Too Late To Change Your Major. What Now?

Chablis is my cohort in journalism disillusionment. Degree in hand, she’s found that the profession just isn’t all it was cracked up to be way back when she started studying it.

Now she’s struggling through a career she doesn’t like and looking for something better.

Hi Josh,

(tips hat)… Mornin’ ma’am.

After ten long years (of and on) I finally managed to graduate from college with a B.A. in journalism and now I have no idea what I want to do as a career.

too late to change your major
This guy's long gone.

Well, having no idea what you want to do can definitely seem like bad news, for sure, especially when it’s too late to change your major.

But on the bright side, your degree is in journalism, which I assume means you can probably write fairly well. I looked you up and saw that you already have a communications-type job, which backs up this theory.

And as I like to say around these parts, writing is the no. 1 skill you can have. You don’t have to know anything about anything, but as long as you know how to write, you can bullshit people into believing you know something about everything. ๐Ÿ™‚

The first obstacle is I am no longer fully interested in journalism. Newspapers, deadlines, I’m over it. I discovered this when I was twelve credit hours short of my major.

Yeah, it’s a lot different from 10 years ago when you started, that’s for sure. Especially newspapers. Do you still like writing? I have a journalism degree, too, and I was in exactly the same shoes you’re in shortly after I graduated.

In my final semester of my master’s degree in journalism, I realized that I didn’t really like journalism at all — I just liked writing. It turned out OK for me because journalism school is excellent practice for all kinds of writing, not just journalistic writing.

So if you still like writing (crossing my fingers you do), you should still have plenty of options open. The usual suspects are public relations, corporate communications (of any type), radio/TV writer, producer, marketing, copywriting, reviewer, blogger, etc. ย A newer one is social media management — essentially, keeping up Twitter and Facebook accounts for employers who know they ought to be doing it, but aren’t.

As for professions outside the usual, I’ll give you my mantra: If you can communicate with people in a way that makes them feel the way they long to feel, then you’ll always be employed (and probably making more money than most people you know). The trick is learning how your audience feels and how it wants to feel (appreciated, loved, admired, listened-to, respected, reassured, etc.), and that’s a process. A little off-topic, perhaps, but it IS relevant to you in that, if you can already communicate well with people, you’ve already fulfilled an important piece of that puzzle.

The second obstacle is an accumulation of debt that must be paid every month in addition to living expenses. Presently, I work a full-time and two part times, this limits my options to volunteer and possibly find something I might actually like.

Yes, student loan debt (and life expenses in general) certainly are obstacles. We’ll talk tomorrow about some processes you can use to find things you’re interested in. Congrats, Chablis — you’re officially a two-parter! ๐Ÿ™‚

The third obstacle is having spent so much time during school working to pay bills, tuition and to make ends meet, left me with a mediocre GPA (2.55). At this point, it’s impossible to find a graduate school that accepts anything lower than a 3.0.

To be honest with you, Chablis, I wouldn’t even consider grad school right now — not when you don’t know what you want to do. I’m a firm opponent of going to grad school just because you’re bored or don’t know what to do with your life. It’s one of the most expensive ways possible to find your path, not to mention the undue pressure you put on yourself to like and pursue what you’re studying in grad school precisely BECAUSE of what it’s costing you.

If you thought it was tough knowing you didn’t want to be a journalist after it was too late to change your major, imagine how rotten it’d feel to be paying tens of thousands more for a master’s degree that you also discover you’ve got no desire to use.

And the fourth obstacle is the reality that the last ten years have been work, school, finances and worrying about work, school, and financing. Unfortunately I’ve very little time to develop a real interest or passion about anything.

I’m stuck in a rut and can’t figure a way out. Please help!!! How do I find some direction and ultimately a career? Thanks.

OK, we’re officially on the case. We’ll break from the norm a bit tomorrow and I’ll lay out some easy and free ways you can go about finding stuff you like.

And just a quick note here — it’s not as easy as it sounds. I know some of you are thinking, “Well duh, how can you NOT know what you like?” Well…because when you get bogged down in the minute details of life in [mmjs-regionname]ย for so long, the very notion of carving out sometime for yourself solely for fun and personal enrichment can get lost very quickly.

I know how Chablis feels — I’m having a bit of an adjustment period to this myself, so I’ll be walking the path with Chablis (and whomever else wants to join us!) tomorrow and beyond.

— What about you guys — got any ideas for Chablis about what to do with that journalism degree? Anyone else realize they were no longer interested in their path of study after it was too late to change your major? Let us know in the comments below.

29 thoughts on “Too Late To Change Your Major. What Now?”

  1. Cristina Baldor

    Other ideas for a journalism degree:

    Become an editor, write for a magazine, work at a news, tv station, branch out into photojournalism, actually…teach highschool english or highschool civics or literature…Peace Corps, America Reads…

  2. Ohhh, I luv this blog !!! I actually got an answer to one of my questions that definitely had nothing to do with this girl’s issue….
    But hey… Keep it up, girl !!! ya can still do great things with that degree… I wanna be a journalist too so, dont be disappointed and just take advantage of it ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Wow.

    I read this and immediately thought, “This could easily be me in two years.”

    I’m a journalism major at UO and going through sort of the same crisis. So I’m really interested in what tomorrow’s post will bring!

  4. Look longer term. Get a job that develops a wide array of skills. Quit worrying about whether you like your first job – a lot of us don’t. And, some like me, liked their jobs to begin with, and then detested the entire industry 20 years later, and change their lives again (and again). (It’s the skills that count – when you build skills your options for your life and career open up) I would advise to not worry about “liking” your job – just get a decent one to help retire debt and build skills. Liking comes later. After all, you need to find out what you’d like – so go get some experience. You can’t wait for something you “like” to just fall in your lap – might not happen at this point in the game.

  5. I understand, and it’s good advice to NOT go to graduate school if you’re unsure of what you ultimately want to do.

    I have a master’s degree, and am unsure of my career path. To begin with, there are just not many jobs available at the moment. But as I look at those depressingly empty job boards (my qualifications are really specific), I wonder if this is even the best path for me. I have other passions aside from the field-specific education I developed as I earned my master’s degree. Maybe I’ll pursue one of those… but I have no desire to return to school anytime in the near future. (Can we say “burned out”?)

    With a looming debt and a heavy heart, I’ll make my way. I’m definitely coming back tomorrow to read the rest of Josh’s advice.

  6. What can you do with a writing degree?
    Technical writing is H.O.T HOT! right now. And really, really needed. Teaching is a great option – and can be a venue to get those student loans paid down a lot faster.
    Anything in lower level management.
    Advertising – anywhere in the field.
    Grant writing (although you may need a couple of workshops to round your resume out).
    Tutoring at the college level (my school hires professional tutors to tutor local HS students).
    Anything administrative.
    Local libraries.
    Research assistants
    Believe it or not, Big Pharma pays Big Money to pharmaceutical reps, and you don’t need a science degree to do this.
    Hard to get passionate about anything when you’re bogged down in daily details, it’s true. But…if you want to jumpstart that a little bit, maybe you should consider a blog. Those things can go in very surprising directions. Look at this one – Judge Josh, feeding the info-starved masses. Who knew this was going to take off like it has?

  7. Hey, I don’t know how you ended up in my e-mail inbox…but now I am glad you did. I don’t even know why I opened it…again I did. Hope you guys don’t mind a little advice now and then from an old fart like me…
    I ‘ve been at this college thing off and on myself for 30years (yes,a-hem, 30) now…wonder if I will ever graduate? Ok, at first I was the student professional…I was afraid if I didn’t finish by the time I hit 40 I would be burnt out…well 40 didn’t but 50 is…I will be in January and I am so close to finishing my degree…but I am burnt out…seriously.
    Should I give up? I can’t… why? Like that dude said in the movie “Top Gun” (oh, yeah, Tom Cruise) …
    “I can’t quit…I ain’t got no where else to go!!!…”
    Which is my problem…if I quit what else would I do? I was a custodian for over 20 years until I injured my back (well, there’s a shock!) and now I am disabled…with no other skills except to finish my English degree…I also minor in Communications which is where the Journalism comes in. (I won’t go into detail here…just check out the Comm. degree program)
    So to add to my ramblin’s…how to you keep the passion up if your 4,10, or 30 years out? May be you need to re-check your priorities…and maybe take another look at your perspective…take a moment…a day, or perhaps a week. Search your soul…no, really! If you weren’t doing this, what else could you be doing? Can you augment your degree with maybe just a certificate? Why re-invent the wheel?
    That’s where I found I still loved Graphic Design…I take a few art classes that help me because I love art and I am still working on my degree…soon I will finish and I will do two things I love write and design. Just think of the possibilities…Desktop Marketing anyone? OK…done yappin’ hope this helps.

  8. I was going to suggest Technical Writing too and liked all of Kiwi’s ideas. Looking forward to JJ’s post tomorrow.
    BTW that quote was Richard Gere in Officer and a Gentleman (showing my age!)

  9. First and foremost I would ask you to go to the workforce commission in your area. They offer a free aptitude test. It asks a ton of questions that you might find really stupid, but are pertinent to your placement. They will give you a list of jobs that you may have never considered and since you already have a degree you have a leg up. There are lots of career choices that follow other paths than the one you have chosen… all they require is a degree. Good luck and happy hunting!

  10. Hey! Well, I’m just getting over a crisis like that myself. I believe that the only way to find out what you really want is to go ahead and try as much as you can, even if the qualifications you’ll get won’t have much to do with journalism. I started mechanical and electronics engineering, thinking of finishing it so I can work (to pay my studies) and study my real passion: Physics, somewhere else. But now, 2 years before I graduate, I found out that I really liked this major, so I’m looking for ways to try a little bit of everything, prior to begin the other major, or to fully work as an engineer. Anyway, try everything you can girl! And I don’t know if Judge Josh said that about Distrito Federal because he felt like it, but I do live there, and it’s really mind-bogging. Cheers!

  11. I don’t really have any advice to offer, but I just want to give my empathy. I so know how it feels to be so caught up in the details of running your life that you forget what you even like having in your life.

  12. Hey, at least you didn’t commit to a professional program for no better reason than you had no idea what to with your bachelor’s degree!

  13. I am in somewhat of a similar situation with my degree. I am a community college student pursuing a degree in health information management. The degree does not directly deal with the components of the field. After I looked up four-year programs in health information management, I realized I was not interested. I have decided to pursue a B.A. in biology once I go to a four-year college. As my school has only an A.S. in biology, it would not be useful for me to switch to that degree as some of the classes will not be necessary and/or will not interest me. I have decided to finish up my A.S. in health information management as sort of a sense of accomplishment thing.

    As for Chablis’s problem, oftentimes, a job advertisement will say that one degree is preferred, but they will accept a person with any degree for the job or will ask for a person in a related field. She should look for those type of jobs. In the meantime, perhaps, a period of self-discovery can go on that will lead Chablis to her ultimate goal in life.

  14. so sad! am a journalist as well and at one time i felt the same but now i am making use of my journalism. Just think over it and try to apply your BD in other fields where writting is needed!
    Good luck!

  15. Thanks guys,

    I really appreciated your comments. It has been insanely difficult, given the economy, to get fulfilling employment anywhere. Currently I’m in sales and marketing and it’s very stressful and high-pressured, especially for someone that does not like sales (But the bills have to be paid right?) I still enjoy writing, just not necessarily hard news articles and I love to help people find solutions and improve their situations. I’m very big on consumer advocacy, protection of the elderly and the low-income, education, and finding solutions to increase morale and self-worth and to end street violence (I live in Washington, DC but I’m originally from Chicago and the state of affairs there is atrocious).

    I have been looking into non-profit and communications work. Something tells me that this where I will be happy and find the most success, however I have not found a way into this arena. It’s highly competitive to obtain an unpaid internship, let alone entry-level employment. I’m not going to give up though, I think I’ve come too far.

    1. I am also wondering how you sent this to my email but I am also glad you did. I have a BA in English which I am finding is exactly what has been said about it. I told myself I wouldnt be one of those people who grad with a BA and dont get a job. I even went as far as taking on a certificate program just incase. My uiniversity, UFV, has several certificate programs and the only one that looked good to me was TESL. With this certifiacate I could graduate and find work teaching English right away. And if I didnt find work I could tutor for $25-$30 an hour, make my own hours and work less. TESL Canada also offers benefit packages to its members. Well, I do not mind teaching ESL but I have realized that it is not my passion. I began to volunteer in the community working in gardens and helping to spread awareness of environmental and social issues. I am loving it, but it is not making me any money. My husband looks at me with the “When are you going to work” eyes and I find myself on the job boards, wondering why, with a BA, I cant find a job! I have this pull to go to grad school but Im torn now between Solutions based Journalism and Environmental studies or something to do with building sustainable communities. I am also rediscovering an old love of gardening and landscaping. But ultimately my goal is to write and to make a positive impact on society.
      So there’s what goes through my head each day. I am almost 38 years old. My kids are teens and I am ready to work. I have seen the list of what I COULD do with my degree, its just a matter of finding the right path and getting on it.

  16. Hey hun! I know completely how you feel. For 6 years, I have been switching majors because I didnt (and still dont) know what I want to do with my life. I was a nursing major, got in the program, figured out it wasnt for me. I ended up settling with a B.A. in Psychology just so I could be done with school. Now, I have a degree, and I have no clue what I want to do. I have HUGE student loans and a part time job in a field I don’t like. I didnt have time to intern during my degree, and the volunteer work I did isnt helping me find any type of job.

    I wish you all the best, since Im in the exact same boat… just different majors.

  17. Chablis, I can so feel your pain.

    I orgininally went to college, back in 1987, to pursue business with an equine twist. Due to family situation I had to come home after 1 year and attend a regular old community college that I could afford, but offered nothing I was particularly interested in. So i wandered from class to class until I couldn’t afford to attend.

    Then I worked for 23 years before going back to college. Got my AA in Business Information Technology, and started on my BS in Business Administration. Two years into that I realized that between my work life and 4 years in business programs I was totally burned out on that path. I was at the point that I was just trying to finish to get done and really not looking forward to the corporate world–been there done that. So switched to a BA in History, we’ll see how it goes.

    My advice on finding a passion is sit down and try and remember something that used to excite you. It can be something from grade school or where ever. Just so long as it is something that lights your fire. I have a friend that did the journalism thing and graduated and hated it. She tried this above and remembered that she used to love to paint, but didn’t pursue it because everyone told her it wasn’t a “real job”. She worked at a job she wasn’t crazy about, took some classes at community college to update her painting skills, and went back to painting for enjoyment. Two years later she is making her living as an artist.

    Now finding a passion does not mean it will become a paying gig, but it can be a great hobby to destress from your job. My passion is working with horses but without a way to afford competing in shows, and having a horse. For now I need a job to pay bills; hence, the BA pursuit. When I have a way to stablize my funds to cover bills, loans, and such I will get back to horses–even if just to ride once a week. Sure I would prefer to go into horse industry as my career, but I have been off that scene for 20 years. So I will basically starting over from scratch.

    I currently am a full time caregiver for my mother, who is severly disabled, so it limits my options. If it was just me I’d happily live in a barn and do grunt-work to get back into horses. But since I do need to consider her needs for housing, food, etc. I have to go the long way around.

    For years people kept trying to tell me I’d find another passion if I let horses go. They were wrong. What I found is a lot of things I don’t want to do for a living. I do have an interest in History, Cultural Anthropology, and writing so the History degree will be fun. But my passion above all else is working with horses.

    From your reply I see you enjoy being envolved in community, enivronmental issues, and writing. There are alot of possibilities there. If you have skills in grant writing you can probably find work with non-profits. Your people skills could help you do tutoring, consouling, non-profit, or gov work, etc…. Writing skills can transfer to tons of places and your interests can provide avenues for use=ing that skill.

    The best of luck on your journey:)

  18. I’m lucky I got a brief job with a journal in High School, when I bombed my last article I realized I wasn’t that into it either. (I had been published a few times writing things I LIKED to write about, but once a story was pitched to me seemed to loose it’s fizzle) I love to write and can totally understand how one would gravitate toward — and away from — that field.

    One thing I know for sure, a great way to learn more about yourself is to focus in on you and start creating something. Write about yourself, your dog, your passions, and do it all the time until something more clear comes to the surface, if your sick of writing rap, if you can’t rap learn, or start painting, making ceramics, landscaping. I think who you are comes out in what you express, and if you’re lost in who you are spending more time to express will help you figure it out.

    In the meantime, relax about the finances (while still dealing with them) if you hope to age gracefully one day, cultivating a sense of peace and relaxed attitude will save your mind and your body’s health overtime –and immediately. I don’t mean quit your job and default or anything like that, but not worrying too much when you’ve done what you can will keep you healthy and happy to move on to better opportunities. Stay open. Being lost is better than being stuck anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰ enjoy the infinity of your possibilities. And also, look into jobs that pay higher and only require a B.A. (but do not specify what degree) such as substitute teaching or working for the state/feds. These jobs pay better and may have nothing to do with journalism, but they will reward you for sticking it through school anyway.

  19. I’m actually in the same rut, sorta. I majored in communication studies with emphasis in journalism. During my course of study, I was convinced I wanted to stick with it, but then I got drawn to event planning as well as analyzing tv shows and movies. I’m currently looking at PR jobs but keeping my original journalism path in mind. The job market is tough right now, but I think that journalism does have a lot of options, despite the downward turn on print media. I agree with the other comments on here; you just need to sit down and figure out what drew you to journalism in the first place to find out where you want to take your degree. You can always go into something else as well. Don’t feel limited…

  20. Hi,
    I graduated this past May with a Bachelor’s degree in art and minor in web design. I didn’t realize how horrible finding a job would be and now I feel like I’m stuck. I don’t know how to find an entry level art job and it’s depressing me that I wasted 4 years of school on a useless degree. Should I go back to college for something else, if so what? I don’t really have the money and financial aid only offers loans for second B.A. degree seekers. Also I had the worst first interview a month ago. They were looking for a “graphic artist” and they totally didn’t want a “fine arts” person, they made it rudely clear. They even threw in “what do your professors tell you, waitress tables (what i currently do) while you try to sell your art on the side.” I was completely offended and crushed. Please help, any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Charlotte Hyatt

      Chablis,I think you have tremendous opportunities ahead of you(:. You like helping people and you know how to write. I am getting my BBA in Business Admin and Management and the ability to write a cohesive sentence is an invaluable skill. I don’t know if you like computers, but I am sure you had to become computer-literate in school. You are just the type of person who can write about the journey you have been on; write a blog about your search to find yourself, or help those on the web whose first language is not English – as well as those who cannot write well.

      Check out Elance and Guru (and others), to supplement your income and, hopefully allow you to let go of one of the jobs you don’t like ( by replacing the income.)

      Check out the local schools, community colleges, universities, for a list of those who need tutoring, or be a substitute teacher. (according to your time schedule) Type term/research papers, learn how to write grants, resumes, the great American Novel

      I know you’re tired of worrying and not feeling good about what you are doing and my suggestion is to “look outside the box” because all the skills you have in writing and research are invaluable. Let yourself dream, and dream BIG!!!

  21. goodthings are not always easy to archieve. as others get furastrated when they realise that they have not been offered such a course, you should be more than happy to be of such a profession. as its said ” fortune in the hands of afool is amiss fortune” by bishop wabulakha former bishop of mbale one of the most intelligent bishops a small and needy country like uganda and Africa as awhole has ever had though retired.
    your very fortunate that you have this archievent. only find a way of puting it into maximume use and you will have a reason to smile. remember i did not say that your a fool,
    another quote by the same man” never stop dreaming”. his teachings and literature has helped many chang the atittudes of who they are. i hope this will help you as well.


    when i also heard from this gentleman anglican bishop samwiri Wabulakha of Mbale diocess uganda Eastafrica during his visit to canada, his soft spoken and intelligent well calculated words left many people wondering. the drug addicts changed there ways of life, recorded massages send to terrible prisoners helped them to chang for the better, broken homes were reunited and since then even greate writers and proffesors have changed there ways of life, how i wish i knew his contacts but unfortunately i don’t.
    you only need succesful God fearing company of such archivers and you will apreciate your self for who you are

  23. You should go back to school to complete an aas degree in medical transcription, which would take you little than one year given that you have so many college credits already. I am sure that you can make a lot of money by using your writing skills this way.

  24. I also went to college for journalism. I realized in my last year that I didn’t want to be a journalist. I am lucky enough now that I found a career path that I want to be in and found a way in before going for another degree. I do plan to go to grad. school in the fall… but i still enjoy writing and editing and do these things in my spare time as volunteer opportunities and sometimes I make some extra cash…

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