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36% of workers regret their college major

October 17, 2010

More than One-Third of Workers Wish They Had Majored in Something Different in College, Finds New CareerBuilder Survey
By Career Builders

CHICAGO, October 13, 2010 – A tight job market may have some workers pondering their educational paths and heading back to the classroom. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 36 percent of workers with college degrees said they wish they had chosen a different major in college. More than one-in-four (26 percent) said the market for jobs in their chosen field worsened from the time they entered college and when they graduated. This survey was conducted among more than 2,000 workers with college degrees between August 17 and September 2, 2010.

While more than half (56 percent) of all workers with college degrees reported they found a job in their desired career path within one year of graduation, others’ pursuits still haven’t come to fruition. Nearly one-in-five (19 percent) of all workers with a college degree still have not found a job in their desired field.

More than one-in-four workers (27 percent) who graduated from college ten years ago or longer reported they still haven’t found a job related to their college major. Twenty-one percent said it took them three years or longer to find an opportunity in their desired career path while one-in-ten (12 percent) said it took five years or longer.

“The job market has been challenging for all workers, regardless of degree level, and has prompted many to think about learning skills for high demand and emerging jobs,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Many employers, particular in areas such as healthcare, engineering, IT and communications have open positions and can’t find skilled candidates to fill them. College students and workers considering going back to school should take note of areas with growth opportunities and more abundant hiring.”

Building new skill sets is a priority for more than one-in-ten (13 percent) workers who said they have plans to go back to school this year to make themselves more marketable.

Haefner offers the following tips for workers who want to pursue more education:

Talk to HR – If you’re currently employed, many organizations offer some type of learning program. Whether it’s classes taught on-site at your company, courses and seminars across the country or reimbursement for graduate school programs, your HR department can help you decide what is the best fit for your goals.

Leverage the Web – Sometimes, you don’t even have to leave your home to hone your skills. Many sites offer a wide variety of learning opportunities, such as, or consider applying to an online university.

Take advantage of local resources – Many local libraries and community centers offer classes in everything from basic Internet skills to foreign languages. Ask around your community to see what opportunities exist.

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Discuss this article

Britt Storkson October 17, 2010

I found my college degree to be worthless in tangible terms. The training was excellent but most of the jobs were politically awarded, not awarded on the basis of merit.

When jobs are politically awarded one could be the best anything… Surgeon, engineer, scientist…The particular skill doesn’t matter… and still not get the job.

I found all sorts of jobs in my field of study but none paid much more than minimum wage. There’s lots of jobs but kissing body parts yields far better paying employment than spending 4+ years and lots of money and work learning a skill and earning a degree. If you don’t believe that I have many examples to prove my point.

Marvin McConoughey October 17, 2010

Engineering, computer science, math, science, statistics, actuarial sciences, etc. typically enjoy excellent job prospects. I cringe each time I ask local students their major and hear sports medicine, music, physical therapy, art, etc. Sure, these are personally rewarding, but seldom the best for lifetime income. Exceptions? Sure, but not they do not typify the average income results. Bottom line: We live in a technological society that requires and rewards knowledge of difficult disciplines.

RobinWonders October 28, 2010

I was very disappointed with the quality of my college education because it was more focused on (their words) “making me a more well-rounded person” then giving me the education that I was paying for.

I’m in my mid 50s and went back to college full time five years ago to Lane community college in Eugene. Up until that point, I was a self-taught electronics technician working on high-end sophisticated production equipment including robotic repair.

After the company closed in 2004, I had the opportunity to go back school as a full time student as a dislocated worker and to try and fulfill my dreams of being a computer programmer.

The counselor made a pretty good sale on the program and I carried a high grade point average throughout my time there.

However, I wasn’t into the program one year when my constant battles with financial aid started because the college was holding my credits earned in 1975 and other credit courses taken at work against me. I brought this issue up with the federal financial aid office who said that they never heard of colleges considering credits that old and met in person with the president of Lane community college Mary Spilde who promised to look into the issue and never got back to me. (Because of these issues is why did not pursue a bachelors degree. ITT College in Portland however said that they would not consider my credits from 1975 but at that time, I was so soured against my experiences from LCC that I was unwilling to go into further debt)

I also learned that the consistency in the same course, different instructors was a crapshoot. Writing 121 for example which is a required course, we were not required to do a single essay whereas several other instructors that I interviewed who taught the same course, required essays weekly, leaving me totally unprepared for writing 122.

In my opinion the college also sold out to local businesses, i.e., our final two terms which gets into the heart of the program was cut short because a local company was looking to hire 200 people to work as telephone helpdesk technicians, which is great if that was your career choice. After the second week of our final term, we switched gears from learning about server active directory and “crammed” a 12 week security course (full-term) which by the way was presented by a representative of the same company into the remaining time of the term.

The end result, and most of my fellow graduates I interviewed agree with me on this, is that the only people that actually benefited and ready to hit the job market from the CIT course at LCC were the people that came into the program with the experience already in hand and simply needed a piece of paper to back the experience up. As one of my fellow classmates put it … “I had to leave the state before anybody would take my LCC degree seriously.”

If I had followed the advice from my former coworkers/technicians and just went looking for a job instead, the chances are I would still be working as a technician today instead of my new career as a truck driver saddled with a $33,000 student loan.

Education is great if you choose the right vehicle to get there, making the wrong choice can be devastating to your career.

“Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Many employers, particular in areas such as healthcare, engineering, IT and communications have open positions and can’t find skilled candidates to fill them.” The candidates are there… however, employers to use electronic software to sift through resumes often filter out what would be otherwise an excellent candidate for the job.

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