A major, or declared field of study, is an important decision as it indicates which classes you must take to earn a college degree. These major classes are designed to provide the knowledge and academic background needed for an entry-level job in a specific field. Taking classes in your major can help you determine if you want to pursue a career in that specialty after graduation. Ironically, only 27% of U.S. college graduates end up working in a career related to their major. The good news is that your field of study won’t necessarily limit your career options. If you’re not sure which career path to pursue, consider a major spanning multiple careers, like business, computer science, or communication.
Where do you even start when considering a college major? Start here.
Consider your interests, values, strengths, and weaknesses
What do you love to do in your spare time? What are you good at? There are plenty of online quizzes you can take to answer these questions, but we recommend using the free ones listed below.
Think about which classes you excel in
Did you ace the mechanical engineering section in your intro to engineering class? Maybe a major in mechanical engineering is right for you. Are you naturally talented in art or music? Consider a fine arts major. Sometimes you may be very interested in a subject, but it doesn’t come naturally to you. No matter how badly you want to save the whales (or dolphins or sea turtles), if you struggle with math, specifically calculus, a marine biology major is probably not the best fit. For a list of class requirements by major, click here.
Since the classes for your major are intended to prepare you for your career, it’s important to research career options related to different majors. Consider occupational factors such as educational requirements, job demand, and salary. Does the career you hope to pursue require a master’s or doctoral degree? Are there enough job openings to secure employment in the field? While it’s admirable to work in a career you are passionate about, it may not be practical or feasible if you earn less than you spend.
Talk to professionals who majored in the same field of study
You can learn more about a major by talking with a professional who majored in the field and works in a related profession. Set up an informational interview and ask about educational requirements for the job, specific college classes he or she took, and which ones have proved useful on the job.
You are often not required to declare a major until your sophomore year of college since you typically don’t take classes in your major until the beginning of junior year. You can always change your major after declaring it. Just keep in mind that if you change your major senior year you will probably have to take extra classes and graduate later than you originally planned.
At many colleges you can double major, or major in two separate fields. This is beneficial if you want exposure to a variety of subjects, industries, and opportunities. However, it does require more classes, time, and effort to graduate with a double major. Or you can declare a major and minor. A minor typically complements your major and requires the successful completion of a specified number of subject classes (usually five).
If you don’t have “major” plans as a freshman there’s no need to stress. Take as many elective classes as you can before committing to a major.