Does your University Major Dictate your Career Prospects?

14% of job seekers surveyed are liberal arts majors, yet only 2% of companies are actively recruiting those majors. 15% of job seekers are engineering and computer information systems majors yet 30% of companies are actively recruiting those majors. About a third of job seekers would, or have, changed their college major to have better job prospects. These are findings from a sweeping survey of workers and HR professionals by research company Future Workplace, in conjunction with career network Beyond.

In Ghana, several university students have to make do with certain courses in order to enroll. They are not what they wanted to study. It’s sometimes due to poor grades and limited admission capacity in most of the renowned universities, which compel students to accept courses they are not happy with.

After 4 years of university education, you want to land the best-paying jobs or your dream job. However, the courses you read in the university may limit you and sometimes practically dictate which career you can pursue and in which organizations.

Though there is no data to support this assertion, in Ghana, it is common practice to see HR managers draw preference lines to separate graduates with certain majors from others, during recruitment, in order to simplify the tasks of selecting the best candidate for a position. For example, when recruiting fresh graduates for the finance department, you want a business administration graduate with finance and/or accounting major.

It is understandable because you want the candidate with appreciable level of understanding of the subject and what to expect in the department. However, there is no guarantee that he would perform better than a crop science graduate in that finance role.

Getting in is important, and you need to appear to be fit for the available position. A lot will depend on your college major among other factors. Rather than going back to school to choose a different course, I have seen many friends and former work colleagues do something corrective. Arts students are choosing second degrees in finance related courses in order to balance their art backgrounds. They have realized that that is what employers require for them to climb up the ladder. They are doing their MBAs.

Besides formal university settings, you can also study and write professional courses in fields that are in high demand by employers to put you in a favourable position of being hired.

You don’t need to bother so much about your first degree as there are several opportunities to take a corrective measure if you think your first was not what you wanted. First degrees are to prepare you for advanced learning and career development. Not necessarily to shape students for specific roles in the job market where you can just walk in and sit effortlessly behind desks and start working.

Your college degree does not dictate your career in entirety. It sets you on a path. A path you can change at any time. I have met chemical engineering graduates in banks who performed very well, better than banking and finance graduates. But to get in, you must possess what they want.