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Choosing a Major
(Continued from 1)

When Allison Lowrey of McKinney, Texas, attended a small, Southern, liberal arts college, she chose to customize her undergraduate major because she knew her chosen field, Child Life Studies, required a master’s degree. She was able to combine psychology and child development courses into a major in Independent Studies. Later, she received a M.S. in Human Development and Family Life.

Now, however, she says it is difficult to work less than full-time in her chosen field. “I wish I had chosen a more marketable major. I would really have liked to do something requiring a tangible skill, like physical or occupational therapy, which still would have provided the opportunity to work with children,” says Lowrey. She feels that if she had chosen one of those majors, she would have more flexibility to work part-time while rearing her children, and still bring home a respectable amount of money.

Nedra Rowe of Lawrenceville, Georgia, originally chose music as her college major. “I chose my major because I enjoyed playing the piano and thought it just made sense. Also, everyone just assumed (my parents included) that I would major in music,” remembers Rowe. “After learning how difficult the major can be, I changed my mind during my first college piano lesson. The theory was killer and I didn't have much of a singing voice so my options were very limited.”

Rowe then tried to remember what the assessment tests she had taken in high school had shown about which careers she should pursue based on her
interests and abilities.

“Also, that's when I did what I wish had done all along…more homework about my potential major,” Rowe said. “I interviewed several people and researched
what careers would be available to me after graduation. So I decided on Human Services, because it is a degree that can benefit you no matter what 'job 'you have during your lifetime.”

Susan Sheridan, currently a Manager of Behavioral Health Services for a health insurance company, said the insight and input from others helped direct her
into a major. She recalls while in high school an adult friend at church told her she had the gift of listening. “That fit with my growing interest in psychology and helped shape my interest in going into mental health counseling. After I started working, I also found that skills with things like organization, project management, and my tendency to sort of ‘take charge’ of things could be used in the administrative side of behavioral health.”

There will always be those with regrets about their chosen field and those who were fortunate enough to find their dream career.

Rowe feels she made the right decision. “I made an 8 to 5 career out of the major for almost fourteen years, and it has provided me contract and freelance work for another seven or so. It’s all about what is right for you. I know it’s not about the money for me—I would be miserable in the corporate world,” says Rowe.

Lowrey agrees. “I think looking toward your future and what you want to accomplish is the best indicator of what you should choose.”

“Follow your heart and your talents and enjoy your job,” contends Cate.

Marsha Neilson, of Charlotte, North Carolina, says there were few choices for women (primarily teaching, nursing or the secretarial field) when she attended college years ago. She chose the education field, but explains, “Over time, the role of a teacher has evolved into something very different than what I originally had viewed it to be. I realized this was something I did not really want to do for the rest of my life. Also, (initially) I did not take into account the fact that the pay is low for what is required.”

Instead of teaching, Neilson has worked in the financial and insurance fields for the majority of her career. “I really feel that it is important to have a passion for what one does and if you lack that passion, it can certainly affect your level of success.” She recommends tapping into one’s own resources to identify what particular talents and skills exist.

Do you recall that I mentioned a journalism class in my own journey for a major? It was one of the most positive experiences I had in college. My involvement with my high school newspaper led me to take that class. As my interest continued, I also joined the college newspaper staff. For many years, my interest in writing took a back seat until I realized about a year ago that I enjoyed writing and editing a self-study assessment for the school where I worked. From there I enrolled in a workshop on magazine writing, applied for a columnist position in the local paper, and now I’m into my third (or more!) career as a part-time freelance writer.

Just as you are multi-faceted as a person, so is your choice of a career. Use as many resources as it requires as you weigh the many essential factors. After all, it may be fairly simple to change jobs, but not necessarily so easy to shift fields.


Cathy Rogers has a B.S. in Business Management and a teaching certificate in Business Education. After teaching computer and office skills classes for over ten years, she now coordinates non-credit courses for the University of Tennesssee. She also writes a community news column for a local newspaper and feature articles and essays for other publications.

Additional Resources: Counseling and Career Planning.

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