.   Your college major will also help prepare you to do a variety of jobs. Since most people have "tunnel" vision when it comes to knowing about different types of jobs, it is important to widen your vision by exploring a range of job options that fit your skills, interests, values and personality traits.

Myth #7: Most people start their careers at about age 21 and proceed in a straight line toward their ultimate career objectives.

The truth: The path to career goals is typically more of a zigzag path with many changes in jobs and even career direction. In fact, studies show that most people change careers 3-5 times and jobs 7-10 times during their work life. Your college degree will give you a great foundation for seeking job opportunities that allow you to maximize the use of your God-given skills and abilities. 

Myth #8: The parts of peoples' jobs we see in person and in the media are accurate.

The truth: Most television shows and news reports distort jobs and careers because of coverage time and for entertainment value. Several years ago after a show about attorneys working in Los Angeles began broadcasting, the University of Michigan reported a 400% increase in law applicants. Most of the people applying for law school probably had a very distorted view of the legal profession from watching this television show.   With the cost of education in time and money, it makes sense to do the needed exploration in order to have a realistic view of the work you are preparing to do in the future.

Myth #9: A college education does not always pay off in the long run.

The truth: No matter what your college major is, graduating with a liberal arts degree will change your career and life.  Compared to those without a four year degree your investment will result in more job choices, higher earnings, lower unemployment and opportunities for promotion.

Myth #10: Career testing will tell me what career and college major would be best for me.

The truth: Career testing and assessment is one of the best ways to learn about who you are and what areas of work would fit you best. Assessments can also show you what types of college majors would match up with your interests and personality. It is important, however, to understand that no career test can tell you exactly what kind of career you should do. Instead, career tests and assessments help you to understand your skills, interests, values, personality traits and other parts of your God-given design. Then by organizing this information into what we call a Life Calling Map, you can explore and make decisions on the careers and college majors that would best fit you.  Schedule a career services consultation to explore how we can help you or your son or daughter make great career and major decisions.

 Some material adapted from Liberal Arts Majors: Countering Some Myths (Seattle Pacific University)


© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, and  All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.