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Buyer’s Remorse: How To Avoid A College Major You’ll Regret


(Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

This is the time of the year most people do some soul searching. Where am I and where do I want to be? For those enrolled or entering college, this is always a thorny question.

The job market, at present, is fairly robust. There are more job openings than people to fill them. I routinely come across places where they have worker shortages. Nurses, paramedics and teachers are in high demand.

To be sure, it’s a time of transition. Millions had time to think about their vocation during the COVID lockdowns. And many regretted what they had studied in college, according to ZipRecruiter.

Those experiencing “buyer’s remorse” over their college majors may groan at their “tekkie” friends, who are making gobs more money. “Economics/engineering majors out-earn sociology/English majors by more than 40%, on average, ZipRecruiter found. “Put differently, the top-paying college majors (in STEM fields, health, and business) earn $3.4 million more than the lowest-paying majors over a lifetime.”

That’s disheartening if you studied art history, philosophy or literature. Yet don’t despair that you didn’t get a degree in computer science, engineering or math. You probably weren’t cut out for it.

Moreover, having a flexible skill set is much more valuable than being locked into a technical job that may automated in some way. Robots are operating everywhere now and they don’t require 401(k)s or healthcare.

“Average earnings shouldn’t be the only consideration, however, ZipRecruiter found. “Plenty of high-paying occupations may soon be going extinct, due to changes in technology, culture, policy and consumer preferences.”

“Degrees may also change in value as the economy changes. For example, after the Great Recession, the likelihood of being underemployed was lower for graduates with more quantitatively oriented and occupation-specific majors than for those with degrees in general fields.”

So liberal arts majors take heart. Your ability to think across boundaries, collaborate and communicate with be ever more important in the post-COVID workplace. Employers still value people who can talk and write coherently and work on teams. Robots haven’t mastered those skills quite yet.

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