Q: I am entering college in September, 2013. I am a strong student, especially in the sciences. I love biology and chemistry. I am also a good writer. I am a little bit introverted so I am not the best presenter to large groups of people. Over the next four years, I need to become more focused on a major, a career, a direction! I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!
A: Congratulations for being able to identify many of your strengths and interests so early in your academic career! This is an achievement in itself.
Your interest in the sciences is encouraging. Many colleges and universities are encouraging students to focus in the areas known as STEM subject areas. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. There are many career paths within the STEM areas of study. These careers include biomedical engineers, software developers or chemists.
Recently a report, called Hard Times, was produced by Anthony P. Carnevale and Ban Cheah. The report discusses data related to college majors, unemployment and earnings. The complete report is available by visiting http://cew.georgetown.edu/unemployment2013. In short, the report finds that a college degree is usually worth the investment. However, your college major can impact your marketability, your earnings and your employability. Although there are some surprising findings in this report, the information may be helpful to you as you continue to move through your college years. As an example, earnings increase as recent college graduates gain experience and/or a graduate degree. The fields of study where the median earnings are highest include engineering and computers/mathematics (p.8).
Another resource is the Fasting Growing Occupations published by the Bureau of Labor Studies. Visit www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm. What you will need to evaluate is the demand of an occupation but also the potential earnings.
If possible, try to secure an internship or a summer job in a field related to your major. This experience can be incredibly helpful. An internship or summer job in a related field can also broaden your connections in the field.
You are smart to ask these questions early. I work with many job seekers well beyond college who are still trying to find a career path that will bring them joy and a paycheck!