When choosing a college major, or area of study, many students consider several common factors.  For some, the amount of money they will earn is important.  Have you heard any of your friends talk about wanting to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a software developer?  These are careers that can pay well.  For others, they have a goal of entering one specific career field, and their major is a ticket into that field.  For example, we know a little girl who is nine who is dreaming of being a marine biologist.  So, when it’s time, she will choose a college major that will prepare her for that profession, such as Marine Science or even plain old Biology.  Still others choose a major based on passion for a specific topic or subject, regardless of what careers might be available.

For example, you could choose to major in history just because you really love history and want to study it more in-depth.  Or, you might have a love of music and singing, so you could choose to major in music because it is a passion.

While you might have a passion for a specific area, or even have a vision of the career you want to enter, it is a wise move to look at other factors that could affect your future success.  While it is easier to find a job if you have a college degree than if you don’t, what you study in college also matters when it comes time to find a job.  In addition to choosing a field you like, look at the job market for that field.  What is the possibility that you will find a job in your chosen field even with a college degree?  You can easily find information about the jobs outlook for specific career fields, such as this one from the Rochester Institute of Technology.  For example, this document shows that jobs in the health field are expected to increase, but jobs as reporters or editors are expected to decrease.  So, even if you have a vision for yourself as a reporter, you need to be realistic about the possibility of finding a job in that field.

The other thing to look at when choosing a major is the potential for earning enough money to support yourself, and a family if you desire one.  Again, your passion could lead to a lucrative career, but you should consider the possibility of that being a reality.  For example, you might want to major in music, but music majors actually have one of the lowest starting salaries on average.  Want to know which careers have the highest?  Forbes magazine outlines the top paying careers in 2016, including careers in a variety of engineering, technology, and science fields.  While money is not everything, having a plan means that you do look at potential to get a job and earn enough money to live on when you are choosing a major.

The other reason that you should consider more than just your passion or a job you would like to have when choosing a major is the reality of taking on college loan debt.  Approximately 70% of college graduates have student loan debt when they graduate.  One of the reasons that student loan debt cripples recent graduates and many default on student loans is that they did not think logically about their ability to pay back the debts after graduation.  For example, if you major in a career where jobs are hard to find or are low paying, it does not make sense to borrow large amounts of money to study that major at an elite, private university.  If you are choosing to major in chemical engineering, however, which has a good outlook for jobs and wages, then it might make more sense to borrow money to work toward a degree.

Ryan T. Murphy living his passion of audio engineering with one of his clients in the recording booth.

So, do you have to give up your passion?  Absolutely not!  There are plenty of people who major in chemical engineering and minor in music.  This means that they earn a degree in chemical engineering, but they also take coursework in music as well.  There are also people who take a passion, such as writing music, and figure out how to earn a degree in a field that is in demand, such as audio engineering or music therapy.  Finally, if all else fails, you can turn your passion into a lifelong hobby.

Take stock of your passions and strengths.  Take the time to carefully consider your vision for the future, including a vision for your financial success.  Then, look for a college major that will be the best plan for combining your strengths and passions with opportunities to achieve future success.


Gillespie, P. (February 2016).  What your college major says about your job potential.  CNN Money.  Retrieved from


Powell, F. (2016).  Ten student loan facts college grads need to know.  USNews.  Retrieved from


The Princeton Review. (n.d.) Guide to choosing college majors.  The Princeton Review.  Retrieved from


Rochester Institute of Technology. (2016).  Jobs outlook to 2022.  Division of Enrollment Management and Career Services.  Retrieved from


Strauss, K. (June 2016).  The college degrees with the highest starting salaries in 2016.  Forbes.  Retrieved from