STEM major

It’s not unusual to meet high school students who haven’t quite narrowed down their particular interest of study or what major they want to pursue. But what about students who have an interest in STEM that haven’t necessarily discerned what they want to do with that interest? How can a student leverage a degree in biology, chemistry, physics, or computer science if they’re unsure how they want to use such a degree?

Interesting fact: According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only twenty-seven percent of college grads are working in a field that aligns with their choice of major. That means seventy-three percent of college grads don’t end up “doing” what they studied in college.

For all the parents reading this who are currently hyperventilating: Yes, there’s no guarantee the money you’re forking over for junior’s major is going to land him in a strategically planned-for profession.

So if most students don’t end up doing what they studied, why even have majors at all?

Outside of engineering, architecture, and nursing, most undergraduate majors are not quite credentials; most are not used as a student’s entrée into a profession. Instead, they’re a framework; they’re a framework for thinking, for reasoning, for problem-solving, for creating. All of which are skillsets that can be used in any number of professions.

So if you’ve got a love of math and science, but you haven’t quite figured out how you want to use it in the future, take comfort. Chemistry majors don’t have to “do” chemistry upon graduation. Nor do physicists, biologists, or even mathematicians. Future employers, and even graduate schools, might not necessarily be hiring or admitting you based upon your acquisition of scientific or mathematical facts. They might be hiring you because you know how to problem solve, because you know how to reason, because you’ve practiced and learned a discipline that doggedly pursues the truth through experimentation and objectivity. Those skillsets are needed, and appreciated, even in fields unrelated to math and science.

You could major in biology and end up going into business or marketing. You could pursue physics and go to law school. You could study math and end up working in finance. STEM study doesn’t have to be a literal representation of your prospective profession. A STEM major can often serve as wide an avenue as your imagination sees fit, even if you don’t pursue a STEM profession upon graduation.

So if you love chemistry but are not quite sure what you want to do with it, your biggest roadblock to studying your heart’s desire might simply be self-imposed. For all you know, the sky’s the limit.


Written by Zaragoza Guerra
Zaragoza Guerra is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Zaragoza previously worked as a senior admissions officer at MIT, Caltech, and The Boston Conservatory.