The major you study doesn’t always equal that associated career path

There are many people who have college degrees that align with their professional work. There are also many who have careers that do not fit what their major was.


Due to my role as a Program Manager in Career Services, I have the privilege of overseeing one of the largest degree programs on campus – aerospace engineering. Some of the aerospace engineering students do commit to an internship or full-time job that does not have the word “aerospace” in the position. At times they are committed to mechanical, systems or software engineering type of work. Most of the time if they are with a certain company that has mainly avionics positions or a certain aerospace company that has plenty of systems engineering roles - it still aligns with the industry even if it is not 100 percent the aerospace engineering discipline.


There can be a misconception that the major should, or always, equal a set of intended career paths; in fact it is the contrary. The major is one of many facets for a job candidate. It is an important “checklist” item when employers are screening for candidates, but not the only criterion. Employers consider your personality, your character, your skills, abilities and knowledge – the overall experiences. You can graduate with an engineering degree but be in the food industry, practice real estate or be an author.


Our own Industry/Career Expos have the term “industry” in there to make it inclusive and encompass a wide variety of careers and jobs with the aerospace and aviation industries. “Industry” is overall whereas “career” can be specialized. The Industry/Career Expo serves as a bridge for both companies and students or alumni seeking various roles and positions. For example an aerospace engineering student or graduate sees “mechanical engineering intern” from a giant aerospace company instead. It is a malleable role with transferable skillsets and knowledge. Use that as an opportunity – to ask questions and hopefully the employer can direct the student or alum in the right direction.


Career Readiness Eagle Elevate involves the eight career competencies, as defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Having the transferable skills and abilities are critical to selling the individual – why the individual is a great fit, a valuable asset and a high-performing employee even if the major does not fit the job description. The person may have related skills and experiences that can be desirable. It is important to recognize the experiences and skills are the engine to help the candidate sell themselves to a relevant position. For instance being able to articulate their ability to work on a team and if they can use similar technology can go a long way.


Whether you are an undergraduate or a graduate student, use the university experience to develop a better version of you – professionally, socially and academically. Become career ready through student organizations and campus, through leadership roles, internships, study abroad opportunities and other activities that can enhance the academic life, and in the process – become equipped to tackle the workplace for when you are about to graduate. If you are a seasoned alum, leverage the current experiences you do have and sell them as being transferable and employable.


Your career can change throughout your entire and it is more than OK to have multiple careers. Networking matters. Experience matters. There is a lot of life to be lived after you graduate. There are professionals who do hold the same career for decades at a time, and there are those who change fields and industries after some years or a decade or two, and their major was either related or unrelated to what they are working on in the present.


It is more than all right to commit to a career or even industry that does not align with the major. Be cognizant it is not uncommon to have a major and be devoted to another professional line of work. You may be committed to different fields of work and industries throughout the course of your lifetime. It is the matter of coping, navigating and being congruent with your values within the various industries and careers you will have. Practicing something that aligns with your morals and keeps you afloat with the finances should be sufficient – even if the degree you obtained is not symmetrical with your professional life.