By Casey Collier

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Why do students shell out tens of thousands of dollars per year at colleges? So they can get jobs … in theory.

Today, 53% of graduates are overeducated for their positions, meaning they did not need to go to college to obtain the job that they have. Why are so many graduates facing this issue, and is it even worth going to college?

Major of choice significantly influences the student’s ability to land a job after graduation. Students should be made aware of the job outlook in their field early in their academic pursuit.

College is an investment

According to America’s Debt Help Organization, college graduates typically end up with $40,000 in academic debt upon completion of their bachelor’s degrees, and this number is rising. Therefore, the issue of underemployment (and underpay) is increasingly important to allow graduates to succeed in their future careers and lives.

It is common for the average graduate to take three to six months to secure a job after graduation, but not all majors provide the same number of job opportunities.

The major matters

Students who decide to study bioengineering, computer science, environmental engineering, civil engineering, geology, management, petroleum engineering, government, economics and mathematics have the greatest job opportunities. Those who study fine arts, liberal arts, philosophy, English, physical activity and music have lower earnings as well as less job opportunities.

Students who have chosen the more technical and stable majors enjoy better job outlooks, and better starting pay. Engineers often make $55,000/year starting salaries, where English majors made $35,000/year. However, not every student enjoys areas of study that promise a high salary.

Area of study is dependent on many factors

Students often enroll in academic programs that give them the skills to perform a specific job. This is known as career preparation and is a valuable method to ensure the student will have the tools they need to do well in a future career. However, many students are pressured into beginning collegiate study while they are still in high school, long before they know what job they would like to have in the future. Students often choose to study subjects that they personally enjoy, and this often changes with time, resulting in a change of major. Unfortunately, the most interesting and fun majors do not always guarantee a job after college.

Degrees that are associated with more job opportunities also generally lead to better salaries due to demand in the field, and post-graduation salary is a factor. It is very important that the student chooses a job that they will enjoy, because money is not as important as happiness and satisfaction.

Major does not determine everything

Regardless of the major of study, students who have experience in the field that they are hoping to go into, as well as strong technical and soft skills, such as communication and customer service, will have a higher chance of finding a job.

Career centers and community resources have been shown to increase the chances of the student to secure a job in today’s competitive job market and should be utilized by students when they are on campus for the greatest chance at success. According to Forbes, employers are often most interested in employees who are positive, curious, creative, observant and self-aware. All of these skills can be developed for students of all areas of study.

Students should know what to expect after graduation

College is a significant investment of time and money. Students should be made very aware of the job market in their field of study at the beginning of the educational program, as well as the chance of landing a job in their field of study and the amount of education that will be required to do well in their field. Failing to share this information sets the student up for economic hardship, disappointment and even depression upon finishing their degree.

— Casey Collier lives in Bend.

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