Event Information

GUEST COMMENTARY: How to select what to study in college

Date: 1/25/2015 through 1/25/2015
James Dworkin is chancellor of Purdue University North Central

One of the most important decisions a person will make is whether to attend college.

The Lumina Foundation anticipates 65 percent of all jobs in this country will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020. Jobs requiring a master’s degree are expected to grow the fastest, while those requiring a high school diploma will experience the slowest growth.

During the recession of December 2007 to January 2010, the economy lost more than 7 million jobs requiring less than a bachelor’s degree, while the number of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or above actually grew by 187,000.

A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found that employers planned to hire 7.8 percent more college graduates from the Class of 2014 than they did from the Class of 2013.

An equally important decision comes when deciding on a college major. That is why I suggest current and prospective students carefully consider the following questions:

Should I choose a major with a good job market so I can be employed and earn a good salary?

What if I am really interested in art history? Should I major in that and risk a poor job market?

Is there too much emphasis on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields today?

Do we still need people to major in English and history?

My advice is simple.

Choose an area of study that excites and interests you, no matter what it is. As a college student, I started out in a major I thought was right for me. But I took a class in economics that I found interesting and inspiring. I knew this was where I belonged. I changed majors. I’m happy I found my passion.

When you look at a career field, be aware of labor market trends and where those good jobs will be in the future. We know the work world is flexible, ever-changing and often unpredictable. Many of today’s hottest jobs didn't exist 10 years ago. Imagine where we'll be 10 years from now.

So how do you best prepare yourself to take advantage of these opportunities?

Remember it is the skill set you learn that makes you employable, not just what you majored in. An American Association of Colleges and Universities survey revealed 93 percent of respondents agreed that “a candidate’s capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems” is more important than a particular field of study.

Similarly, the National Association of Colleges and Employers noted that employers sought to hire candidates who demonstrate "leadership," "the ability to work in a team structure," “written communication skills,” “problem-solving skills,” “strong work ethic” and “analytical/quantitative skills.”

These invaluable skills allow individuals to form thoughtful fact-based conclusions and to consider varying sides of an issue before making a judgment. And over time, they are able to adapt and apply their skills in a variety of work situations.

If you have an engineering degree, you must have good communication skills. If you have a degree in English, you will still need excellent analytical skills. In the end, it’s not always the degree you have that gets you the job; it’s the skill set that you bring to job.

Opportunities exist. Each day we hear about the demand for STEM degrees. In addition we see that in the next 10 years, 1.6 million new teachers will be needed to take the place of teachers who will retire.

It is forecast that the demand for social workers, early childhood educators, human resources managers, public relations professions, among others, will continue to grow during the next decade.

There is no guaranteed route to success, no degree that assures job offers. But if we carefully examine where we are and where we want to be, the potential exists for each of us to find our passion, pursue our interests, develop our skills and hone our abilities so we can thrive in today’s job market and beyond.

Source: NWI Times

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