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Monday, July 01, 2013

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up...and Can You Afford It?

As students, your main goal is probably to graduate with good grades, get into a great college, get a career doing exactly what you want to do and hopefully, make a lot of money doing it. Sometimes it's easy to look at the big picture and figure the details will work themselves out as you move along. But many times students have no idea if the college major they are interested in is a viable one - whether they can make enough money to live, or be competitive enough to get a job. Here are some suggestions to take into account when planning for your college experience.

1)      What is the average income for the job/position this major will prepare me for?

  • Look at the average income levels for the area you live and any areas you might consider living in the future. (Look at websites like
  • Look at the cost of living (home prices, rental prices) for those areas - will the salary you earn be enough to cover the costs and have leftover?
  • Look at the advancement opportunities for the position you'd be looking at - will there be a lot of opportunities to advance or will you need to plan to spend time and money on another degree or certification?

2)      How competitive are the jobs in the major I'm considering?

  • If you want to be the next American Idol, be prepared for a long, hard road. Not to say it might not be hugely rewarding - but be prepared to have patience and potentially work a second or third job.
  • Look at the job market for what is in demand right now and what is projected to be important in the near future. It might not be as drastic as changing your major but maybetaking some additional classes. For instance, if you're majoring in Business but see the trend for Information Technology, why not add on some programming classes, or classes in SharePoint, or even minor in something related to IT?
  • If you know the area you intend to focus on is very competitive, then research those who have been successful and identify what they did that made all the difference. Did they focus on branding themselves? Did they develop a reputation for excellence?

3)       Do you have a specific employer in mind?

  • We've all heard how great it is to work at Google. But what educational background do people who work at Google actually have? What did they major in? Look up the currentvacancies for the employer you're interested in and see what the educational requirements are. It'll give you an idea of where to focus your studies...or whether you'll need tolook at other employers.

It's a lot to think about as a teenager. But thinking strategically about your future might make all the difference and prevent you from making time-consuming and potentially costly mistakes. If you want help, seek out a parent, trusted friend or counselor and use the suggestions above as a springboard to start a conversation.