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How to Choose What to Study: 9 Strategies to Simplify Your Process 

Updated: September 18, 2023 | Published: July 25, 2017

Updated: September 18, 2023

Published: July 25, 2017


Not sure how to choose what to study? We’ve got you covered. We’ll guide you to find your passion, make a living, and show you what to do when the two don’t align.

Some people know what they want to be when they grow up very early in life, but much more have a hard time figuring it out. Alternatively, they know what they want to do, but are not sure how to make a good living doing it. Let’s talk about the considerations you need to take into account when choosing a profession, like your passion and whether it’s possible to sustain yourself financially by doing what you love. We’ll also recommend what to do when the two don’t align.

How to Choose What to Study: Choosing Your Major 
Ready to get to work? Consider these elements when choosing what to study:

1. Remember Your Childhood Dreams 

Many of us had an answer – or ten – to that question adults liked to ask: What do you want to be when you grow up? Now that we are grown up, it’s finally time to turn these dreams into reality. Make a list of what you wanted to do as a child, and see if any of it still excites you. If it does, it’s possible there’s a profession that’s at least somehow related to the real world.

2. Consider Your Current Passions 

Then again, a lot of time has passed since our childhood. Ask yourself: what do you enjoy doing now? Alternatively, if anything was possible, how would you want to spend every day of your life? What would you like to do? Once you have your answers, it’s time to look for a relevant academic program.

3. Consider Other Life Goals 

Sometimes there are other considerations. If you want to live on a far away farm, you might not have access to the same positions you would be in a big city, and vice versa. If you want to buy a house in an expensive area, you might need to secure a well-paying profession. If you want a great work-life balance, you might not take some professional opportunities that involve long hours, nights and weekends.

4. Run the Numbers 

Before making the final decision on what to study, use tools like Indeed and PayScale to find out what the salaries are like in your chosen industry. It’s also recommended to find out what the market demand is for the type of positions you could get with the kind of degree you’re considering. Are there too many people in your profession unable to find a job? Or are salaries rising, because there’s a lack of talented employees? Make sure you check what’s going on in your specific area by doing online research or by reaching out to professionals who already work in your industry, because opportunities may vary from place to place.

5. Read About What’s it Like to Have Your Future Position 

Spend some time on job sites and read job descriptions. Also, look for the names of people who have graduated with the degree you want to study, or even from the university where you want to study, and search them up on LinkedIn. Read their profiles and see if there are any similarities between career journeys. Also, search Google and YouTube for what a day in the life of someone in your desired position looks like.

6. Explore University Websites 

University websites have a lot of information about what you’re going to study, including course descriptions. Read them to see if anything gets you excited. Some universities offer videos from real lectures. Explore those as well to get a sense of what attending a university class could look like.

7. Consult with People Who Know You 

This is a tricky one. On the one hand, your parents have a lot of experience, and your friends have heard you talk about your dreams nonstop, and they all know you well enough to imagine what kind of a career could be good for you. Therefore, this could be a great way to start your search. On the other hand, just because your friends and family don’t think your dream career is a good choice, it doesn’t mean they’re right. At the end of the day, it’s your life.

8. Consult with Professionals 

If you’re struggling to choose what to study, it might be a good idea to consult with a career consultant, hire a life coach or take career exams to help you find your way. Lots of people do it! Just remember – a great professional won’t necessarily tell you what to do, but they’ll guide you toward making a better decision for yourself.

9. Find the Middle Ground Between Passion and the Marketplace

Unfortunately, not every profession will be highly profitable or even help you make ends meet, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do what you love. Let’s say you’re a portrait photographer who lives in a country where it’s not sustainable to live off your art. It’s still possible for you to photograph people for advertising or events (like weddings), telling beautiful visual stories in exchange for a good income, just in a different way than you initially envisioned.

10. How to Choose What to Study: Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree? 

Choosing between an associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree is another big question you should ask yourself. Our exploration of this question when it comes to computer science taught us that it depends on your goals and your specific industry. Bottom line, make sure the degree program you choose goes deep into study materials and opens up job opportunities that pay decent salaries in the real world.