Whoops! You Chose the Wrong Degree. What Do You Do Now?

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Change majors.

I’m kidding, of course. The answer is hardly that simple.

If you realize that you’ve chosen the wrong degree, when this epiphany happens is critical. Are you a semester in? Are you living the post-grad life? Is this 10 years out? These details matter. Every story is unique, so it’s important to keep inventory of where you are in life and what possibilities are available to you. As selfish as it sounds, the main goal is your happiness. Life is too short to waste time in a job you don’t like, or in a classroom that makes you want to pull your hair out. I myself tried to be practical, adding a business minor to my English Degree. It took two accounting courses to realize that this wasn’t a good fit. I felt oddly guilty, but I had to realize that changing my mind was OK.

That’s what college is. Really, that’s what life is. Life’s too short to limit yourself.

If you’re still in the process of pursuing your degree, and you realize Economics has no place in your future, change majors. There’s time to change your mind. Most colleges encourage students to start with general education courses. Those are applied to all majors. Use this time to figure out what you want to be. If you are a couple of classes into your major’s requirements, check in with yourself to see if this is still something you’re interested in. And if it’s not, change.

There’s no shame in realizing you made a mistake. Any major sounds great in theory. So many students start college with a set plan in mind, but really the people who enter as “Undecided” might be the smart ones. They use the first few semesters to figure out their interests and sort out what they want to be when they grow up. If you have a few wasted units, figure out how to make up for lost time. Take summer courses to catch up. If it costs a little extra and you’re in school for a little longer, not having to live with the regret of a wasted degree is worth it.

All that being said, some might be a year or two out and realize that the Marketing job they worked hard to get isn’t their dream. If you realize that you have no interest in the jobs available for your degree, weigh your options. Going back to school for four years probably isn’t a possibility for many reasons, primarily a lack of time and money. Consider graduate school. Graduate school often allows students to take a smaller amount of units. This would allow you to pursue something a little different, but without the four-year full time commitment.

Another option is to take a few online classes or local classes in what you’re interested in. These will help you recognize if the degree you are interested in is actually something you want to pursue. It will also equip you with skills that might help with the job hunt. Apply for jobs that aren’t necessarily related to what you studied. Make it clear that you’ve taken courses that qualify you for this new position. It’ll show work ethic and commitment. So many people end up working jobs very different from their degree.

It’s not a sign of defeat; it’s just proof that you’re a human and changed your mind.

It can be scary to change your mind. Some people study biology only to realize that they want to write fiction. Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) has a degree in Electrical Engineering. Ray Romano has a degree in accounting. Brian May of Queen has a degree in Astrophysics. They clearly found out what career wasn’t for them. I know of plenty of people working in fields unrelated to their degree. That’s OK. If you’re in a position to change your major, change it. If that’s not an option, don’t get discouraged. Often it matters that you have a degree more so than what it is in.

The best advice I can give is this: Figure out what you want and how to best get there. If you feel yourself pulled toward a certain major or career, don’t ignore it. Regret isn’t worth it. Take classes. Do the research. Apply for the jobs. Life is too short to let a degree limit you!

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Paige Dinneny is a recent graduate of Biola University. Born and raised in Southern California, she currently lives in Long Beach and is now pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction at Cal State Long Beach. Her days are filled with many jobs including social media marketing, retail and this! She spends her free time writing, watching the Game Show Network and going to concerts.