How Close Does Your College Degree Match Your Job?

by Elizabeth on March 12, 2013 · 7 comments

“What was your college major?” an acquaintance asked me at a recent get-together for a mutual friend. When I told her my college degree was in history, she nodded. “So you’re a history teacher?” she assumed. I shook my head. “Did you end up going to law school?” she continued on with our unofficial game of 20 questions. When I finally told her I spent the bulk of my time doing market research, she looked perplexed. I should be used to this reaction by now. After all, it’s been nearly a decade since I graduated from college with that history degree.

According to a 2012 article in Forbes, three in five college grads can’t find a job in the same field as their college degree. I, most likely, would have been one of them; then again, I didn’t pursue an undergraduate major in history with the goal of becoming a teacher or working in a museum. I studied the humanities because I found them intriguing, and because they taught me how to examine the world in new and creative ways. After graduation, I went straight to grad school, where I got my master’s in broadcast journalism.

I used that degree for exactly five years before leaving the field to pursue other interests.

All this has me thinking, though, about how many of you have a job that is tied to your college degree.

Today, there doesn’t seem to be much of a connection between my college degree and my career path. I’ve never done anything directly connected to my history major, and I don’t even work in the same field as my graduate degree any more. Yet, I use all the skills and knowledge I gained during the course of my formal education on a daily basis. For example, in my current job, I have to synthesize raw data and use it to support my research findings. This is a skill I used time and again while working as a journalist; I often had hours of raw video from the field, which I had to reduce to brief soundbites that would coalesce into my news story.

Are you doing exactly what you set out to do when you decided on your college major? Does your career path mirror the courses and choices you made as an undergrad? Even if there’s no direct connection, can you see how the skills and knowledge translate from your time as a student to your professional life?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank March 11, 2013 at 7:19 am

I got a job in the field of my degree, but I really don’t like it much and want to change my profession.


2 CashRebel March 11, 2013 at 8:14 am

Good point. I guess I am using my engineering degree to some extent, but not my specialization. I spent 4 years becoming a mechanical engineer and now I focus mostly on electrical… haha.


3 krantcents March 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I majored in business and teach business and computer applications. A long time ago, my boss (president) had an English degree. He went through marketing to reach his position. I think more often than not, someone with a liberal arts degree will perform a function that does not relate to their degree.


4 Nicole Robinson @TheBookWormMama March 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I didn’t go directly into a communications job, but I will always be grateful for my journalism degree. Like you, the skills I learned in school come in handy.

It’s a lot to ask an 18 or 19 year old to pick a career path and stick with it. I say choose something that interests you (except basket weaving) and go for it.


5 Kurt @ Money Counselor March 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I have a Chemical Engineering B.S. degree, but I’ve never worked in a chem-e job. But I think the math and problem solving, analytical skills you learn through an engineering curriculum are extremely valuable in just about any field. Being able to solve two equations with two unknowns is like being able to split the atom to people in business. :-)


6 Brian March 11, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I fall into this category. I had a BS in Aero/Astro Engineering and decided I hate engineering and don’t work in that field. Bt like Kurt the skills I learned apply to many many different fields.


7 Nick @ March 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I have a Business Intelligence degree and I work as a Business Intelligence Developer, so mine matches pretty closely. :)


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