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The Four (or Five Or Six)-year Path To Your Future

“A lot of people go to college for seven years,” the bumbling Tommy said as he made his way to his first day at the office.

“Yeah, they’re called doctors,” the snotty co-work spouted back.

We all remember the classic scene from the ever-quotable Tommy Boy. Chris Farley plays a college grad hitting the work force for the first time after spending a few extra years honing in on the right career choice. And who could forget another Hollywood story of extended college mayhem that featured the lovable Van Wilder tacking on a few “post graduate” semesters, postponing the real world 12 credit hours at a time.

The truth is that it’s not that uncommon for college students to change their majors a few times during their collegiate careers. Every students knows a few “super seniors” that are in the fifth year of their tenure after going through a few career path changes. In fact, the trend is not uncommon. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, in 2000 only 35 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated in four years, and according to the same study, this number is growing. To remedy this increasingly common tendency, there are a few things that students can do before they’re in their last year of college to decide what the best career path may be.

First, students should determine what the most important quality of a future career is. For many twentysomethings, one of the most influential factors in degree decisions is the money. Many undergrads are curious as to what they can expect to make after the big walk. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) have made available a list that determines the value of a degree based their annual Salary Survey. It looks at the average starting salaries for most popular degrees. Here’s a portion of the list:

Chemical engineering: $51,853

Electrical engineering: $49,946

Computer science: $47,419

Accounting: $40,546

Information sciences: $39,718

Marketing: $34,628

History: $32,108

English: $30,157

Psychology: $27,454

Though money is important, for many college students it is only one of the elements that determine a desirable future career. Many twentysomethings want to find a job that is enjoyable and rewarding for more than financial reasons.

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With most schools offering degrees in everything from education to business to biochemistry, there are a lot of options. One common mistake made by many students is rushing into a degree with out checking it out ahead of time. Just because something is interesting, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the best fit.

Most colleges offer career fairs and even career counselors that can give insight into what the daily routines of most jobs consist of. The most practical step a college student can make in search to find out the right degree plan is to talk to people in the field they want to go into. No one knows more about a job than someone who has worked at it for years.

Another important thing to remember is that it is never too late. If you are all ready in a major and you are finding that it is not what you originally thought, or if you rushed into the most convenient degree plan, it is not too late to change your mind. It is better to spend an extra semester or two at college than to spend years at a job you don’t like. Counselors are eager to work with students; their job is to set them in the right classes. They will work with you so you can graduate in time. Finally, even if you are a recent graduate, you are not trapped by your degree. There are plenty of people working at careers outside of their degrees.

The most important thing to remember during this pivotal time is that it is in God’s hands. God is faithful to honor the prayers of His children. Keep that in mind when trying to figure out what do in the critical post-college years. There’s a fine line between healthy concern and worry. If you take all of the practical steps and research careers for yourself, you will have no trouble finding a job that’s rewarding and enjoyable. And if all else fails, just remember, a lot of people go to college for seven years.

Jesse Carey is a journalism major at Oral Roberts University, but calls Virginia Beach, Va., home. He is also currently interning at RELEVANT.

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