For Passion or For Pay? What’s The Best Choice For Your Major?

I recently read an article published by my alma mater’s campus newspaper regarding the unemployment rate based upon major.  It made me wonder whether it is advantageous for first year students to see this data or not.  What does the average American view a college education as: a chance to research and study a topic they are passionate about or hop on a fast track to the largest and most stable income?

Personally, I was a combination of the two: I managed to graduate with around 180 credit hours.  Every semester, I had a different plan to double major, triple major, double minor, etc.  I think I’m just one or two classes away from having four degrees.  This has way more to do with my crazy Type A personality than my intellect, though.  My degree was in Biology.  As a first year student, I just loved to learn about science….until I took Chemistry courses but that in itself is enough to write another blog about.  I found myself in love with my public policy courses (but I’d have to go to graduate school to really pursue a career in law-making or policy), I was obsessed with my religious studies courses (but didn’t feel led to go into ministry or become a PhD in the topic), the list goes on.  Since I was on a scholarship to become a teacher, I decided to stick with my biology degree and minor in education.  Surely, there would be plenty of science teacher positions available when I graduated.  In the meantime, I’d just overextend myself and take the other classes that I was passionate about for ‘fun’ and hopefully figure my life out somewhere in the mix.

However, if you don’t come into college with a few credit hours under your belt or have to work a job and limit your course load, you must stick to a strict guideline of coursework only pertinent to your major.   So do you follow your heart or your logic?

Now there are the fortunate few that are passionate about nursing with a plethora of nursing positions available, but you can’t graduate with a degree in photojournalism and expect to land a job photographing for National Geographic straight out of college with great benefits and a retirement package.  But if your passion is photography and you decide to go a safer route and become an accountant working 9-5 with a good salary and an excellent insurance plan, is that equally as detrimental as being unemployed?  Just how productive is an employee that has no true passion?

One of the best decisions I made in college was to minor in Entrepreneurship.  I think this is one of the few places where passion and logic can not only find solutions to many of the world’s problems but allow people to make a lucrative income while following their heart, IF they are willing to take a risk.

What are your thoughts?  What should be the main determining factor for a student’s course of study?

By Erin Burns

About the Author: Erin Burns is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow who teaches Biology at North Mecklenburg High School.  Erin graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Biology and minors in Education and Entrepreneurship.  A recent addition to the team, Erin looks to channel her creativity and passion for education-reform through the SKoolAide initiative.  Find her on LinkedIn, email her at, or follow @eburnsye on Twitter

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: