The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

We’re so used to saying it that it’s become a representation of who we are, right behind our names and our birthplace.

We use it constantly to categorize people’s personalities, academic capabilities or even as a predictor of future success.

As college students, it’s the one question we’re sure to hear over and over. It’s the infallible icebreaker at orientation or on the first day of class: What’s your major?

I will never forget hearing someone at a party say the reason they were studying business was “to make money.”

And while that wasn’t the best pickup line, he had a point.

Finance, along with economics and engineering, dominated the best-paying college degrees by salary in 2011, according to a PayScale survey.

In fact, computer science or business majors make as much as 50 percent more in a lifetime than those who major in the humanities, the arts, education or psychology, according to a report out of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

So if there is such a thing as a “right major,” one with loads of post-graduation job offers and high wages, why are there so few of us who study math or physics?

Apparently, it’s because most of us choose our majors based on what we like to do, even while knowing it might not be financially beneficial.

And we might be right on the money.

Most people will graduate with higher GPAs if they study something they are passionate about, and high GPAs land jobs.

Not only that, it won’t hurt your graduate school applications either.

Tough economic times have forced us look at higher education as a return on an investment, but how can we really put a price on what we know?

Money wasn’t exactly what brought my attention to journalism.
The median starting salary for journalism grads is just $30,000.

Sadder yet, that’s the same amount from five years ago.

But studying something that I love has made for a rich and interesting UNC experience.

And as I see more and more friends who graduate and who work in fields completely unrelated to what they studied in school, I ask myself: Does it really matter what you major in?

More often than not, you’ll talk to people who say it does matter for your first job, but becomes less important as the years go on.

It doesn’t mean that all of us can start applying to petroleum engineering jobs after graduation (this year’s best paying job at $155,000), but that it will never be too late to fall out of love with our majors, especially once we hit the working world and experience it for what it is.

The truth is, without internships, many of us have little idea of the work people who share our majors do every single day.

But if you’re like me and still wondering four years into college if you made the right choice, know that basic skills are transferable, and the ability to learn quickly, be a good team-player and apply critical thinking can be applicable to any job in any economy.

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