Following your passion

Money is a terrible way to measure the value of a college major, writes Jordan Weissman in The Atlantic. He’s right, even if that goes against today’s conventional wisdom. For a college major, and for a life’s work, following your passion will serve you better than following the money.

I remember when, just a few years off the farm, I set out to become a lawyer, with the lofty goal of saving (or at least serving) some part of the world. Loyola had a series of social events for first year law students, and I tried to socialize. Conversation felt awkward, as most of my classmates came from backgrounds quite different from mine. One explained that his father and brother were lawyers. “Of course, you have to have a profession,” he said, “and I don’t want to be a doctor.”

Seemed like a strange idea then, and still does. I’m more inclined to agree with Weissman, who writes:

“I fear that the more we accept the idea that the value of a particular college major can be summed up with a lifetime earnings estimate, the more likely policy makers are to come up with questionably designed schemes aimed at pushing students towards one field or another. Recent screeds aside, sometimes “do what you love” is perfectly good advice.”

As for the argument that business majors earn more than, say, English majors:

“One reason English majors tend to earn less than business majors, for instance, is that many lit-loving 18 year olds aren’t particularly motivated by money, and want careers in, say, PR or journalism (or even teaching!) that are short on pay, but meet their interests. Saying business majors earn more only because of what they studied is like saying having lots of Nike running shoes in your closet makes you a faster runner.”

English majors may earn less than business majors, but they still get jobs. Getting a college degree — any college degree — means a better chance at employment. And majoring in something you love means a better chance at eventually getting work that supports rather than stifles your passions.

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