Common Myths & Misconceptions

Don't forget to download the Parents Guide to Careers at the bottom of this article!

MYTH: My student should pursue a career that pays well

REALITY: Not necessarily! To be really successful and earn a top salary, one has to possess both an ability for and an interest in the work. Having a highly paid job may make life a little easier, but if your graduate dreads going to work every morning, what is that extra money truly worth? Often a true passion for one’s work is what leads to promotions and success.

MYTH: I know there are many options for my student, but it is probably best for him/her to pursue a traditional, secure career path.

REALITY: The notion of "security" doesn't exist as it did even 25 years ago. Today's job market is in a constant state of flux, and high turnover rates are common. Job seekers and even the currently employed need to keep up with rapid changes in technology and policy. Flexibility and lifelong learning are the keys to having steady work.

MYTH: My student ought to major in something that can lead to a job.

REALITY: Choosing a major is NOT the same thing as choosing a career. Majoring in psychology does not mean that your student will step out of college with a job in psychology, and majoring in art history does not mean that he/she is doomed to a low-paying job. A major is one channel by which a student develops knowledge and masters a broad skill set, which - along with the relevant extracurricular experience that hones it - is what matters most to employers in any field.

MYTH: My student should make an effort to work during school. After all, a job now will lead to a better resume when he/she graduates.

REALITY: Yes and no. It is true that there are many benefits to having a job during college. Some employers offer scholarships; almost any job offers valuable experience. And few can deny that extra money is a good thing. However, research shows that the academic performance of students who work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session suffers in comparison to that of those working fewer than 20 hours per week. Students should devote time to experiences that are relevant to their career goals, and to developing leadership skills. This can be achieved through internships, holding offices in clubs and organizations, service learning, co-ops, and part-time work, among other experiences. But regardless of the activities in which your student is involved, if his/her academic performance suffers, time spent on extracurricular activities should be curtailed.

MYTH: The best time to go to graduate school is right after college. A graduate degree will lead to a better salary/job, anyway.

REALITY: Not necessarily. The value of a graduate degree varies greatly from field to field. In some fields, a graduate degree is highly desirable and even necessary for a professional position. However, in certain fields a graduate degree may actually have a negative impact on one’s job search. Some companies are willing to train employees and later subsidize their graduate education, rather than pay higher salaries to entry-level employees with advanced degrees. As higher education becomes more popular, hands-on experience has become more valuable.

ParentsGuideToCareer.pdf