Expectation Versus Reality: What You’ll Do With Your Major


Everyone has the grand illusion of taking his or her $120,000 piece of paper and making a difference in the world–or at least loving what they do and making a good living from it. However tame your fantasies may be, there’s a good chance reality will not meet your expectations.

Let’s take a look at some popular majors, shall we?

Expectation: The next Woodward or Bernstein
Reality: You’ll spend your days one of three ways–either pounding the pavement looking for stories to break, covering the same tired beat day in and day out, or writing fluff pieces you’re pretty sure no one reads. And that’s if you find a job to begin with. All in all, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll break this generation’s Watergate.

Expectation: “Grey’s Anatomy”
Reality: If you hope to rock an amazing solo surgery or two, get drunk at the bar across the street, or sneak off to the on-call room with that hot nurse multiple times a week, good luck. After hours on your feet assisting your assigned resident attending to every little task he or she delegates to you, it’s more likely that you’ll catch some ZZZs in the on-call room rather than get some.

Expectation: The next Picaso, Warhol, or Michelangelo. Worst case scenario, you’ll open up your own midtown Manhattan gallery and make a comfortable six-figure salary and be featured in magazines.
Reality: You’ll probably work alternating shifts at a local coffee shop, bar, or restaurant just to pay rent for the two bedroom apartment you share with three roommates. You’ll continue to pursue your passion on your days off, late at night, and so on–there’s a reason the “starving artist” stereotype exists. While you’re at it, don’t forget that the artists you aspire to be like had to die before their work became mainstream.

Expectation: Don Draper and the rest of his merry “Mad Men”
Reality: There’s no ass smackin’, early morning whiskey guzzling, interoffice romps on modern-day Madison Avenue–at least, not that I’m aware of. You also are not likely to work your way from the bottom up at a well-known agency. Many times, corporate advertising is done in house, unless it’s a multi-billion dollar company or product. If you do take the agency route, your first job will probably be at a small, no-name agency.

Expectation: Stephen King’s success, J.K. Rowling’s never-ending money, and Hemingway’s love of alcohol
Reality: You will drink as much as Hemingway. However, your particular brand of drunk is usually the result of too much Vlad or Burnett’s or whatever 40 is least expensive, since your current job title is “unemployed.”

Marketing, PR, Or Communications:
Expectation: The next social media guru
Reality: While being the next social media guru sounds like a great career choice, getting there isn’t all happy face emojis. You’ll spend so many hours staring at social media and reaching out to bloggers and writers that it’ll no longer be a pleasurable activity. Never think you’ll get sick of Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest? Do it for a living.

Expectation: A viral TED Talk YouTube video
Reality: Contemplating why you can’t find a job with your B.A. in philosophy and wishing you majored in economics so you at least understood all this information you keep getting in the mail about your student loans. Instead, your long, insightful conversations will become drunken tirades about “the man.”

Computer Programming Or Information Sciences:
Expectation: Cracking intricate codes, exposing government secrets for the good of mankind
Reality: You’ll spend long hours looking at long lines of code or endless spreadsheets. There are no secrets to be found at your job, unless you’ve got the secret to why the office coffee tastes so terrible.

Expectation: Jordan Belfort
Reality: You’ll find unforgiving hours met with thankless work and nonexistent perks at your first job. Hopefully you excel with spreadsheets and don’t mind being on a first name basis with the late night cleaning staff, since you will see more of your cubicle than you will anything else. Unless you invent something or turn out to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, or you can manipulate the books–without getting caught–you’ll have to make your millions the old fashioned way.

Political Science:
Expectation: Ruling the free world, or at least changing it
Reality: You’ll enjoy toiling through long days at any number of political action groups, campaign headquarters, or grassroots fundraising organizations. Or you’ll be that guy arguing with anyone within earshot about the current political climate.

Expectation: Lots of fun arts and crafts projects, lessons with well-behaved children, a rewarding lifelong career
Reality: Ever seen “How I Met Your Mother”? Find an episode with a lot of Lily teaching her Kindergartners. There’s a lot of screaming, tantrums, thrown objects, and rebellious children. Sure, there are good ones–but it’s the little heathens who kick the class pet and throw paint at your chalkboard who will have you reaching for your bottle of wine at the end of the day.

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Social media addict. Duquesne alumna. South Jersey born. Finding my way in Pittsburgh.

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