In another article, we discussed how an important part of the gender wage gap comes from differences in the professions that men and women pursue. This difference may come down to a choice that men and women make before their careers even begin: choosing their major in college.
While you shouldn't necessarily pick a major based on how much you're going to earn, it's one factor that can be helpful to consider, especially depending on what lifestyle you want.
"Many college majors that lead to high-paying roles in tech and engineering are male-dominated, while majors that lead to lower-paying roles in social sciences and liberal arts tend to be female-dominated, placing men in higher-paying career pathways, on average." - Dr. Andrew Chamberlain and Jyotsna Jayaraman, Glassdoor Research
If you're still in the process of choosing a major, here are some valuable things to think about as you make this important choice:
1. Interest and excitement
This should be the first thing on the list that you consider. Do you have a real interest and excitement for the fields related to your major? Too often people pick majors without any reflection into what they'll do when they graduate (and whether they'll enjoy that profession).
Your career could be 40 years or more. Take the time to think about what you enjoy now and what you could potentially enjoy for decades to come. Do informational interviews with people who have interesting careers. Ask your professors what jobs their students have gone onto after graduation. Research companies and see what types of jobs are available in the city you want to live in.
You will likely change careers multiple times, but starting out doing something that you really enjoy will help set you up for future success down the road.
Graduation is going to come faster than you can believe. Will you be struggling to find a job or will your major help set you up to easily find a job out of school?
Even if you think your major doesn't matter because you're planning to go straight into grad school, plans change. Do some investigative work to figure out whether your major will help set you up for job opportunities. Ask other people who have graduated with the same major or take a trip down to your career center. When you're sending out resumes and hoping to land your first job interviews, you'll be happy you did this work.
3. Earnings Potential
Choosing a career only for money might not be the best idea. Ask anyone who has taken a high paying, stressful job only to burn out a few years later. But you should consider what you want to earn and whether the major you're picking will help set you up to do so.
If your career center keeps stats on starting salaries of past graduates with the same major, that's a great place to start looking. If not, head to the internet and do some research. Payscale, Linkedin, Salary.com, and Glassdoor are great places to begin looking at average salaries. And one last thing to not consider:
4. Your Grades
I loved my economics classes in college. But as I progressed to more advanced topics, my grades began to slip. Not because I wasn't interested enough or smart enough, but because as I moved into the more quantitative classes that included high-level calculus, the concepts were a little more difficult for me. Discouraged, I considered switching majors, but I'm so glad that I didn't.
If I had switched, I wouldn't have been alone. One of the factors that propel women to switch majors is a low grade.
Earning lower grades can be demotivating, but it's important to keep the big picture in mind. If you love what you're doing and you see opportunities for a long and potentially lucrative career, don't let your grades get you down.
Picking a major is an exciting and important step to a career you love. Take your time to do the self-reflection and research to ensure that you're choosing the right one for you.