Does your major matter?

I was reading an article on the other day that really hit home with me. The article, written by Donald Asher, was entitled Does Your Major Matter? and it basically talked about how students’ majors are becoming less important because the skills developed through internships are what really get people into their careers.

I graduated from the University of Waterloo with an Honours BA in sociology. Did I become a sociologist? No. I’m currently finishing up my post-grad course in Corporate Communications and Public Relations. My internship starts in just over a week! Although I really liked sociology and learned a lot throughout university, my job is not going to have anything to do with that subject.

The article talks about how many people ask college and university students what they plan to do with their degrees, but the degree isn’t what matters it just matters that they get one. Louise Paradis, assistant director of the career centre at Portland State University, says she tells students and their parents that getting a degree is important but only a few careers require specific preparation:

It comes down to this: Do they have the skills the employer is seeking? Can the student articulate those skills to the employer? Can they communicate, solve problems, interact effectively in a group, think critically, do research, write to professional business standards? That’s what matters.

The importance of internships was also made clear through an interview with Eric Schwaab, an individual who majored in international studies and then went on to become a financial advisor on Wall Street. Schwaab is quoted as saying:

Undergraduate education should be more for broadening your horizons, breaking out of your preconceptions and predispositions from the world you grew up in. Graduate education is the opposite. It is more for honing in on very specific challenges. So it’s almost like undergrad is about expanding your mind, and graduate education is about focusing it back down on something narrow and important to you.

After reading this specific quote, I couldn’t help but agree entirely with him. I think it’s important to remember the importance of our undergraduate education, even if the specific subject doesn’t necessarily matter. Just because I am not going to be entering a career that directly relates to sociology doesn’t mean my degree didn’t do anything for me. I learned a lot of content from my courses, but I also learned a lot about writing since I was constantly writing essays.

I agree, though, that my post-graduate education has definitely honed my writing skills and made me a more concise writer. Let me tell you, it was definitely a change to go from writing 15-20 page papers to writing something in just a couple of pages. Most people might think it’d be easier but I found it challenging to learn how to get your point across that much more concisely.

I know there are only a handful of people in my program that actually got their degrees in communications, so I’m curious to know what my classmates majored in. Do you guys have any thoughts on this topic? Do you think your major matters or just getting a degree?

March 23, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Colleen:

    I’ve always thought the best part of getting a university degree is the fact that we can prove we were driven and dedicated to completing one thing for four years. I mean really, don’t you think that’s impressive? : )

    I majored in communications. But, I don’t think I was any better off than you or the others in our class that majored in something else. I think we all pretty much started out on an even playing field and grew in various directions.

    Blah, blah, blah… This is cheesy. Sorry! Haha. But yeah, I am going to miss seeing you every day : (

    Comment by Rayanne Langdon | March 23, 2008

  2. Thanks Rayanne!

    I completely agree…if finishing four years of university doesn’t show dedication, I’m not sure what does! And that is probably a big reason why a lot of companies may first look to see if you’ve gotten a degree because above all else it really shows what hard work and determination can get you.

    It’s definitely going to be an adjustment not seeing you and everyone every day. But I can’t wait to hear how your internship turns out! 🙂

    Comment by Colleen Monks | March 23, 2008

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