Choosing a Major/Career
What is a major?
At the most basic level, a major is simply an organized collection of classes, either revolving around a particular subject area (i.e. English), theme (i.e. peace studies), or professional field (i.e. Pre-Med, Pre-Law, Engineering, etc.) that will lead to the attainment of your degree from a particular college or university. By declaring a major, you decide upon a certain set of classes/work in an area you wish to focus on while completing your education. Such an education, ideally, makes you well-rounded and prepares you for prospective employers and careers.
Is choosing a major the most important decision of my life?
The answer is "no". While it is true that choosing the proper major early on can help you when deciding which classes to take, the major you choose will neither predict nor guarantee your future. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average college graduate changes jobs once every three years and changes career fields two or three times in their lifetime. If you think choosing a college major locks you into a specific career for the rest of your life, do not worry, that is not the case.
When do I need to choose a major?
It depends on the college and the major. Most schools prefer that you start looking at a major at least by your sophomore year. Some schools actually require you to list a major choice on your college application. Fortunately, most schools will have "undecided" as one of your available options. Being "undecided" is not a terrible thing. You should take the time to consider your interests, which classes you will do the best in and explore the wide array of options available. Also, you should seek out the guidance of counselors on campus to help you prepare for certain majors you are considering. By doing so, you can find out if you are interested in a major that requires a lot of classes, or classes that are limited to students in that major, then you might have to declare earlier than usual (i.e. Fall semester of your sophomore year).
What if I declare early but I change my mind?
It is okay to change your major. But, remember that many majors require that you complete a certain set of courses over time. Be sure to seek the guidance of counselors who can help you understand the specific classes that prepare you and count toward completing a major. Making a decision early is sometime beneficial, but it is better to make the right decision, one that you will be happy with, rather than make a hasty decision. Taking the time to explore options, talk to academic counselor and think about your interests will help you know when it is right to change majors or make the best selection for you the first time you choose.
How do I choose my major?
No one major is objectively better than any other, and different people are cut out for very different things. Meaning, your major does not determine your life. You do. Your values, personal ambitions, and dreams will ultimately be what propel you into the kind of life you desire. You may not know what career you want right now. But give some thought to the general sort of post-college life you want to build for yourself, and that, too, will help propel your decision on choosing a major.
As you deliberate on your major, take a minute or two and think about why you're going to college in the first place. You might be heading off to school just because it's the thing you do after high school without giving much thought to what you want to accomplish once you're there. Figuring out why you're going to college at all is a good first step in figuring out what your major should be.
What can I major in?
Below is a list of common majors and areas of study in college. Be sure to check the college or university catalog or guide for a complete listing of majors, minors, and specialized degrees. You can actually find a lot more specialized and emerging majors, so know that this is not a complete list of what may be available to you.
- Business: Accounting, Advertising, Business Economics, E-commerce, Finance, Hospital and Health Care Administration, Hospitality Management, International Business, Management, Marketing, Operations Management, Real Estate
- Computer Science: Database Management, Digital Arts, Networking, Programming, Software Development, Systems
- Engineering: Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Petroleum Engineering
- Humanities: Art, Communications, Counseling, Education, English, Foreign Languages (Italian, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, others), Literature, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Speech, Theatre
- Music: Instrumental Performance, Music Education, Vocal Performance