When you are accepted to college, you may be asked to declare a major. But what is a major exactly?
You’ve probably heard of a major before and perhaps you even have an idea of what major you would like to declare. But your major really sets up your academic studies while in school, and therefore, it’s important to think carefully about which major is right for you. This doesn’t mean you cannot necessarily change your major if you change your mind, but it’s worth understanding what a major is and how it will impact your future.
What Is A College Major?
A college major is the area of study you are focusing on while pursuing your degree. For each major, there will be certain requirements and coursework that need to be met in order to earn your degree. Different schools have different majors to choose from, but if you’re doing a Bachelor’s degree, the major will likely fall within a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).
A Set Of Specific Courses
Between a third and half of your courses that you take in college will be within your major degree. In addition to your general education courses (which everyone will have to take, despite their major), taking these specific subject area courses means that you will have demonstrated high-level work/expertise in that area.
A degree specialization, also referred to as a “concentration” or a “minor” is a great way to complement your major. This is ideal for students who want to either specialize in a certain area of a broad field, or students who want to take a completely different minor in order to broaden their job options altogether.
For instance, you can study communications as your major but minor in writing in order to really specialize. Or you can study engineering and minor in communications to have two potential job routes if one ends up not being your cup of tea.
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When Should I Declare A Major?
Typically, students should have an idea of what major they want to declare before starting school. The benefit of declaring your major right away is that you can start taking courses for your major and/or doing any relevant field work or internships related to your major.
How Do I Choose A Major?
Some prospective students may know what major they want to do from the time they are a child. Others may find that deciding their major is the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do. In this case, it may be best to not declare your major right away.
Instead, take some intro level classes and electives (which you may have to take anyway in order to graduate), and decide what’s appealing to you. It may also be a good idea to meet with a career counselor or your academic advisor, as they can guide you to the best major for you.
Doing something you’re interested in will be the best choice, but it’s also worth looking at the type of jobs you’ll be able to get with that degree, and whether or not those jobs interest you, too. And, while pay and job security are certainly not as important at loving what you do, it’s a good idea to see how promising a career will be in your degree area of choice.
Will My Major Dictate My Profession?
Some students — particularly those who are not quite sure what major they want to declare — may wonder if the major they graduate with is the major that will dictate their profession for the rest of their life. The short answer is: it depends, but probably not.
For instance, if you choose a degree in nursing, accounting, or teaching, these are paths that usually lead to a very specific profession. While you can further your studies in these fields later on, you’ll probably be working in the same career a long time.
But, if you choose another degree, like engineering, computer science, or marketing, the list of potential jobs you can go into is a long one. The point of a degree in this case is to give you specialized training in one area, but that area may be broad when it comes to translating it into your profession.
When you enter the workforce, you will have to use the skills, knowledge, and experience gained from your degree to present yourself for the job opportunity you want.
Top 10 College Majors
Not sure what major to choose, or if the major you have in mind is a common one? Then take a look at the top 10 majors to learn more about what’s out there and how you can find the major that’s most interesting to you!
Psychology is a very broad major that’s ideal for students who want to study how the brain works and how humans connect to one another and their environment. It studies various psychological theories, and allows students to delve into different aspects of psychology, like social work, education, mental illness, science, medicine, biology, therapy, counseling, and/or teaching.
There are many different types of engineering majors, for instance, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and biomedical engineering. This is a growing field that can present many lucrative and secure job options upon graduation. You could work in pharmaceuticals, construction, architecture, design, urban planning, medicine, environment, ecology, technology, and development.
3. Computer Science
Technology plays a major role in nearly every business nowadays, and the computers that are used to support these businesses need someone who knows how to work with them. A major component of computer science is problem solving, but within this, you’ll also learn and be exposed to programming languages, gaming, software and hardware, how computers work and how to fix problems, applications, numerical analysis, etc.
With a major in computer science, you can get a job as a data scientist, web developer, network architect, full-stack developer, or a CISO, just to name a few.
Communications play a role in everything we do. It’s how we connect with others but also how companies and businesses connect with their audiences. With a communications degree, you’ll study the different ways speakers can make their points, through different types of storytelling and/or persuasive communicating through verbal and nonverbal methods.
Students who declare a major in communications can anticipate a whole range of jobs in fields like marketing, advertising, human relations, public relations, social media, etc.
5. Government/Political Science
A major in government/political science is essentially the study of the politics of government and a place to learn excellent analysis, critical thinking, and communication skills. It’s understanding how government influences history, culture, and the world at large. Students who graduate from a government/political science degree can go into public policy, foreign affairs, or even political philosophy as a journalist, a political position, an educator, an analyst, etc.
While you don’t necessarily need a degree in business to start one of your own, many business-minded people choose to get a degree in business to learn the ins and outs of how it all works. In this major, you’ll learn about numbers, finances, business methods, leadership skills, economics, and everything in between.
Students who earn their degree in business can go on to work in fields like banking, communications, distribution, energy and utilities, hospitality and leisure, IT, insurance, logistics, and production management, but the list goes on and on. After earning your degree in business, you can also go on to study an MBA.
7. English Language And Literature
Perhaps you wouldn’t think this would make the list, but English Language and Literature is another top major. Students who study this will be able to study English literature in depth, but also other aspects of the English language. The degree can get you a job in writing, communications, publishing, marketing, and other related fields. Of course, you can also go on to be an author or a professor on the subject yourself!
Economics infiltrates every aspect of our daily lives, so doing a major in this field is bound to bring you some excellent job opportunities. A student who does a major in economics will study how businesses, companies, governments, and individuals allocate their money and resources. You’ll study the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services and apply it to wherever you work. Economics degree holders can find work in public policy, business, finance, mathematics, and international relations.
Nursing is one of those majors that’s ideal for students who know they want to be a nurse after graduating, although you can use the degree to dabble into other related fields or to continue your education in science, biology, and medicine later on. One of the benefits of choosing this major early on is that typically, you’ll be thrown right into the field and begin getting hands-on experience. Nursing is a broad career in the sense you’ll be able to work in different fields of medicine, and/or later become a nurse practitioner or a teacher of nursing.
If nursing, engineering, medicine, and science all sound like interesting majors to you — but you’re not sure what to choose — then consider declaring a major in biology. In biology, you can study humans, plants, animals, medicine, and how these all interact within our environment. Biologists also work with technology and research to understand how to find cures for diseases and solutions to some of our most complex obstacles. Completing a major in biology, therefore, can be a very challenging but rewarding experience.
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Alternatives To A Major
Not sure about declaring a major quite yet? Luckily, there are other options and alternatives.
- Get your general education courses out of the way, then declare your major after you’ve had time to think about it.
- Declare a major that’s broad (for instance, liberal arts).
- Get your associate’s degree first, then transition into a bachelor’s program.
- Try a certification program.
- Get some job experience first, and go to school when you’re more certain of what you want to do.
Pros And Cons Of Declaring A Major
Now that you know what a major is and what some of the most popular majors are, consider the pros of cons of declaring one.
Pros Of Declaring A Major
- A straightforward path towards a career in your field.
- A clear educational focus.
- Classes that are focused on a potential career that interests you.
- Create a strong network that will help you post-college.
- Find out quickly whether or not something is for you.
- The ability to graduate in four years without any hiccups.
Cons Of Declaring A Major
- Not very flexible in terms of trying out other classes.
- A major can be too specific, not allowing you to diversify your education.
- The school you go to may not have the best program for your major that exists.
- A rigid class structure.
- It could be difficult to excel in your classes and not easy to change your major later on.
Is a Major Worth It?
Ultimately, your major is what you make of it. For some people, it will help them enter a very specific career that they plan on being in until retirement. For others, it’s a way to broaden themselves for many different types of related jobs out there, and to be a more versatile candidate across the board.
No matter what, if years down the road you feel your major didn’t help you for the job you want, you can always go back to school. Best of all, you don’t need to spend more money to do so, or if you play your cards right, you don’t have to spend at all!
One reason people are hesitant about declaring a major is because the cost of tuition at most universities is so high, that there’s not a lot of room for uncertainty. Thankfully, the University of the People offers some of the most popular majors and degree programs tuition-free. You can earn your degree at your own pace and from the comfort of your own home, as each program is held entirely online.