In my last post, I summarized the experiences of several of my friends who chose their college major largely by the classes they enjoyed in school. I won’t go into all the reasons I ended up there, but my college major was in Chemistry.
Over the course of my summer internships, I realized didn’t really want to go into research. I don’t think I ever really thought I wanted to go into research, but research was where I was able to find summer internships. (And I worked really hard to find my summer internships. It wasn’t easy.)
As I neared the end of the completion of my degree, I spent hours in my universities “career office” – which really only served the business school – but the only job I found I could apply to was research in industry. And before I could apply even to that job, I really needed a graduate degree. (There were no on-campus interviews for science majors.) For various reasons (part of it being the cost, or lack there of) I ended up with another natural sciences degree, a PhD in plant biology.
When you get a PhD in science, the job you’re most qualified to do is research. Granted, science research is a worthy and important field. But the fact is, there are a few jobs in the private sector; most of the jobs are at a college or university. Necessarily those jobs are in limited locations, and each opening has a hundred applicants or more. (I do know quite a few people who have research positions at universities. But in case you missed it, you can’t get those jobs with an undergraduate degree. It requires a PhD which takes 4-6 years past your college degree. And after you finish that, you’ll find out it also requires a post-doc of 2-4 years (at low pay), for a total of 10-14 years of education past high school.)
After graduation – trying to find a job someplace other than academic research – I took a job as a science textbook editor, at slightly less than $30K a year, with no benefits. (And I know for a fact that a computer science masters degree, with 2 fewer years of school, got a 50% higher salary at that time.)
With the cost of education, now more than ever, when picking a college major students really should be asking themselves, “What kind of job can I get with this degree?” In my next post, I’ll make some suggestions about how to answer this question.
Both sides of a recent PhD employment debate
Articles in this series, How to choose a college major
- You’re majoring in what? – How to choose a college major Part 1 Your college major is what? It’s not just English majors. Did you know you can’t get a decent job with a chemistry degree? A biology degree? A math degree?
- College Majors – How to choose a college major Part 2 Is a STEM degree in science a good choice for a college major? What jobs can you get if your college major is in science?
- Employment Numbers – How to choose a college major Part 3 How do you choose a college major? Questions for college career centers. The numbers for STEM science college degrees might surprise you.