How Important is Your College Major?

How important is your college major?

Graduating from college did two things for my career.  I got a key to let me in the door that said, “Degree required” on the job description.  I gained acceptance into business circles and social circles where having a college degree meant credibility.

With a liberal arts degree, I was eligible to do many things and qualified to none.  I developed the skills for my career once my career began.

There are many articles emphasizing that it is not important to pick a major that leads to a career.  One excellent article from the NY Times is, “Your College Major May Not Be as Important as You Think.”

However, I recommend that you pick a major that lays a base of knowledge that relates as directly as possible to the career field of your choice.  The more time you invest in developing a specialty will determine how long it takes you to master that specialty.

“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

An example of focusing on studies that directly apply to your career is the early computer studies of Paul Allen and Bill Gates.  They both had thousands of hours of computer times as teenagers.  When they attended Lakeside School in Seattle, WA, they both had access to a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE).  They also had computer time on a computer belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC).

On the other hand, if you have graduated from college, don’t let your major slow you down from picking a career that is different from your college major.  I majored in English.  I went to Naval Officer Candidate School.  I had classmates who included lawyers, MIT grads, PhDs, Accountants, and a Rhode Scholar.  Some of my classmates had never been in a rowboat.  Some could barely swim.  However, most of us learned the tactics, navigation, and seamanship we needed to become Navy officers in a variety of capacities.

My experience in the Navy helped me to mature.  The fact that I was a junior military officer helped me get jobs in sales with Procter & Gamble and Polaroid Corporation.

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