These days, I’m focused on getting my 12-year-old son through middle school.
With March Madness just around the corner, I realized that in a few years, I’ll be worried about college admission and his choice of a major. For parents, the college years are tricky.
You want your children to pursue their passion, but you also want them to have a marketable degree.
You don’t want to spend $100,000 on college tuition, then have your son or daughter flipping burgers and living at home.
I remember distinctly my dad’s advice on selecting a major when I started college 35 years ago.
“Pick something that you love,” he said. “If you do, the money will follow.”
I took his advice and chose journalism because I loved to write. I also was good with figures and had considered a career in accounting. But covering news stories sounded a lot more exciting than adding columns of numbers, so I picked journalism.
I’m glad I did, even though my salary as a newspaper reporter was probably less than I could have earned as an accountant.
Today, however, I doubt I could give my son the same career advice that my dad gave me. Tuition costs are soaring, and the job market is uncertain.
I wouldn’t want my son, at age 18, to choose a degree plan and career that might be a dead end. The economic times have changed, and I think parents are more pragmatic about college choices for their kids. We’ve seen many talented, energetic people out of work – and we don’t want our kids to join the unemployment lines.
Degrees to consider
The subject of college majors has been on my mind since seeing this article on degrees that are in demand.
A bachelor’s in business administration tops the list, according to recruiting experts.
“You’ll not only be able to focus on an area of business that most interests you by taking more specialized classes, you’ll also learn about a broad range of topics in finance, marketing, and management, ensuring your career flexibility,” according to the article by Terence Loose.
A master’s in business administration followed as the second most valuable degree. The next three were a bachelor’s in accounting, bachelor’s in communications, and bachelor’s in information technology.
Questions to consider
If you have a son or daughter in high school, you’ll have to face the complex college question soon. Here are some considerations:
- Do you plan to pay all or part of your child’s tuition? If so, you should have more voice in the selection of a major.
- Is your child exceptionally talented in a certain area, such as music? If so, you might feel comfortable encouraging him or her to pursue that field, even if it’s less secure.
- If your child is dead-set on a degree plan you oppose, you could let him or her pursue it for two or three semesters. Maybe your child will lose interest or see that the career path is uncertain. On the other hand, your child’s academic success might give you confidence that he or she could succeed in that field, even if it’s out of the mainstream.
- Young people can always start out at a community college. There’s little pressure to immediately declare a major, giving students a chance to take a wide selection of courses before settling on a direction.
- College isn’t for everyone. Parents may need to accept that their child doesn’t have the aptitude or ability to succeed in college. That doesn’t mean he or she can’t succeed in life. Many people who have done quite well never earned a college degree.
No matter your view on college majors, it’s critical that you discuss the subject with your child.
Don’t let him or her dictate a major to you. Nor should you dictate one. Selecting a degree plan is a huge decision for the child and parent – and it should be made jointly by considering many factors.
A college degree isn’t necessarily a ticket to career success. It must be in a field that’s in demand. Encourage your child to weigh their interests against the reality of finding a job.