THE BLOG

The Truth About Majoring in a 'Dying' Field

04/22/2015 07:13 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015

Every year, Forbes and a slew of other online publications release their own lists of the "worst college majors" -- a.k.a. the areas of study that lead to the highest unemployment rates and lowest starting salaries. Not surprisingly, the list is always topped by subjects such as the arts and humanities, English, media communications, philosophy, etc. While the topics may be interesting and appealing, the numbers suggest that there's just no place for these careers in the modern, working world.

After a year of studying journalism (a major that frequents many of the "worst majors" lists), I can't help but question the relevance of my own career path as well. I sat through countless awkward conversations my senior year of high school where I would share my college plans with adults, only to have them laugh and not-so-subtly suggest I pursue a different area of study. After all, why would I want to blow thousands of dollars majoring in a "dying" field?

I was under the assumption that once I came to college, I'd be surrounded by like-minded people who believed in the future of journalism in the way I did. I imagined optimistic, crusading truth-seekers ready to tell the stories of the world. While many of my peers do fit this role, I am no more confident or certain of my career path than I was a year ago. My professors are some of the most intelligent and accomplished people in the field, but even they too can't predict the shaky future of the journalistic world.

In an effort to make myself well-rounded, I've thrown myself into foreign language and business classes that breach far outside my comfort zone for the sole purpose of looking better on paper. As I walk around a bustling campus and sit in classes with finance majors and pre-med students, I constantly fear that I won't be able to make the kind of immediate impact on the world that they will once I graduate. After all, their careers will most likely lead to steady jobs and tangible, predictable results. As for me, I feel like I'm just crossing my fingers and praying that the late nights of writing, working to ridiculous deadlines, and racing from interview to interview will pay off when I "make it" someday. Whatever that means.

Despite the weekly existential crises that hit when I realize I have no idea what I'm doing with my life, I'm not scared enough to change my major. Maybe it's because I'm not good at anything else (a common critique of those who pursuing the arts and related things), or maybe it's because there's the little part of me -- probably rooted in my heart rather than my head -- that genuinely believes what I'm doing serves a purpose. While I may not find the cure to cancer or head a Forbes 500 company, I'm more than happy with being the one who seeks out the stories you read with your breakfast every morning or watch on TV before you fall asleep. There's a certain civic duty I feel when it comes to keeping people informed, and it's that potential for impact that drives me forward. It's like I'm just not ready to kill off the little voice of my nine-year-old self trapped inside me that says to "follow your dreams."

So instead I just ignore it. I scroll past the articles and stats on Twitter about my bleak job prospects. I laugh off the comments from the adults who continue to remind me that I'm wasting my money and time. While throwing a cold shoulder to reality may not sound like a recipe for success, it's one of the few ways I keep myself moving forward in this business.

At the end of the day, the term "dying" field seems pretty ironic when you consider all the art (whether it's music, film, sociology, news, or religion) that is alive, well and flourishing around us. In the words of my cinematic hero, John Keating from Dead Poet's Society (1989): "Medicine, law, business, engineering -- these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love -- these are what we stay alive for."

In other words, the classes you take and the words on your degree have no barring on your ability to change the world. Stick to your guns, carpe the fucking diem out of your college years, and use yourself as a way to prove to others that your field is anything but "dying."