I’m writing you from upstate New York this weekend. My wife’s grandparents live in Rochester and we decided to take a long weekend to visit them. Following my own advice, I took some time out of our vacation weekend to visit two colleges. Since we were right in Rochester, I chose to take a tour of Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday and then, on our way back home to Connecticut, we plan on stopping off at Ithaca College. My wife is alumna of Ithaca, so it will be nice to see it through her eyes.
While touring RIT on Saturday, I was reminded of an article I saw recently that talked about how it really doesn’t matter what you choose for a major. In most cases, unless you need pre-professional training to be a nurse, accountant, speech language pathologist or an engineer, this is true. Just look around you and talk to the people you know – I will bet that most of them don’t even hold a degree that is directly tied to the work they do. And this brings me to what I want to talk about today. Sometimes, your major really does matter and a recent article in the U.S. News offers several reasons why a degree in a technical field such as computer science, software programming, or engineering really can matter.
According to the article, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects over a million new technical positions will be created by 2020. As our world becomes increasingly more driven by technology, data and information sharing, the need for talented individuals who understand how to design, produce, manage and secure these technologies will also increase significantly. In this case, majors do matter. Programs like computer science, information technology, software engineering, computer engineering, and information security can help point you in the direction of an exciting and growing career path. Don’t get me wrong – a degree alone is not going to deliver you to the promise land where you dream job is just waiting for you – having experiences along the way that support your brand as an aspiring technology professional while also showcasing your skills and abilities is what’s going to help you attain the jobs that you want the most.
In other words, you need to get out of the classroom and into a professional environment. You need to be able to show what you can do, not just what you learned. In the world of college, this is called experiential learning and it includes options such as volunteering, research, internships and co-ops. In case you don’t already know, a co-op is a full-time, paid work experience that can offer a student the chance to develop their skills and abilities while making valuable industry contacts.
RIT is a great example of a school where experiential learning is at the core of everything they do, especially in their co-op program, where over 3500 students obtain placements each year. A lot of these students are enrolled in programs similar to the ones mentioned in the article. As early as sophomore year, they are going out into the real world and obtaining valuable work experience and industry contacts. Some of them will complete multiple co-ops and, coupled with a degree that relates to critical needs in the world, these students will find success in their professional lives.
If you have any thoughts you would like to share on experiential learning and how majors matter (or don’t matter), please use the comment box below. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.