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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Changing career path late in the college career


UC Davis alumni reflect on degrees they regretted pursuing in college, decisions made in later years

Throughout the first and second year of college, it’s not unlikely for students to change their major until they find the most suitable fit. However, some students decide much later in their lives that they may have decided to pursue an unsuitable degree that they fear may be too late to change.

David Chang, a UC Davis alumnus, spent his college years pursuing a computer science major only to find post-graduation that he no longer wanted to continue on his intended path.

“I’m now on a career path in insurance trying to become an actuary,” Chang said. “During my time in college, I found the courses in computer science to be really boring. I wasn’t the best at coding so I decided to pursue a career that didn’t make me so unhappy. I was initially interested in statistics, so I started looking into careers in that area post-college.”

Chang noted that finding a career in a field different from his college pursuits was difficult, but not impossible.

“It took me a year after graduating before I got my first job,” Chang said. “It was a bit difficult since I was competing with people who had more relevant skills and experience. But I think in general my degree in computer science was an advantage because people automatically assume that computer science majors are competent. There is also some overlap in the two fields.”

Amy Jan, a UC Davis alumna, was able to find a career in marketing soon after graduating, though she pursued a career in nursing throughout her time in college.

“I think I was lucky because my housemate, who was a communication major, forwarded me a job posting to the position where I’m currently working at,” Jan said. “It’s definitely closer to what I want to do. It’s not exactly what I want to do, but it is a step in the right direction.”

After working in her current position, Jan found that the degree for her new career path didn’t make as much of an impact on her career as did her skills and past experiences.

“I relied a lot on my experience with my personal blog, my experience doing photography for a clothing store, and my experience doing social media in my student job,” Jan said. “In my career, it’s definitely more important to have the experience and the skills. The degree really only trains you to have a good work ethic and get better at what you’re doing. Experience is really necessary; it shows you whether that idea of the job you want to do is actually what you want to do versus just thinking about it as an idea. The experience will give you more insight into the field and open up more possibilities that you might not have known was a real job; before, I didn’t know the position I have right now was a real job but it is.”

Other students decide that taking a few extra years in college may be worth changing a major switch toward something they may be more passionate about. Jennifer Kim, a UC Davis alumna, spent the first three years of her college career working toward an electrical engineering degree. In the fall of her fourth year, she decided to change her major to programming.

“I realized I was pretty decent at programming, and I didn’t like electrical engineering or the courses of that major,” Kim said. “I would study a lot but I was never that good at it, and I was always really struggling. I switched the fall quarter of my fourth year and I thought, an extra one or two years of my life is really nothing in retrospect.”

Some individuals note that their hesitancy to switch majors to something more aligned with their personal interests may be due to outside pressures, often from friends and family. Kim recalls a stigma developed by her peers against taking over four years to graduate from college.

“I didn’t initially switch my major because I thought it was too late,” Kim said. “I feel like a lot of freshmen and sophomores, more so than upperclassmen, think that if you graduate college in over four years, it’s a bad thing. So that’s the mentality that I took on as well. Eventually, when I saw older people that I knew take more time to do what they want and what they liked, it helped give me a different perspective on my own decisions.”

Chang reflected that his hesitancy to switch majors was due more to pressure from his family, as they hoped for him to take a career path different from his personal interests.

“I didn’t switch my major in college because my parents pressured me not to,” Chang said. “I actually came into Davis as a statistics major, which is what I wanted to do, but my parents basically told me that I needed to switch majors or my life would be too difficult.”

Often, students have difficulty making the leap from one major to another after investing so much time into their initial major.

“I was scared to make the jump because for so long everything I did was related to healthcare so I didn’t think I’d be able to make it outside of that field,” Jan said. “That’s why it took me so long to finally be like, ‘No that’s not what I’m want to do.’ When I did decide that I told myself I’d find a way to make it work.”

Those reflecting on their decisions generally agree that changing their major in college would’ve been a more advantageous decision for them.

“If I could go back and change my major, I definitely would have,” Chang said. “It would’ve made things easier to graduate with a degree more relevant to my current career interests.”

Others agree that changing their major would have been a better option for them in the long run, but not so late in their college career.

“Looking back, I wish I did change my major earlier,” Jan said. “But I wouldn’t have changed my major as a senior. At that point, I would’ve just looked for classes to take post college and used that as applicable skills to apply to positions with, but I do wish I changed my major earlier in my college career.”

Alumni offered advice to current students with qualms about their current path in college that may affect their long term career plans.

“For those considering switching their career path and major late in their college career, I think it’s important to consider what you’re switching to and from,” Chang said. “It really comes down to balancing the major’s usefulness and relevance in your intended industry with  how much you like the material.”

For those in similar positions, others share and emphasize the knowledge they’ve gained from going through their own personal dilemmas.

“Definitely try a lot of different things,” Kim said. “Take classes that you’re interested in and see what you’re good at. Don’t just do what you like; I like eating but I’m not just going to become a food blogger because I’m not good at that kind of stuff either. See what you’re good at and see what you like; nothing is easy, that’s what I learned.”



Written by: Alyssa Hada — features@theaggie.org


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