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Major Issues?: Social Influences Impact Field Choice

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

Composed by Angel Camacho and Rawhi Washah—

According to Angelo Marade and Thomas Brinthaupt in their article “Good and Bad Reasons for Changing a College Major,”previous studies indicate that choosing a major is influenced by outside sources. College majors are usually chosen as a means for a stable future. Students end up picking a major that is financially beneficial most of which are influenced by their environment—the majority of which end up majoring in something they do not enjoy. Based on the article “Perspectives: For the Money? For the Love? Reconsidering the ‘Worth’ of a College Major.” By Steven J Tepper, and Danielle J. Lindemann, “Perhaps we should ask which majors help students deal with uncertainty, failure, and risk. […] but rather by who is able to deal with contingent employment or job loss by piecing together work and getting back on their feet.” According to the research, the majority of students feel pressured by their parents to choose a major that will benefit them financially in the future especially if they’re the first of their families to attend college and have a chance of graduating with a degree. According to Jamie L Workman, in the article, “Parental Influence on Exploratory Students’ College Choice, Major, and Career Decision Making,” it is concluded that family does play quite a big role in choosing college majors and colleges themselves, while only a small percentage of students, mention that their families have no influence on their choice of major. The research also mentions, that those who changed their major multiple times may have gained experience, and discovered what they’re passionate about. That is part of the college experience, as well as finding where one belongs and learning to manage big decisions in order to get there. Many reasons why college students are pressured to pick a major not by their choice is mostly of their hopes of finding a job right out of college, or to earn a high wage. At Passaic County Community College, the college newspaper conducted their own research, surveying 249 students on the Main Campus about why they may change or choose a major. We included what influenced the students to choose their major and if they felt pressured. Below are the results.

For each and every major, the results for how many, males, females, or non-specified are as follows: Mathematics: 1 female, 1 non-specified, Engineering: 6 males, 3 females. Science/medical: 15 males, 34 females. Computer science: 20 males, 6 females, 5 non-specified. Business: 29 males, 24 females, 1 non-specified. Education: 4 males, 13 females, 1 non-specified. English: 17 females, 4 males, 6 non-specified. Media: 3 females, 1 male Culinary: 3 males, 1 female, 1 non-specified. Psychology/ communications: 12 females, 3 males, 1 non-specified.

· Students were asked if they felt pressured coming to college in order to choose a major: 108 students responded that they did not feel pressured to choose a major when coming to college, while 52 students responded that they did feel pressured. 84 students “went with the flow” when choosing a major and declared one on their own time. Lastly, 17 students did not know if they felt any pressure to choose a major.

· It is believed that choosing a major is influenced by stigmas on whether a major is considered feminine or masculine which could affect student’s decisions on choosing their passion.

When asked which majors they believed had the stigma of being labeled feminine or masculine 164 students chose nursing, 107 students chose engineering, 86 chose teaching, 73 chose culinary arts and business, 69 chose law, 61 chose computer science, 51 chose theater, 33 chose math, and 28 chose journalism.

· Majors are not always steady when it comes to being thorough therefore student’s feel the urge to change their majors whenever they come across an obstacle which would lead to changing their major more than once.

Students were asked how many times they changed their major: 123 students responded that they never changed their major, while 77 students responded that they have changed it at least once. Another 36 responded they have changed they major twice, and 16 students responded with changing their major three or more times.

· College students have different perspectives on which majors can generate the most money. Through a study conducted at PCCC, students were asked which of 4 choices of majors would make the most money in the work field.

On the survey, the major choices included Education, Business, Nursing, and Engineering. According to the study conducted at PCCC, 118 students believed that those who pursue engineering majors will make the most money from a job within that work field. 109 students believed that business major students make the most money after college. 40 students believed that nursing majors make the most money and 10 students believed that and someone with an Education major would make the most money.

· Students were asked if they are happy or content with their major. 202 students responded yes. 10 students responded with no but are sticking with it. 29 students are not happy with their current major and are considering a change of major.

· Asked what influenced students’ choice towards their major—173 people reported they choice their major due to personal passion, while 44 did so for earning potential. Meanwhile, the least amount of people, 38, chose theirs for a job outlook, and 43 wanted long-term security.

· Students were asked “When seeking help around campus, who do you find most helpful in guidance with your major?” 100 students responded that professors are most helpful when needing guidance in their major, while 23 students were not seeking help. 35 students believed that not having a proper guide when attending school leaves them to just end up winging it.

· Students were asked to determine what influenced their choice in major. 139 students reported that their major choice was influenced by self. While, 34 students were influenced by their peers. Another 75 students were influenced by their family.

· Students of PCCC were asked if they decided to come to campus for their major, and a majority of students which is a total of 103 stated yes they came for their major. While only 88 students claim that no they only came for financial purposes and another 71 students claim only to come for general studies. Only a mere 5 students claim to have only come to PCCC because their major was not available at their first school.

Critical to understanding the decision process, students on campus were also interviewed. Twenty-year-old Amber Gomez, and English major reported that she already knew what she wanted to major in. Gomez loves English, and wanted to make a career out of it. For surviving any course, she recommends that students study and hand in all of their work. She does not have any professional experience in her major yet but reported she is happy with her major choice. Joshua Aquino is a twenty-one-year-old student attending PCCC. He is currently majoring in Computer Science, specifically Network Administration. When it came to deciding his major, he already knew what he wanted to study as well. Aquino picked Network Administration because he likes working with computers, and says “STEM majors usually make a lot of money.” For surviving any class, he recommends students always take notes, and have a “friends” in each class to contact when you miss notes or have any questions. Aquino doesn’t have any professional experience in his major yet, but will eventually have to participate in an internship program required for his major. He also reported he was happy with his major choice. Crystal Williams is an eighteen-year-old student majoring in Nursing. When it came to picking her major, she says she wasn’t sure about what she wanted to do, and thought she wanted to be a nurse. When Williams found out how many math and science classes are required for her major, Williams immediately regretted her choice, as she doesn’t like those subjects at all. Her advice for surviving any class to pay attention and talk to your professor if you’re having issues with the coursework. She has no experience in her major whatsoever. She plans on changing her major next semester. Sahira Duran is currently a Digital Media Production major. Duran 19, first started as a business major because she didn’t know what she wanted to do in her future. Duran was always into media and behind the scenes. That’s when she decided to change her major. Duran was in her second semester of business and felt out of place like she didn’t belong there. She always wanted to learn how to use a camera.

Duran’s tips and tricks are you must treat all your classes like they are equally important. You must think as if you don’t pass one class you won’t graduate. Duran is very pleased with the major she has chosen. She decided to switch for something she feels passionate about; it’s something she knows that she wants to do for the rest of her life and not something she’s just doing for the money. Marcia Rodriguez is a 22-year-old Early Childhood education major. “My decision process all started when I was about 4 years old and I would play “pretend teacher” with my babies and stuffed animals as my students. At that moment I knew I wanted to become a teacher.” “I influenced my own decision since I have always loved kids. I’ve always been surrounded by so many kids. You must have a lot of patience in order to achieve what you want. And try to plan out your classes ahead of time and plan your schedule with a lot of time in advanced. I currently work at a daycare after school program. I’m hoping to gain more experience in my major.” Laura Coste is 21 years old and is a communications major. “I was going to study law first, but there was something in me that had this passion for production, and everything that goes on behind the scenes, lights, camera basically everything. All the things that involve with coordinating a concert or the super bowl lets say.” “I usually tend to treat all my classes the same. And plan my schedule ahead of time and pick out my major classes first. So far, I don’t have any experience in my major. But I hope to gain some in the future. I am very happy with my major. I know this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. And I will be grateful to wake up every day to a job in my field.” Michael Reynoso, 19 is a Business major. Reynoso remembers that he has always wanted to major in business. He stated, “I have always known it was for me. It was an easy choice.” Reynoso said, “I am fascinated by how a successful business operates.” This brought his love for business. It also gave him the experience of his major. Evelina Guzman, 21 is a criminal justice major. Guzman has changed her major about four times since enrolling in Passaic County Community College. Guzman found it very difficult and a lot of pressure to pick a major. Guzman has changed between early childhood education, business, and psychology before finally picking criminal justice. Guzman was influenced by her father to choose criminal justice. He is in law enforcement as well as her two older brothers. She hopes to be a social worker. Raena Thomas, 18 is childhood education major. Thomas came to PCCC with no doubts in her major. Although, it is her first year she is confident with her choice. Thomas explained, “It was easy, I just knew that is what I wanted to do.” Thomas’ love for her job influenced her major. She currently works in a nursery school in her hometown. She has been volunteering their since her sophomore year of high school. Since then, she has much experience in her major. Tyler Garcia is a 21-year-old English major. “I chose English because I enjoy essays, and the school environment. Being an English teacher would allow me to stay in a learning environment while “editing my own work.” Classes directly relate towards your major, should be fun, interesting. “If not, you may be in the wrong major.”

Kahilah Williams is a 20-year-old biology major. “I knew from when I was pretty young that I wanted to be a surgeon.” Deciding that I would need a degree in “Life Science” choosing Biology. Experienced it for the first time in high school instantly falling in love with Biology. “I felt like it just clicked for me.” “My career influenced my major, it’s pretty cliché…” “I genuinely enjoy biology.” “I love my major it’s a lot of fun but it’s pretty torturous. But It’s worth it in the end I can’t wait to pursue even more in my major.” Jeremi Gonzalez is a 20-year-old Business major. “At first, I picked a major (radiography) that I knew would make a lot of money in the future, but I soon realized that I did not want to do it for potential earning. I began looking at the business program and its classes as well as future jobs. I loved the classes and business has many future careers that I would be happy working in.” “As of now, I do not have much experience in business, but I do plan on participating in internships and building my resume for the future. I am happy with my major because I know that I will be happy in the future.”

Research conducted by:

Graphic Design: Maiya Deerman Ann Marie Donayre Ayyana McCaskill Yulisbeth Rojos Sue Tran

Interviewers: Irelys Clifton Ashley Cruz Georgelina Guzman Aniliyah Richardson

Researchers: Jovan Uzelac Krystal Vera-Tudela

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