Recent research has shown that the pandemic — and its effect on the U.S. economy — has affected Gen Z’s thoughts on college majors, and since a lot of readers were in college in 2007–2009 during the Great Recession or during 2000 when the dot-com bubble burst, we thought that looking at the topic in general would make for a great discussion today.
If you were going to college right now, what major would you choose, and why? Do you regret your choice of major and/or grad school degree, or do you know you made the right choice? Did the economy affect your decision, or would you have chosen your major no matter what? Related: Did you consider a gap year before college?
Here are some interesting findings about how COVID is affecting Gen Z’s choices about what to study:
1. The National Research Center for College and University Admissions used their admitted-student research to compare academic major interest from 2019 to 2020 — here’s a graph showing each major’s positive or negative growth rate. It’s no surprise that majors related to industries that took a hit during the pandemic, e.g., aviation/aerospace (-24%) and culinary arts (-56%), became less popular choices. The humanities/liberal arts and education declined, while majors seeing a bump in popularity included environmental science, criminal justice, and visual and performing arts.
2. Here are some stats from a survey of college students in July 2020: “While 42% of respondents strongly disagreed that the pandemic has caused them to rethink their major, 15% indicated that they strongly agree or agree to changing directions in their academic careers. The leading factors for that segment include job flexibility (57%), stronger job security/outlook (51%), and a change in values (39%). In fact, having seen the economic impact of COVID-19, one-third of all respondents believe it is “very important” to pursue a career in a field that is considered ‘essential.'”
3. An Inside Higher Ed op-ed noted, “A recent survey of Gen Z teens sponsored by the nonprofit corporation ECMC Group found that ’61 percent believe a skill-based education (e.g. trade skills, nursing, STEM, etc.) makes sense in today’s world.’ The survey also found that a slight majority (52 percent) believe they can ‘succeed in a career with postsecondary education other than a four-year degree.'” (The author of the piece disagreed with “describing only certain credentials as ‘skills based.”)
Considering your life and career experiences since getting your college degree (and graduate degree, if you have one), would you have chosen a different major if you could do it again? What advice would you give to high school and college students choosing a major in 2021?