Students pursue their passion despite employment uncertainty

Mayra Escobedo

With the state of the economy, rising tuition fees and student loans, some students are majoring in fields that will bring along the financial security that comes with a high salary. Despite that, students are still choosing majors with lower starting salaries. They are putting more priority on majoring in fields they are passionate about and less on salary potentials.

Kiplinger recently published a list of the “worst majors for your career,” listing majors that face high unemployment rates and low starting and mid-career salary. Topping the list is drama and theater art majors in which recent grads face a starting salary of $26,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent.

Leticia Valente, 20, junior English major and linguistics minor, is one of these students that are choosing majors with a bleak outlook for salary and employment.

“I’ve never looked at the monetary aspect of it but my family did,” Valente said.

She was so concerned about her financial future that they encouraged her to major in biology. So during her sophomore year Valente changed her major, decided on two potential career goals and enrolled in chemistry, statistics and biology classes.

“I called her after my chemistry final and was like ‘I’m hoping to get a D’ and said ‘Look I’ve decided based on how I feel that the only thing that feels right is writing.’ She didn’t say anything for a second but then she sighed and asked if I was positive so I said yes,” said Valente.

Recent English grads stand to make $32,000 and face an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.

As for career plans Valente is looking to work overseas in Spain. By minoring in linguistics she plans to teach English abroad and write adult fiction on the side.

“It’s always on my mind but it’s not my main concern,” Valente said. “I realized if I’m going to do a job and I’m not going to be happy. It’s just not worth it.”

It was not much of a surprise for Emmanuel Sabaiz, lecturer for the English department, to hear that English was included in the list. He said that a lot of students think that all they can do with a degree in English is be teachers or tutors.

He said a lower salary is expected in today’s economy, especially if students go for jobs like being a tutor. But if English majors know how to sell themselves they should not find it difficult to find employment. Sabaiz said that English majors possess a lot of qualities that employers are looking for like research skills, critical thinking and an ability to write.

“When people think of English they think of Shakespeare and not the value of language or critical thinking,” Sabaiz said. “They don’t see the job potential in journalism, public relations, marketing or other fields.”

Freshman Avery Rodriguez, 18, said that he decided to major in theater knowing that a lot of people who work in that field do not make enough money to survive.

“What’s the point of making a bunch of money if I’m depressed all the time? I rather do what I love every day,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who hopes to work on Saturday Night Live as one day as both an actor and writer, said that every actor he has talked to has told him not to major in theater, because of the low pay and amount of rejection.

“It’s not a profession for the weak,” Rodriguez said. “Of course it’s a risky job, but that’s why I have the writing minor to get me along.”

There are also those students that are majoring in some of the highest paying fields. Payscale recently released a list of “majors that pay you back”. The list is mostly made up of engineering and math fields.

At the top of the list is petroleum engineering with a starting salary of $98,000. Also on the list are electrical engineering, computer engineering and computer science with starting salaries from $58,400 to $63,400.

Dr. Somnath Chattopadhyay, full-time faculty member of the electrical and computer engineering department, said that starting salaries for electrical engineers is high because they are in demand in the industry.

Finding a job for electrical engineers is not difficult he said because “a lot of industry companies come and look for them.”

Chattopadhyay said that salary does play a part for some students in choosing electrical engineering as their major.

“Some people have a deep interest in the field and they don’t care for the salary,” Chattopadhyay said. “But most of them are interested in the salary.”

Chad Widmer, 23, junior electrical engineering major, said that salary did play a role in choosing a major.

“It was 75 percent passion and 25 percent about the salary,” Widmer said. “I actually thought they got paid a lot more, like $100,000 a year.”

“I like that it’s challenging, exciting and that you are always doing new things. There is very little redundancy; you will never do the same thing twice.”

Osman Galo, 24, junior computer engineering major, said that salary played a role in deciding on his major.

“Sixty-five percent was salary and the rest is that I like computers and technology and I wanted to do something in that field,” Galo said.

Galo who likes art and is a musician said that he decided not to major in those fields because he knew it would be too easy for him and he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to make a living. Instead he chose computer engineering which he found a little more challenging.

“I thought putting more effort in now would pay off better in the end,” said Galo.