Choosing the right major may not be so important

Kathryn Barcom (The Western Front)

David Eldred, director of marketing and assistant vice president at People’s Bank in Bellingham, has worked in marketing for nearly 15 years. Surprisingly, he said he never obtained a degree in marketing. Eldred instead graduated from Western in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in English and an emphasis in creative writing.

Eldred, like many new students on campus, did not know exactly what he wanted to do when he first arrived at Western. After switching majors a few times, he said he decided on an English major because he loved to write.

Tina Loudon, director of Western’s Career Center, said it is not uncommon to see students get jobs unrelated to their majors and that students choose their majors for a variety of reasons other than career goals.

“Sometimes students choose a particular major because they know it’s the best tool fit for their future occupation,” she said.

“Other times, students find a subject they enjoy from taking general undergraduate requirements and turn those interests into a major.”

Eldred said he believes that a liberal arts degree is key in many business settings because it gives students writing abilities and communication skills.

“Employers pay attention to more than just what kind of degree you receive,” said Diane Shelton, has been the vice president of human resources at People’s Bank for 27 years.

Shelton, who is responsible for interviewing and hiring at the bank, said completing any degree shows an employee’s commitment and dedication.

Loudon said students with a particular talent or passion often want to take their interest as far as they can in the education system.

“It’s very important to do something you like, but it’s also important to look ahead to the future,” Loudon said.

For the past 25 years, Loudon has provided students with information to better equip them for the workforce. She said students who do not know what to do often find it easier to pick a broad major, such as communications, English or business that helps them achieve general valuable skills.

Western’s Career Center has multiple resources for new and continuing students. One tool available at the center is access to surveys that show what graduates do with their degrees.

According to the ’02-’03 Annual Employer Survey response, most people with a computer-science degree ended up using their major in their current occupation. The same is true with teaching, though it is not uncommon for graduates to continue their education beyond the four-year degree.

The Career Center also has an assessment test that students can take if they are unsure of their career path or major. Loudon said the $20 assessment is sometimes helpful for those who already know they want to teach or write but are unsure about a specific direction or interest.

“Ideally, we like to follow students throughout their studies at Western,” Loudon said. “We like to meet with them in the beginning to help them decide what direction to pursue, in the middle to look at internships and campus opportunities and toward the end for career placement and follow-up.”

Copyright The Western Front