In Choosing a College Major, Students Look to Their Personality First, Not Salary for Success, Says Career Guidance Leader Career Key

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Research and new reports show student success is tied less to picking a high salary “in demand” major, but more to the match between students’ personality and the major. With a close match, students are more likely to acquire the job skills employers say they want.

Students with a close Holland personality-major match are more likely to be successful.

Choosing a successful college major...

If students and parents are looking for long-term guidance for choosing a successful college major, the best place to start is the student’s personality and interests, not the job market.

Career guidance leader Career Key, http://www.careerkey.org, says research and new national reports show student success is tied less to picking a high salary “in demand” major, but more to the match between students' personality and the major. With a close match, students are more likely to acquire the job skills employers say they want through better academic performance, motivation and persistence.

Many students and parents believe employability automatically follows from choosing what they perceive as “practical” or job market-friendly majors, such as those on “top major” lists with the highest starting salaries. But research and new reports show this belief is misplaced. What really matters is how the student performs in the major (academic rigor) and whether they apply their learning in activities beyond the classroom.

Two recent reports reflect a large gap between the skills students believe they are learning in college and what employers say they actually see in the hiring process. On January 20, 2015, Hart Research Associates issued a report "Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success" on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. In the survey findings, employers gave students low scores for preparedness across learning outcomes.

Another report "Collegiate Learning Assessment Results 2013-14" published in 2014 by the Council for Aid to Education found that students studying science and math in college were significantly more likely to acquire the critical thinking, writing and communication, and analytical reasoning skills employers are looking for, as opposed to students studying business and service-related fields like social work.

These reports essentially show that college students interested in becoming more employable are better off increasing academic rigor and applying their learning in extra-curricular activities and internships. This combined with “personality major match” research demonstrates how student behavior and motivation in college is more related to success than whether they chose a “top major.”

A close Holland personality-college major match makes it more likely a student will get higher grades and persist in their major. It makes sense that when students are intrinsically motivated to study and excel in their major because their personality matches it, they are more likely to acquire the job skills employers are looking for. Career Key’s eBook for students and parents, “Choosing a College Major Based on Your Personality: What does the research say?” describes the research findings in more detail.

So if students and parents are looking for long-term guidance for choosing a successful college major, the best place to start is the student’s personality and interests, not the job market. The job market is constantly changing but a student’s personality and interests change very little over time.

About The Career Key
The Career Key website is advertising and registration free, designed to help people make good career and education decisions based on the best science and practices of career counseling. It was developed by nationally recognized counseling psychologist Dr. Lawrence K. Jones, NCC, a Professor Emeritus at N.C. State University. In addition to being earth-friendly, Career Key donates 10% of website sales to charity.

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Juliet Wehr Jones
The Career Key
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The Career Key
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