Monday, July 23, 2012

5 majors to discuss with teens thinking about college

While the new common core standards call for all students to be college and career ready, the narrowed, one-size-fits-all initiative gives little attention to customizing coursework to a student’s unique talents, interests or abilities. As a result, like me, many young people are left with a diploma in one hand, and the other hand scratching their head, unsure of exactly what course of study they want to pursue. The end result can be a hefty investment in tuition, housing, and books in a major that’s just not right for them.

The high school years are the right time to begin having conversations about what might be the best field of study to pursue. If that field includes college, these are five majors to consider that might lead to fulfilling careers. Discuss these with teens early so they can begin focusing their high school experience toward activities, studies, internships, and/or work that will help them make the most of college and life.

1) Economics - Economics and other business degrees are among the highest-paying degrees available at college. While the coursework can be challenging, the results are worthwhile. Economics degrees can lead to jobs in business, other financial fields and academia.
2) Health sciences- Health-related degrees can lead to the lucrative field of health sciences. While others jobs are affected by economic factors, health care remains in demand regardless of economic conditions; people do not stop getting sick during a recession. Degrees in health sciences can lead to careers in areas such as doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurses. Such careers allow one to help others and lead to high levels of job satisfaction. With Baby Boomers at retirement age, this is a field in high demand.
3) Communication Studies- Communication degrees prepare students to enter fields like advertising and public relations. Starting salaries are reasonable, the work is fast-paced and exciting, and there is tremendous room for growth for those with talent. This degree also prepares studentts for running their own business once they gain some real-world experience.
4) Education - Teaching degrees do not always lead to the highest-paying jobs, but the field is rewarding and those who pursue it are responsible for educating the future. Additionally, with experience and additional study, the work can lead to fairly lucrative jobs in administration. Educators who find an environment that fits their style find the rewards of teaching lead to high job satisfaction rates.
5) Information Technology - As high school principal Chris Lehmann points out, “Technology is like oxygen, ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible. This is a field that will continue to boom for decades. With an IT degree, some experience and certifications, students can make six-figure incomes in a relatively short period of time. Further, the field continues to change and redefine itself, which leads to new opportunities throughout one's career.

These five majors are some areas that are likely to lead to employment opportunities.  Of course this is only a start.  If these are not areas of interest for the young people you are involved with, dig deeper, review college catalogs and trade publications and talk with people in various fields to investigate which opportunities are most likely to lead to success. 


  1. Okay, so on one hand, you continually talk about how college is unnecessary, and you write post after post that denigrate teachers ... and now you're saying that people should go to college and major in education?

  2. As someone who just graduated undergrad with a degree in education I would recommend going undergrad for a different interest and if you still want to teach get your masters. You need a graduate degree anyway If you want to teach, and it's pretty difficult to get a teaching job now so it makes sense to pursue another career as well. This is just my opinion.

  3. Anonymous, please go re-read the post. Lisa provides 3 disclaimers, starting with the word *thinking* in the title "...teens who are thinking about going..."; then the premise of Common Core - " for all students to be college and career ready..."; and then the IF here "...If that field includes college, these are five majors to consider that.... ".

    We have sold our youth (and ourselves) for several generations now on the idea that college is the only path to success. It's not. (And what and who defines success? - but I'll leave that for another time.) College is NOT the place to go at age 18 or maybe ever FOR SOME PEOPLE. And it is NOT necessary for many fulfilling jobs. But college is *still necessary and required for some fields*. It's not an all of nothing -throw college out- sentiment that she or others are suggesting. Folks who are arguing against college are arguing that is not necessary for everyone at age 18 and for every career. Some teens still want to go. It would be kind to help prepare them if we are able. This post is aimed at those parents

    What college is now IS THE ONLY way to get into many fields. So IF your teen wants to get a figure out a major and then get a job, if would be kind of the parent and other adults in their life to steer them toward careers that look fulfilling.

    1. But a truly innovative person can unschool his entire life and be successful without needing the oppressive, industrial model formal education that has stolen so many dreams.

  4. I would add Computer Science. I understand that CS & IT have many overlaps, but I think it still warrants highlighting. Technology has fundamentally changed the way we work, communicate, govern and educate. All these technological innovations are possible because there were people to design the systems and write the code and yet the study in the field of computer science is not keeping pace. And by not keeping pace, I’m not just talking about the overall numbers studying CS being a mere trickle in the higher education pipeline, I’m talking about an epic failure to engage women and minorities in this field that has enormous job and empowerment potential. Speaking of the common core standards, computer science concepts are missing there too, so yet another reason to raise awareness about it with young people. Lots of good resources about computing education, careers & advocacy at Computing in the Core (

  5. "With an IT degree, some experience and certifications, students can make six-figure incomes in a relatively short period of time"... REALLY? Please show us the evidence for this ridiculous statement. Even in a huge company like Microsoft or Amazon, very few people make it to the top and earn the 6 figure sum that you mention will be theirs in a few years.