By Tim Leeds
Are you or a member of your family having a hard time deciding on a college major? I know I am. I've gone to college off and on for 15 years now, and I still don't know what to declare as my final major. Many college students don't seem to know what they really want to be when they grow up. As I say, I'm 32 and I still don't know. Earning a good income is usually part of the decision, and choosing a profession that's in high demand helps that. Career counselors at colleges and universities can tell you what's in demand at the moment. A word of caution, however. If everyone enrolls in a major that's in high demand at the moment, there might not be such a demand for it when they graduate. If my memory serves me correctly, this has happened in the past. I believe the shortage was for engineers in the mid- to late '60s. So a lot of people enrolled in this subject, and what do you know, pretty soon there wasn't a shortage anymore. I think the same thing happened with business administration degrees in the seventies. That was the hot major, colleges built a lot of new business schools, and pretty soon the country's businesses had a surplus of business school graduates to choose from, instead of business majors having a lot of jobs to choose from. The current hot topic is modern technology. There aren't enough experienced computer programmers, computer information specialists, networking specialists, or computer technology specialists to begin to fill the ever growing need for them. It doesn't look like the need will decrease any time soon, either. Of course, that's what it looked like in the '60s and '70s, too. I don't want to say those engineering or business majors were a bad idea. My brother received his engineering degree in the '70s, and he had no difficulties finding a job right away. My point is simply that it might not seem as rosy when you graduate as it did when you enrolled in a high demand field. If everyone follows the same advice as you do, there probably won't be such a surplus of jobs. Another thing to look at is what effect the popularity of a field can have on the work force of other fields. If 50 percent of college students are enrolled in one area, that means the other 50 percent are split among all of the other fields. (I have no idea what the actual percentages are, incidentally. I'm just picking numbers to make my point.) Since the demand for workers in those other fields isn't likely to drop too much, there will probably be a shortage of workers in some of those fields. For example, if most students avoided engineering because there was a surplus of engineers, eventually there would be a shortage of engineers again. If few people major in business because there's a surplus of business school graduates, sooner or later there'll be a shortage of business school graduates again.
Even if people aren't avoiding a major, concentrating most students in one or two fields will still have the same effect. For example, if few students are majoring in education across the nation because it's comparatively low paying and computer technology is so hot, soon teachers would be in high demand. The same is true for any field.
My recommendation is to be wary of choosing a major simply because graduates of that major are currently in high demand. What I would recommend is choosing a major in a field that interests you. If you are interested in computer science, choose a computer science degree. If you are interested in engineering, choose an engineering degree. If you are interested in education, or diesel mechanics, or nursing, or ag technology, or whatever, choose the major that interests you.