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OP-ED: So, what are you going to do with that?

Presley Talley

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So, what are you going to do with that? Since switching my major from environmental science to communication studies (public relations) my freshman year, I feel like I am constantly met with questions regarding my major. Why did you choose that? You know there is no money in that field. So, you want to talk to people for a living?

Your major is something that, whether you like it or not, defines you during your time in college. From the moment you step onto a university campus, you are divided out to find your college and people with similar end-goals. Our decisions, from housing with living-learning communities to the organizations we join, are driven by our end goal – to obtain our desired degree.

Everyone has a different process when choosing a major. Some go where the money is, others choose to follow in their parents’ footsteps, and some are never certain until they finally walk the stage. After a semester of science classes, I came to the realization that what I wanted to do with my degree related more to communication/public relations rather than environmental science. So I switched.

Since switching majors I feel that any time I am asked about it my choice, I am met with confused or even concerned looks. Rather than being content with my answer, people feel the need to question my decision making. What could be a simple two-word answer, turns into five minutes of trying to justify my choices.

This is very different from other fields that are more widely accepted.

What’s your major?

Nursing.

End of story.

There are many majors that are overall more acceptable than others. These majors/fields are easily explained with few words and are well-known to most people. Think back to kindergarten, when you are asked what you want to be, you reply with one or two words – firefighter, veterinarian, teacher. I feel like we are taught to take that same mentality with us into the rest of our lives. We are taught that there are a set number of things that you can be, anything else seems fake or illegitimate. The fact is, there are a number of professions that exist that you or I will never hear of. People are successful in an unimaginable number of areas. How surreal is it to think that you can be successful in a liberal arts field?

Liberal arts majors overall have a negative stigma. It is seen as something you choose when you do not want to work hard or when you are not very smart. Albeit not specifically a money-making field, as with anything, you get what you put into it. Pending on your connections, work ethics, and even sometimes just being in the right place at the right time, you can work your way up in ranking and salary.

A popular comment I get, regarding my major, is that I do not need to be in college to do what I want. Sure, I could have gone without a degree, but I wanted to give myself an advantage, albeit slight, above other applicants. Just because you do not see ‘digital media’ job postings plastered on billboards, does not mean that there is not just as much competition as any other field. It is unrealistic to have that mindset.

What I believe this all stems from is lack of exposure. When your idea does not fit into someone’s wheelhouse, they are quick to question its’ legitimacy. Liberal arts, in general, are not deemed necessary to the majority of the population. The reality of this is that there are liberal arts positions in most companies. It takes all types of minds to make an operation run smoothly. While you may look at an engineering firm and see just that – engineering, there are several types of individuals who handle the day-to-day operations. Who designed that logo that they display proudly? A graphic designer. Who handled the media backlash when a crisis happened within the company? A public relations specialist. I can go on, but you see the picture. In fact, I currently intern at a sheriff’s office. At surface level, it does not make sense that there would be a position open for communications. In the growing age of technology – namely social media – it is important to have someone on staff who is familiar/specialized in the field. People turn to social media for their news, updates, or even when a natural disaster strikes. I would not expect a sheriff’s deputy to handle the department’s twitter. That is where a person with my experience/degree can step in.

My major allows me to see and works with different types of fields. I am not limited to working in a PR firm, although that seems to be the popular opinion. I have the opportunity to take what I am passionate about to a variety of sectors – government, medicine, education, non-profit, or corporate. That is one of the reasons why I chose it, it is flexible.

So, why did you choose that major? Is it because you thought it would be easy? Do you even really want to be in college? Oh, you just couldn’t make it as a science major? The stigma that one major is better than another is so dated. Just because you believe that one major makes more money or gives you a higher esteem, does not mean that it is the correct path for everyone to take.

What I am passionate about is probably different than what you are passionate about. We will not have the same salary or the same career life experience, but does that make one of us better than the other? No. This is the beauty of freedom. We have a choice. Choose something that you find passion in and pursue it, but do not place yourself on a pedestal because of it.

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